Inside the Panthers

Carolina Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly lost 6 games in ‘16, but not respect of his peers

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is ranked No. 20 among all players by the NFL Network, down from his high of No. 7.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is ranked No. 20 among all players by the NFL Network, down from his high of No. 7. akormann@charlotteobserver.com

Luke Kuechly’s peers showed their respect for the Carolina Panthers middle linebacker, placing Kuechly among the NFL’s top 20 players from 2016 despite the fact he missed the final six games following a concussion.

Kuechly came in at No. 20 on the NFL Network’s annual list, down 13 spots from his career-high ranking of seven last year.

Like the rest of his teammates, Kuechly’s stock fell as the Panthers’ plummeted from their Super Bowl season of 2015 to a 6-10 finish last season.

But Kuechly’s drop was relatively mild, compared to some other Panthers players.

Quarterback Cam Newton, the league’s top-rated player during his MVP season of 2015, fell 43 spots to No. 44.

Tight end Greg Olsen dropped from No. 38 to No. 67, and outside linebacker Thomas Davis dipped from No. 54 to No. 89.

Defensive tackle Kawann Short, center Ryan Kalil and running back Jonathan Stewart fell completely out of the rankings after making the top 100 after the Super Bowl campaign.

Kuechly was in the midst of another stellar season when it was cut short after a scary-looking concussion against New Orleans in November. He was in the NFL’s three-step concussion protocol for three games, then held out the final three games as a precautionary measure.

Kuechly still topped 100 tackles for the fifth consecutive season. His 693 tackles since entering the league in 2012 are the most in the NFL over that span, while his 12 interceptions are tops among linebackers.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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