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Carolina Panthers Found Gem in Linebacker Luke Kuechly

January 26th, 2013 at 7:53 PM
By Jesse Collin

When NFL coaches and players are asked to describe Cam Newton as a football player, you'll most likely hear phrases like "high ceiling" and "limitless upside."

There's another Carolina Panther who has inspired the same type of praise – except he plays defense…and he's a rookie.

Linebacker Luke Kuechly not only had one of the best rookie seasons in the NFL, he had one of the best seasons, period.

Kuechly was one of the few consistently bright spots throughout the Panthers' rollercoaster ride of a season. He led the NCAA in tackles for two straight years at Boston College, and now the former Butkus Award winner has emerged as the NFL's leader in stops.

Kuechly is a fundamentally sound tackler, takes great angles to the ball, has deceptive closing speed and sheds blocks well. He's also solid in pass coverage.

He possesses all the physical skills to be a Pro Bowl middle linebacker, but it's his intangibles that make him such a unique talent. Kuechly has incredibly rare instincts and a nose for the ball like I've never seen before. While he's just beginning what is poised to be a long, successful pro career, he plays more like a seasoned veteran than a first-year player.

I can't help but compare Kuechly to Brian Urlacher. They are virtually the same size, and both possess that innate ability to find the football.

With Cam Newton's coming-out party in 2011, and now Kuechly's emergence in 2012, Carolina has found two young, talented anchors on both sides of the ball. Panthers fans should be thrilled about the short and long-term future with these two guys leading the way.

Tags: Cam Newton, Carolina, Carolina Panthers, Football, Luke Kuechly, NFL

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