Panthers: Leading The Linebackers

Panthers LB Coach Al Holcomb Goes 1-on-1 With Kelli Bartik

CHARLOTTE, NC –  Kelli Bartik catches up with Panthers Linebacker Coach Al Holcomb.

Holcomb is entering his fourth season in Carolina. With players including Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis in his group, he leads one of, if not, the best LB units in the NFL.

Under his guidance, All Pro linebackers Kuechly and Davis continue to improve every season, and Holcomb expects that trend to continue in 2016.

So, what does it take to coach the league’s best linebackers? A lot more than you might think, says outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who recorded his fourth consecutive 100-tackle season in 2015.

“Al probably has the hardest job coaching job of any of the coaches because of the expectation level. When you look at our room, given the fact that we have three first-round picks and a bunch of other highly-skilled players, it’s going to make his job that much harder to make sure that we’re going out and performing at a high level. And Al does a great job of pushing us day in and day out to be the best that we can be.”

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More on Al Holcomb, via Carolina Panthers:

Holcomb’s linebacking corps played an integral role in the Panthers’ run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. Kuechly earned the third consecutive Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors of his career despite missing three games due to injury, while Davis was honored with Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition for the first time in his career after recording his fourth consecutive 100-tackle season. The duo combined for eight interceptions and helped Carolina lead the NFL in interceptions (24), takeaways (39), points off turnovers (148) and turnover differential (plus-20). In addition, first-round draft choice Shaq Thompson started 10 games in his rookie campaign and third-year linebacker A.J. Klein made six starts – three in place of the injured Kuechly – including Carolina’s Week 3 victory vs. Houston (9/20/15) in which he posted a career-high 15 tackles.

In 2014, Kuechly earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro distinctions after leading the NFL in tackles for the second time in three seasons. Davis produced his third consecutive 100-tackle season and garnered the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Kuechly and Davis combined for 18 tackles and one interception in Carolina’s 27-16 NFC Wild Card victory over Arizona as the defense limited the Cardinals to an NFL postseason record 78 total net yards.

In 2013, led by Kuechly and Davis, Holcomb’s charges were instrumental in Carolina ranking second in the NFL in total defense, second in rushing defense and sixth in passing defense. Under Holcomb’s guidance, Kuechly followed up his 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year season by earning the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, while Davis cemented his return from three knee surgeries with the best season of his career.

Kuechly became one of eight players to be named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in a career and just the second to win the awards in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Taylor. Twice in 2013, Kuechly was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, including after his franchise-record 26-tackle performance versus New Orleans (12/22/13). Kuechly finished the season with a team-leading 176 tackles, the second most in team history behind his record 205 tackles in 2012.

Davis started all 16 games in 2013 for the first time since 2008 and set or tied career highs in tackles (151), sacks (four) and interceptions (two). He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November as his play helped the Panthers earn a 4-0 record during the month. He earlier earned NFC Player of the Week recognition for his 10-tackle, two-sack effort in a 35-10 victory at Minnesota (10/13/13).

Holcomb came to Carolina in 2013 after four seasons with the New York Giants, where he served as a defensive assistant from 2011-12 and defensive quality control coach from 2009-10. The Giants ranked in the top seven in the league in total defense in two of Holcomb’s four years, and he capped his first season as a defensive assistant with a victory in Super Bowl XLVI.