Yes, you read that right. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers had a fluke season in 2012 and won’t have the same numbers in 2013. Kuechly had 103 tackles with 62 assists, two interceptions, one sack and only saw his numbers go up after Jon Beason went down with a season-ending knee injury. The reason this is important is because Kuechly was playing the weakside linebacker position, however after the Beason injury he moved to middle linebacker where he got a lot more action. No matter what, a lot of passes are thrown over the middle or run plays are funneled to the middle so in a sense everything came to him.
With Beason returning this year, it is likely that Kuechly’s numbers will go down as he will likely go back to the weakside. Additionally, teams that play the Panthers this year will game plan and focus on neutralizing him either via blocking him more intensely or running on the strong side more. Also having only 103 solo tackles isn’t really a good year for a linebacker as six players in the league had more solo tackles than him last year, and it’s a hyper-inflated stat to begin with. Another thing that won’t help Kuechly is that most players that have excellent rookie campaigns hit a wall called the “Sophomore Slump” and either their progress slows down or they blow through the wall and become an all-time great. So what happens to him in 2013? That’s anyone’s guess right now.