The Carolina Panthers have understandably flown under the NFL radar during the past several weeks.
After a lousy 2-6 start the only national headlines the Panthers seem to generate these days include the words "Cam", "Newton", and "Controversy".
But the big story emerging from Carolina most people are missing is this:
Luke Kuechly is already dominating in the middle, and he will only get better from here.
The Unstoppable Tackling Machine
The Panthers selected Kuechly with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Boston College product was widely considered as one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft.
Halfway though his first NFL season, Kuechly has lived up to the high expectations.
His 78 total tackles place him tied for second in the league through Week 9.
NFL Total Tackles Leaders - Week 9
1) 94 - Chad Greenway, MIN (9 games)
2-T) 78 - Luke Kuechly, CAR (8 games)
2-T) 78 - Jerod Mayo, NEW (8 games)
4) 76 - Curtis Lofton, NOR (8 games)
5-T) 75 - Three Players Tied
League leader Chad Greenway has yet to sit through his bye week, giving him an extra game over Kuechly. Greenway had 81 tackles in his first eight games, just three more than Kuechly's 78.
Kuechly Set to Dominate Going Forward
What makes Kuechly's total number of tackles even more impressive is the fact he began the season at weak side linebacker with Jon Beason manning the middle.
Beason was injured in Week 4 and has been placed on injured reserve, allowing Kuechly to slide over to middle linebacker.
Kuechly's total tackles since Beason's injury have been nothing short of phenomenal.
The rookie has recorded double-digit tackles in each of his last four games since moving to MLB, including 15-tackle games against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
His 52 total tackles since Beason's injury place him on an incredible 16-game pace of 208.
To put a 200-plus tackle season in perspective, last year's leader London Fletcher registered 166 tackles. Jerod Mayo led the NFL in 2010 with 174. Patrick Willis' 152 topped the league in 2009.
Luke Kuechly has been statistically dominating since starting at middle linebacker.
Likely to Lead the League in Tackles
It would not be surprising if Kuechly leads the league in tackles this year.
Each of Carolina's next four opponents rank among the NFL's Top-13 teams in rushing attempts per game: Denver Broncos (12th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13th), Philadelphia Eagles (ninth), and the Kansas City Chiefs (fourth).
Expect more double-digit tackling performances from Kuechly in the upcoming weeks.
Halfway through his rookie season, Luke Kuechly is already dominating.
With the injury to Jon Beason and a run-heavy upcoming schedule, don't be surprised if he only gets better from here.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check out these articles:
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Luke Kuechly
- Jon Beason
- Chad Greenway