You know how I know the offseason is in full on boredom blitz? because stories like this start to pop up.
Someone from the NFL network(Gil Brandt, who is a fairly respected talent evaluator) has compared Panthers second year backer Luke Kuechly to All everything linebacker Ray Lewis. Kuechly is a solid player, but come on man, really? Kuechly had a good rookie campaign…statistically. He racks up an absurd amount of tackles, but he does a lot of cleanup work and gets plenty of tackles way down the field from the line of scrimmage, which as a linebacker, is not where you measure greatness.
Lets look at a few things Brandt wither neglected to think of, or simply ignored so as to not detract from his thesis. first off, Team defense. The Panthers finished 14th in rushing defense last year. Not terrible, but certainly not good enough for a defense with a player of Ray Lewis’ stature. Ray never commanded a defense that finished outside of the top 10(when he played a full season). That isn’t totally on Kuechly, he is a MLB in a 4-3 defense where the primary run defense is played by the defensive line and he does cleanup work behind them. still though, he is a major part of that poor performance.
The next major factor is the defense in which he plays. That defense is made for their middle linebackers to rack up absurd tackle numbers. in 2011 James anderson had 145 tackles. James Anderson is a middle of the road linebacker on his best days. In 2010 Anderson and Jon Beason each had over 121 tackles. Now with Kuechly in the prominent starting role and Anderson more or less a situational player, it was Kuechlys time to rack up tackles. If you have decent instincts and play your role and aren’t out of position frequently, you will get tackles in that defense. period.
Finally, lets look at his leadership. Here is where it gets really unfair(as if it werent a ridiculously lop-sided fight already). Lewis is arguably the greatest leader of men the league has ever seen. Ray came into a team determined not to let a rookie be a “leader” of, and by the end of his first practice he was yelling at 10 year vets and clearly was in command of the defense. It took less than one day. Kuechly isnt even the leader of his own defense, much less his entire team. Jon Beason holds that honor. Kuechly isnt even that outspoken of a guy. He calls some shifts and things like that, but he has nowhere near the command of the game the Ray Lewis has had from day one. comparing them in this respect is a complete joke.
Is it fair to compare Kuechly to Lewis? absolutely not. Lewis is arguably the best to ever play the game and he holds the top spot in countless statistics and metrics. Thats what kind of makes me mad about this. You want to compare Patrick Willis and Lewis, fine. Willis is actually a relatively comparable player(though Lewis was the far superior play in his prime). but lets not compare the great Ray Lewis to a player who is still trying to figure out how life in the NFL works. It’s silly and frankly its an insult to Lewis.
None of this is to say that Kuechly is a bad player, he is anything but. he is a great young prospect who won defensive rookie of the year and has a bright future. That said, Having a bright future doesnt mean you can be compared to the greatest linebacker to ever walk the earth.
What are we supposed to do Mr. Brandt? just take your word because your the guy working for the 9 billion dollar league. Come on!(for any of you arrested development fans out there).