Luke Kuechly in a game against the New York Jets this past Sunday.
Luke Kuechly is one of the most exciting defensive players in the NFL and has been the Carolina Panthers' MVP this season. He is the best young player in the game and will only get better. He is the leader of one of the best defenses in the league and is doing all this at a very young age. His leadership and game-changing plays help make him the Panthers' MVP.
Leadership of the Defense
Defense has been the reason for the Panthers' success this season. They have the second-best defense in the league in terms of yards per game. The Panthers also claim the fifth-best pass defense and the second-best rush defense.
The tweet below, from the Carolina Panthers Twitter page, shows just how dominant the Panthers defense has been this year.
The #Panthers Defense: 2nd in points per game 2nd in total yds per game 2nd in rushing yds per game 5th in passing net yds per game— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 17, 2013
Kuechly has been the undoubted leader of that defense. He has 122 tackles on the season, which puts him at sixth in the league in that category. He also has three interceptions and two sacks to go along with that impressive number of tackles.
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling had high praise for the young linebacker before the season. He explained how Kuechly was evolving into one of the game's best linebackers and taking leadership on the Panthers defense. Steve Smith referred to Kuechly as the "quarterback of the defense" in an interview with WFNZ-AM in the offseason.
Kuechly's leadership has put the Panthers (10-4) into a position to win the division with a win in Sunday's matchup with the New Orleans Saints. Win or lose Sunday, the Panthers will still likely get into the playoffs.
While Cam Newton would be an obvious choice for many people, I would argue that it is the defense that has won games more so than Newton, supporting the argument for Kuechley being the team's MVP.
The Panthers defense allowed only 12 points to Seattle's explosive offense and did not allow the New York Giants to even score on them. This defensive group gave up nine points to Colin Kaepernick's 49ers and only 24 to Tom Brady's New England Patriots.
The defense has allowed the Panthers to stay in games and is a huge reason the team is 10-4. As its leader, Kuechly deserves as much recognition as anybody.
He Is Doing All This So Quick
The young defensive star is only in his second year and is already regarded as one of the best linebackers in the game. Newton is a work in progress and continues to mature each year. Kuechly seemed to skip that maturation process. Last year he took home the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honor, and this year he's having a great season as well.
Rex Ryan calls Panthers LB Luke Kuechly a "young Urlacher." #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) December 11, 2013
Mike Pereira of FOX reports that Urlacher thinks Kuechly is a better player now than he was as a second-year player. It seems Urlacher doesn't dispute Ryan's comparisons.
Kuechly is the Panthers' MVP because he provides the maturity that Newton lacks at times. He is in only his second year, but he is already the face of this Panthers defense.
His Game-Changing Plays
Kuechly's presence on the field is a game-changer for the Panthers. He has the ability to come up with big plays.
A short video on the Sporting News' NFL Twitter page shows how quickly Kuechly can enter the backfield and change the direction of both the game and the running back. Even though this video was from a game last year, it is representative of Kuechly's ability to control a game with these kinds of plays.
Luke Kuechly pummels Bernard Pierce, forces fumble. https://t.co/NtPa6Az7Qe— Sporting News NFL (@sn_nfl) August 23, 2013
He has also made some big plays this year, evidence of how his dominance has helped win games this season as well.
This tweet from Sporting News shows a picture from a big play, although controversial, in which Kuechly helped the Panthers secure a victory over the New England Patriots. Kuechly, who was covering Rob Gronkowski, did not allow the Pats to score a game-winning touchdown on that final play.
Kuechly can be recognized as the Panthers' MVP because he is the leader of one of the NFL's best defenses. His potential is through the roof, and he has shown maturity past his years. His ability to change games with big plays has also given the Panthers hopes of making it to the Super Bowl.