Luke Kuechly has been declared out for tonight’s game against the Washington Redskins. This is a surprising move that will help the Redskins greatly in the run game.
Coming into NFL Week 15, many thought that the Carolina Panthers stud linebacker Luke Kuechly would be suiting up. After missing three games, he had cleared concussion protocol and seemed to be on track to make a return. Not so fast, though. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that Kuechly will not suit up due to the concussion.
#Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, cleared in the NFL’s concussion protocol, won’t play tonight. It’s a long-term view.
This is probably a smart move by the Panthers. They have no shot at making the postseason due to their 5-8 record, so there is no reason to risk Kuechly’s long term health. That said, his absence will have a major impact on the Panthers defense, and the Redskins running game could improve as a result.
Prior to Kuechly’s absence, I thought that Rob Kelley would have trouble getting much yardage due to the strength of the front seven. Though I still expect that to be the case, due to the excellent defensive tackles for the team, Kelley may be able to have more success.
If the Redskins offensive line can open up some more space for Kelley at the front, he will have an easier time getting into the second level. If they can do that, he should be able to break some tackles. Still, it seems unlikely that he will have more than a couple of big runs during the night.
I still think that Chris Thompson should see some more playing time. His smaller size and better elusiveness will allow him to find space in between the stout Carolina front. He will not be able to break as many tackles as Kelley, but he should be able to have some better runs on the outside.
Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the league, and his instincts in run defense are terrific. The fact is that replacement A.J. Klein is nowhere near as talented as the Kuechly. He will do a decent job, but he is not going to be the same. The Redskins need to take advantage of this, and they should run towards Klein early and often to test the backup linebacker.