Luke Kuechly Makes a Strong Case for Defensive Rookie of the Year
Charlotte, NC – The leader at the middle linebacker position for a defense that finished the season ranked 10th in the NFL, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (pronounced KEEK-lee), the ninth overall selection in the 2012 Draft, put together a strong case for Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Quick Hits: Luke Kuechly
- · Started 16 games for the Panthers 10th-ranked defense in 2012, including the final 12 games at middle linebacker.
- · A mainstay on defense, Kuechly played all of the Panthers 769 defensive snaps after moving to the middle.
- · With Kuechly in the middle, the Panthers defense improved from 24th in the NFL after Week Four to 10th by season’s end. The 14-spot improvement was the largest jump in the NFL from Week Four to the end of the season in 2012.
- · Finished the season with an NFL-best 164 tackles to become the first rookie to lead the NFL in tackles since San Francisco’s Patrick Willis (174) won AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.
- · Led the NFL with 10 games with at least 10 tackles, including three games with at least 15 tackles.
- · 73 of Kuechly’s 164 tackles (44.5%) were made for a loss or within three yards of the line of scrimmage. Kuechly’s percentage compares favorably to the four Pro Bowl inside linebackers this season (Derrick Johnson 52.8%; NaVorro Bowman – 52.3%; Patrick Willis – 45.0%; Jerrod Mayo – 39.5%).
- · Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 14 after a career-high 16 tackles in the Panthers’ 30-20 win over Atlanta, who entered the game with the NFC’s best record (11-1).
- · In addition to being stout against the run, Kuechly was strong in pass coverage with eight passes defensed and two interceptions on the year. The eight passes defensed were second-most among rookie linebackers in 2012. After Kuechly moved to the middle linebacker position in Week Five vs. Seattle, the Panthers defense allowed 211.0 passing yards per game, 11th in the NFL during that time.
- · Kuechly finished the season with 164 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, eight passes defensed and three fumble recoveries.
Kuechly Leads Defensive Improvement
In Week Five vs. Seattle (10/7/12), Kuechly moved from the weakside linebacker position to the middle linebacker position. After ranking 24th in the NFL allowing 393.8 yards per game after four weeks, the Panthers improved to 10th, allowing 333.1 yards per game by the end of the season with Kuechly in the middle. Kuechly keyed a 14-spot improvement in the rankings that was the largest in the NFL from Week Four to the end of the season. In a season in which the Panthers played 11 games against teams in the top 15 in the NFL in offense, the Carolina defense finished in the top 10 for the first time since 2009.
After 4 games After 16 games
DEFENSE Avg. (NFL Rank) Avg. (NFL Rank) Change
Total Yards Per Game 393.8 (24th) 333.1 (10th) -60.7
Passing Net Yards Per Game 259.0 (22nd) 223.0 (13th) -36.0
Rushing Yards Per Game 134.8 (25th) 110.1 (14th) -24.7
In his 12 games in the middle, Kuechly played all 769 of the Panthers defensive snaps, averaged 11.58 tackles per game (139) and recorded one sack, two interceptions, six passes defensed and three fumble recoveries. In the 13-week period that Kuechly was at middle linebacker, the Panthers ranked sixth in total defense (312.8), eighth in rushing defense (101.8) and 11th in passing defense (211.0).
Using press box statistics,Kuechly tallied a league-leading 164 tackles (103 solo) this season to become the first rookie since San Francisco’s Patrick Willis in 2007 to lead the NFL in tackles. Willis was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year that season.
NFL Tackle Leaders (Press Box Statistics)
Player Tot Sol Ast
Luke Kuechly, Car. 164 103 61
*NaVorro Bowman, S.F. 149 97 52
Chad Greenway, Min. 148 98 50
*Jerod Mayo, N.E. 147 88 59
Jerrell Freeman, Ind. 145 90 55
*Pro Bowl selection
Kuechly produced an NFL-best 10 games with at least 10 tackles, including three games with at least 15 tackles. Kuechly had double-digit tackle performances in nine of his 12 games at middle linebacker. Seventy-three of Kuechly’s 164 tackles (44.5%) were made for a loss or within three yards of the line of scrimmage.
Kuechly was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 14 after tallying a career-high 16 tackles in the Panthers’ 30-20 win over Atlanta, who entered the game with the NFC’s best record (11-1).
Kuechly’s 164 tackles rank as the second-highest mark by a rookie since at least 1991 according to statistics compiled by STATS, LLC.
NFL Rookie Tackle Leaders Since 1991 (Statistics compiled by STATS, LLC)
Player Tot Season
*Patrick Willis, S.F. 174 2007
Luke Kuechly, Car. 164 2012
*DeMeco Ryans, Hou. 156 2006
Zach Thomas, Mia. 154 1996
* AP Defensive Rookie of the Year
Strong Against the Pass
In addition to his tackling prowess, Kuechly was strong in pass coverage. His eight passes defensed were second-most among rookie linebackers and his two interceptions trailed only Zack Brown and Bobby Wagner (3) among rookie linebackers.
NFL Passes Defensed Leaders, Linebackers
Lance Briggs, Chi. 11
London Fletcher, Was. 11
Karlos Dansby, Mia. 9
*Mychal Kendricks, Phi. 9
Patrick Willis, S.F. 9
*Luke Kuechly, Car. 8
Akeem, Ayers, Ten. 8
Ryan Kerrigan, Was. 8
Bryan Scott, Buf. 8
After Kuechly moved to the middle linebacker position in Week Five, the Panthers allowed 211.0 passing yards per game, 11th in the NFL during that time, despite dealing with season-ending injuries to cornerback Chris Gamble and safeties Haruki Nakamura and Sherrod Martin that forced them to miss a combined 19 games.