Luke Kuechly Will Win Defensive Rookie of the Year
Last season the Carolina Panthers got a ray of hope in quarterback Cam Newton, the eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year. This year the team will have another ray shine bright in the form of linebacker Luke Kuechly, the eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year for the 2012 season.
Can Newton’s award was well deserved after he threw for 4051 yards and 21 touchdowns as well as an additional 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Besides his obvious physical talents, Newton was able to win the award thanks to the defense or in the case of last season a lack thereof.
The unit was ranked 29th in the league last year giving up 377.6 yards a game. So basically, for the Panthers to win even the six games that they did and have a chance in six others (that they lost by eight points or less) Cam Newton had to do what he did.
This season Luke Kuechly will benefit from a similar type scenario.
The 21-year old from Boston College has all the attributes necessary to be a top linebacker in the NFL. Physically he is an absolute beast at 6-foot 3-inches and 242 pounds. He’s fast, quick, and has tremendous instincts honed after playing three seasons for a okay to sub-par team at Boston College.
In three seasons for the Eagles he contributed an incredible 532 total tackles, 293 of them coming all by him. Let me say that again—the man had almost 300 solo tackles in three seasons of play! (In case you are not sure that is absolutely amazing!)
Like Newton in the Carolina offense last season, part of the reason why Kuechly had the stats that he did at BC was because of necessity. In the three seasons he played for BC the offense ranked 98th, 109th, and 112th in total offense.
Had the Eagles not had someone like him tackling everything in sight they would not have done nearly as well as they did (two bowl games in three seasons).
This season Kuechly is going to be in a similar position where he is going to have plenty of opportunities to rack of the stats to win the DROY award. To some that may be surprising to hear because that means the offense is not going to be on the field as much. Cam Newton will certainly have the offense be better, right?
Yes and no. Cam Newton will do well this season, skipping the sophomore curse that afflicts so many players. He will not do as well statistically though. Defenses now have a full season of film and an entire offseason to figure out what makes Newton tick. While they will not be able to do that they will figure out enough to slow the man down some.
Teams will look to force Newton to pass more this year and make Newton beat them with his arm; not impossible, but a lot harder for the Panthers to do. Their efforts will have the Panthers defense on the field more giving Kuechly more of a chance to shine.
I also think that the personnel on defense will give him more opportunities to shine as well. From watching the preseason games I have to say I’m concerned about the defensive line; they didn’t appear to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback or clog up the running lanes very well.
Overall the unit was ranked 20th for the preseason. While that is just preseason, it is still eight spots better than last season’s 28th ranked unit. From what I could see a good part of the reason for the improvement was the play of Kuechly.
He will have the opportunity and certainly has the physical attributes to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. I guess we’ll find out in a few months.