Height: 6-3 Weight: 238
Season: 4th College: Boston College
Strengths: Luke Kuechly’s strength always has been his tackling ability. He is a throwback middle linebacker, a point-of-attack player. In just three years of college, he set the Atlantic Coast Conference record for career tackles with 532, including an NCAA-leading 191 his final season. In 2012, NFL.com draft analysts called him “the most instinctual and technically sound linebacker to enter the draft in years.” In Kuechly’s 55 NFL games, he has averaged 10.4 tackles per game, with seven sacks, eight interceptions, 32 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He rarely misses tackles, with only one this season, according to STATS. He rarely gets fooled and is always around the ball.
Weaknesses: Kuechly had a serious concussion in Week 1, which kept him out 34 days this season. But he has been durable in his career, staying on the field for nearly every play. He has played 3,164 of a possible 3,516 plays (90 percent) at middle linebacker. Kuechly rarely blitzes.
Last game: He made five tackles and had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Panthers’ 44-16 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Who he has to stop? The Cowboys rank eighth in rushing (123.7) and 26th in passing (219.8). The Panthers rank eighth against the rush (94.5) and seventh against the pass (228.3).
Notable: Kuechly has 68 tackles, a sack, three quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception and five defensed passes this season. … He was the ninth overall choice in 2012. … Carolina has been a top-10 defense each of the past three seasons, one of only three teams to make that claim. Since the start of 2012, Carolina ranks third in the NFL in total defense (324.4), fifth in rushing defense (101.5) and fifth in passing defense (222.8). … Kuechly has eight interceptions since he entered the league, tied for the most among NFL linebackers during that time. … Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor is the only other player ever to win those awards in back-to-back years to start a career.