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Luke Kuechly's "kryptonite": pass rushing


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Luke Kuechly still isn't a complete linebacker.

That's not just me nitpicking the NFL's best interior 'backer. That's how he feels.

"Oh man, pass rush," Kuechly said Sunday when asked what he hopes to get better at in 2018. "I need to improve on that leaps and bounds."

If you're keeping track, this is the third consecutive training camp Kuechly has labeled rushing as a weakness. It's just not something that comes naturally to him like playing the run or dropping in coverage.

"Like Cam (Newton) likes to tell you, 'Superman's got his kryptonite,'" head coach Ron Rivera said of Kuechly's pass rush.

So how does he get better?

New linebackers coach Steve Russ is stressing speed off the line, and Kuechly wants to do a better job ad-libbing against his blocker instead of rushing with a plan.

"We work on it every day, and I hope some of that will translate into a game," said Kuechly, who finds inspiration in the more natural rusher next to him.

"Thomas (Davis) beats me in that every year," Kuechly continued with a smile, "so I gotta try to get him back."

Table inside Article
Sacks per season Kuechly Davis
2017 1.5 2.5
2016 2.0 2.5
2015 1.0 5.5
2014 3.0 2.5
2013 2.0 4.0
2012 1.0 0.0

Other notable comments from Kuechly

On rookie cornerback Donte Jackson: "He can run. He's fast, he's quick, he's got makeup speed. I think everybody saw that ball on DJ (Moore) yesterday. But he's got good energy and that's something to look for in a young guy to come in. … Donte came in and he's a guy that brings elite speed, and I don't think anyone will really argue that. When you've got a guy like that, especially in our division, with guys that can really get out and run, it's beneficial."

On rookie linebackers Andre Smith and Jermaine Carter: "Those guys are smart, they understand football, and I think schematics and football intelligence-wise this might be the best group we've had so far. … When you've got a young guy that comes in and he's athletic and he can hit and he can run but they don't know what they are doing, they're kind of a step behind. But these young guys have come in and from the start, and I think that's attribute to Coach Russ - he came in and got those guys schooled up."

On Shaq Thompson's versatility: "I don't think anybody on our team underappreciates him because he can do everything you plan: slide, he can play inside, he can play outside, he can play all four spots. You get a guy that's able to do that, can play in the slot, play Mike and Will and he doesn't miss a beat with either one. That's a valuable piece to a defense that everybody in the NFL sure wishes they had."

On new owner David Tepper: "He's easy to talk to. ... He's in the lunch room, he talked to us in the weight room one time. He seems like an approachable guy. I think he's excited, as I'm sure anyone would be to have the opportunity to have a franchise. But the guys are excited. (I'm) interested to see what he does next."