CHARLOTTE – Linebacker Luke Kuechly's interceptions on back-to-back plays during the Thanksgiving Day victory at Dallas was a product of constant work to turn a perceived weakness into a strength.
Since his college days, Kuechly has always been known as a premier, sideline-to-sideline run stuffer, but he acknowledged a need for improvement in pass coverage.
"That's one of the things that he and (linebackers coach) Al (Holcomb) have really talked about and worked on the last couple years," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I know in 2013 a lot of people talked about that being one of his weaknesses. Well, with Luke, if you tell him what he needs to work on, he's going to work on it."
Kuechly is getting results, recording three interceptions and seven passes defensed so far this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he is allowing a passer rating of 44.1 when targeted this year. The NFL average against inside linebackers is currently 103.0.
So what have Kuechly and Holcomb done to make such progress in coverage?
"It really starts in the film room with his preparation – that's first and foremost," Holcomb said. "And he's done a better job with his individual technique on the field in terms of his body position, playing with square shoulders and playing with better vision on the quarterback."
Combine ideal study habits and improved technique with Kuechly's rare physical ability, and you've got an elite linebacker that can be just as effective against the pass as he is the run.
"He's got great quickness and speed, and he has just an uncanny ability to snap his neck around, like he did on the ball down the seam against Jason Witten," Holcomb said, referencing Kuechly's second interception versus the Cowboys. "He snaps his head around so fast, and he can track the ball very well."
"It's one of those things where if it's a weakness, he's going to make it a strength," Rivera said of Kuechly's work against the pass. "He's been working very hard at it."
A look at Luke Kuechly's career with the Carolina Panthers in photos.