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Panthers Honors: Defensive Awards

Posted Feb 19, 2016

Linebacker Luke Kuechly was at the middle of everything for a defense full of playmakers at every level.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LB Luke Kuechly

He’s the man in the middle of everything for the Panthers defense, and he’s Player of the Year once again.

Despite missing three games with a concussion, Kuechly led the team in tackles (137) for the fourth consecutive season. He tied a career-high with four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Then he returned two more interceptions for touchdowns in the postseason, becoming the first player in NFL history with a pick-six in consecutive playoff games. Oh, and he also paced the team with 27 tackles in the postseason.

Honorable mention: DT Kawann Short, LB Thomas Davis, CB Josh Norman

Short, Davis and Norman were spectacular and all three are “Player of the Year” worthy. Short’s career-high 11 sacks were the most by a defensive tackle in the NFL, and the most ever recorded by a Panthers defensive tackle.

Davis stuffed the stat sheet en route to his first Pro Bowl nomination. The veteran leader posted 123 tackles, a career-high 5.5 sacks, a career-high four interceptions and four forced fumbles.

Norman recorded four interceptions (two pick-sixes) in the first four games of the season, emerging as a corner few quarterbacks were willing to test. He led the team with 15 passes defensed and added three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: FS Kurt Coleman

Coleman proved to be one of the best free agent additions across the league. He started 15 games, led the team with a career-high seven interceptions and finished third with 103 tackles. He recorded two more interceptions in the NFC Championship.

ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR: Steve Wilks

Norman and Coleman were standouts, but the entire secondary was a cohesive unit that flourished under the watchful eye of secondary coach Steve Wilks.

When cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere were placed on injured reserve, Wilks made sure the secondary continued to function at a high level with mid-season free agent additions Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan playing key roles.

Carolina finished the season first in passer rating allowed (73.5) and first in interceptions (24).

USUNG HERO: DT Star Lotulelei

The statistics (25 tackles and one sack) don’t jump off the page, but Lotulelei’s powerful presence allowed stars like Short, Kuechly and Davis to excel against the run and pass.

The 2013 first-round pick missed just two games, consistently occupied blockers and made the occasional big play in the backfield.