Know the enemy: Saints on Luke Kuechly


METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have gotten to know Luke Kuechly intimately during his stellar three-year NFL career. Too intimately.

The Carolina Panthers’ middle linebacker has racked up 61 tackles against the Saints in five career meetings -- including a NFL-record-tying 24 in a game at Carolina last season. Kuechly also snagged an interception in that 17-13 Panthers victory, which ultimately decided the NFC South title.

But the Saints aren’t alone. Kuechly has treated everyone that way since he arrived as the ninth pick in the 2012 draft out of Boston College. He was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 after being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. He leads the NFL in tackles over the past three years with 445 -- including a league-high 125 this year.

The 6-foot-3, 238-pounder, who is an asset against the run and the pass, also has six career interceptions, six sacks and 21 pass defenses.

Here’s what the Saints have had to say about him this week as they head toward their next matchup against Kuechly and the Panthers on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:

QB Drew Brees: “He’s extremely rare. He’s extremely rare. And for being such a young player too, you can see just how knowledgeable he is about the game and about his opponent. On each and every snap he’s getting guys lined up, he’s making adjustments, he’s anticipating where the ball is going. You know, run-pass, he’s as good as he is in the run game as he is in the pass game. Just really a total player. … He’s one of the best [middle linebackers], if not the best.”

Coach Sean Payton: “The one thing you see with Luke game in and game out, you put the tape on and you really can’t tell who’s winning or who’s losing. He’s something to watch now. His leverage is in the right position. I would guess that half the plays that are run, he knows what the play is before the snap based on his film study. So it’s important that you pay attention to splits and pay attention to back alignments so that he’s not anticipating things that you’re doing, because he’s got that ability to key and diagnose very quickly.”

OT Zach Strief: “He’s an instinctive, extremely fast, decisive linebacker. So the difficulty with Kuechly is that he’s gonna make a decision, he’s gonna make it right now, and he’s gonna make it at a speed that you’re not used to. And that makes him very hard to deal with.”

RB Khiry Robinson: “He’s got a motor on him. He comes a hundred miles per hour. He’s a great player. I feel like he’s one of those guys that’s relentless and knows the game. He’s good at what he does. But you know, just like everybody else he’s got weaknesses just like we do. So we just have to figure out what they are and use them to our advantage.”

OLB Kasim Edebali (a former teammate at Boston College): “Luke and I were in the same class, we came in in ’09. And after three years he was the man, he was already in the league. And he’s one of the greatest guys I know, on and off the field. It’s been great watching him doing the transition and being so successful. Like when we were at Carolina and he makes a tackle and the whole stadium goes, ‘Luuuke,’they see Luke as obviously, he’s one of the best linebackers in the league. But I see him as my college neighbor who lives next door, like, ‘Hey Luke, you got some money? I’m trying to get something to eat’ or something.”