A 6’3″ athlete with elite range and change of direction skills, Kuechly is a presence in the middle of the field in pass coverage. He lined up as a true middle linebacker in an even front for Boston College’s base defensive sets. In nickel and sub sets, he moved around a bit – lining up as the weakside linebacker in a traditional even front nickel package (4-2) as well as at middle linebacker in an stacked odd front (3-3). Projects best to an even front that will allow him to run and chase, control the middle of the field, and to bait and jump hot routes. As a run defender, he played his best at the weakside linebacker spot in nickel – where he was allowed to scrape over the top of plays and pursue to the sideline as opposed to making downhill fills and shooting gaps. Has the size to play middle linebacker and the intelligence to quarterback the defense, but might be better suited might to play the weakside until he learns to trust and react to his run keys against downhill running plays.
Stays on his feet when offensive linemen attempt to cut him. Athletic enough to feel trash around his feet with his hands and step over it while keeping his eyes on his target in pursuit. Size, range, and route recognition give him the potential to control the middle of the field in true Tampa Two middle linebacker style – a huge potential advantage in redzone coverage. Excellent change of direction and recovery skills suggest he can excel in man coverage, although he was asked to primarily play zone in college. Strong enough to hold the point while getting blocked at the second level and can make tackles with offensive linemen’s bodies on him. Flies in pursuit vs. the pass once the ball is in the air; often the first defender to short throws along the perimeter despite having zone responsibilities in the middle of the field. Quick and reactive when the quarterback scrambles on pass plays, closing quickly for short gains. Fights over the top of blocks to get in pursuit. When he trusts his eyes and reads the offensive line correctly in the run game, he is capable of making plays downhill, shooting gaps, and making tackles in the backfield. Consistently throws his arms to wrap up his target. Plays the cutback lane well at the weakside linebacker position vs inside zone.
Too often takes false steps from the middle linebacker spot in the run game because he gets caught looking in the backfield and/or doesn’t trust his offensive line keys. Struggles pursuing downhill and maintaining inside/out leverage to the runner, exposing the cutback lane. Can be hesitant to shoot gaps when he has them vs the inside run game. Does not read power well – struggles both at making tight-end-through-center reads from even fronts and reading uncovered pulling guards from Boston College’s odd front sub package. Must learn to play the ball better in the air; too often gets caught staring at the receiver or quarterback. Good awareness finding crossers vs bootleg, but must be more disciplined in continuing to gain depth as he expands with the quarterback. Too often plays short to deep in pass coverage, leaving him a step behind reacting to the deep pass over the middle. Still, his change and direction and recovery skills are incredibly impressive. Solid tackling form, but does not bring his hips and drive through the tackle – too often makes the hit, wraps, and falls to his knees.