The Ex­tra Point

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Nfl -

L-u-u-u-u-u-ke, and this time it’s unanimous. Luke Kuechly was voted the NFL’s top in­side line­backer by The As­so­ci­ated Press for the sec­ond straight year Fri­day, with all 10 mem­bers of the panel pick­ing the Carolina star first. The top three re­mained un­changed from a year ago, with Seat­tle’s Bobby Wag­ner sec­ond fol­lowed by C.J. Mosley of Bal­ti­more. Kuechly got seven of 11 first­place votes in 2017, and Wag­ner picked up the other four. No such split this time.

“Hands down the top line­backer in the game,” wrote Barry Wilner, the AP’s lead NFL writer based in New York. “Kuechly is de­struc­tive against the run, savvy and ver­sa­tile against the pass. A leader by ex­am­ple.”

While in­juries — most no­tably con­cus­sions — limited Kuechly for two sea­sons and ul­ti­mately ended a three-year Al­lPro run in 2016, the five-time Pro Bowler was back in All-Pro form last year. Kuechly had 125 tack­les and three in­ter­cep­tions while ty­ing a ca­reer high with five quar­ter­back hits.

“Kuechly has been one of the top in­side lineback­ers ever since en­ter­ing the league and only in­juries have slowed him down,” wrote AP Pro Foot­ball Writer Josh Dubow, based in San Fran­cisco.

The 27-year-old missed just one game last year with a con­cus­sion and helped Carolina get back to the play­offs, with the Pan­thers los­ing a wild-card game to New Or­leans.

Kuechly played a ca­reer-low 10 games in 2016, the only time Carolina missed the play­offs in the past five sea­sons with Kuechly as their de­fen­sive an­chor.

LUKE KUECHLY

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