After his breakout rookie season in 2012, the Carolina Panthers are expecting big things from middle linebacker Luke Kuechly this season. Kuechly did not disappoint in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens in which he dominated in a performance that inspired his teammates to raise their level of play.
The 22-year-old recorded four tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in the 34-27 victory. What the numbers do not explain is that his actions directly resulted in two defensive touchdowns. The plays he made time and again would have most NFL players bragging until no end. However, Kuechly leads by example and insisted that he was only making the necessary plays that were available to him because of the work his teammates did.
“He’s a very humble young man, so I’ll just do it for him and tell you that he has the opportunity to ascend,” head coach Ron Rivera said, according to Panthers.com. “If he continues to grow, we most certainly will talk about him in the same vein as some of those great linebackers.”
Even though 2013 will only be Kuechly’s second year in the league, everyone on the defense knows who the leader is. There is only one player they will follow into battle, and that is No. 59.
“This is his defense,” cornerback Drayton Florence said, according to Panthers.com. “Luke is a beast out there on the field. As he gets more comfortable, he’s going to be making a lot more plays for us.”
Kuechly led the NFL with 164 total tackles last season as a rookie. It will certainly be interesting to see how he builds off that impressive performance.