The Extra Point
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.