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Position preview: Linebackers

Posted Jul 16, 2014

Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis couldn't have set the bar much higher in 2013.

Kuechly was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Davis produced the best season of his nine-year career. They combined for 327 tackles and helped propel Carolina to the league's second-ranked defense.

RETURNERS

Luke Kuechly
2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the team with 176 tackles (based on coaches' review) – the second-highest total in franchise history behind his record 205 tackles as a rookie in 2012. ... Started every game at middle linebacker and tied for team lead with four interceptions to go along with five passes defensed and two sacks. ... Selected to first career Pro Bowl. ... Leads the NFL with 320 tackles (based on press box statistics) since entering the league in 2012.

RELATED NEWS

Thomas Davis
Started every game at outside linebacker and posted a career-high 151 tackles in 2013. ... Recorded four sacks, eight passes defensed and two interceptions. ... Ranks second in franchise history with 702 tackles. ... In 2012, became the first known NFL player to return and play a full season after having three ACL surgeries on the same knee.

Chase Blackburn
Played in 13 games with seven starts at outside linebacker in his first year with the Panthers. ... Recorded 28 tackles and one pass breakup. ... Missed three games with a foot injury. ... Spent first eight years with New York Giants.

A.J. Klein
Played in every game with two starts as a rookie in 2013. ... Fifth-round draft choice out of Iowa State recorded 24 tackles and two sacks. ... Will compete with Blackburn for starting outside linebacker spot in 2014.

Jason Williams
Signed as a free agent during the 2013 season and played in 11 games. ... Notched five special teams tackles. ... Blocked a punt in Week 15 to set up a touchdown in victory over New York Jets.

Ben Jacobs
Inactive for one game in between two stints on Carolina's practice squad in 2013. ... Initially signed as a free agent by the Panthers after attending the team's rookie minicamp as a tryout player. ... Originally signed as undrafted free agent by Cleveland Browns in 2011.

RECENTLY ROSTERED

D.J. Smith
Signed as a free agent during the offseason after playing in one game for the Houston Texans in 2013. ... Played in 22 games with nine starts and recorded 82 tackles in first two seasons with Green Bay Packers from 2011-12.

Billy Boyko
Signed as a free agent after attending rookie minicamp as a tryout player. ... Attended training camp with the Oakland Raiders as a rookie in 2013. ... Produced 183 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and one interception at Lehigh.

ROOKIES

Denicos Allen
Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan State after playing in 54 games with 40 starts. ... Three-time All-Big Ten Conference selection produced 278 tackles, 46 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks.

Adarius Glanton
Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after two seasons at Florida Atlantic. ... Played in 24 games with 18 starts for Owls, totaling 150 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.