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NFL Carolina Panthers

Luke Kuechly Quietly Dominating

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers rookie middle-linebacker Luke Kuechly has gone from making a name for himself, to becoming a defensive game changer in the NFL.

The ninth overall selection in last April’s NFL Draft has simply thrived ever since he moved back to his old college position in the middle after Pro-Bowler Jon Beason was placed on injured reserve in week eight.

Kuechly’s dominating year absolutely validates him as a top ten draft selection, his season up to this point highlighted by taking home NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the 16 tackles he recorded during Carolina’s 30-20 beat-down of their Interstate-85 rival the Atlanta Falcons in week 14.

Last Sunday’s performance puts Kuechly atop the NFL’s tackle category with 130 combined tackles so far this season. An unbelievable accomplishment for a guy that looked disappointing when playing outside-linebacker earlier in the year.

For now, it seems as if the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award has become a forgone conclusion, though Kuechly still has work to do which appears to come naturally for him at home in the middle.

The only outlying “what happens when” scenario will occur when Beason is healthy enough to return to the field. Beason is a monster and athletic freak in his own right and has obviously earned his spot in the middle.

However, Kuechly’s leadership and knack for making plays on the ball carrier might just solidify him in the middle. Perhaps Beason would be better suited on the outside as a pass rusher, allowing Kuechly to continue his quiet dominance as Carolina’s starting middle-man.

When it’s all said and done, no one can argue that Kuechly hasn’t been a nice walk-off first round draft selection by former team general manager Marty Hurney.

Robert Kester, Rant Sports Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1