Rookie outside linebacker Luke Kuechly delivered a performance to fans on Friday night that showed why the Carolina Panthers chose him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Kuechly tallied four tackles (2 solo, 2 assists) and caused a forced fumble in his brief action in Saturday night’s 26-13 loss to the defending AFC South Champion Houston Texans, and was in on almost every play of the first quarter when the Texans had the ball.

His instincts, cover skills and tackling techniques has been praised by coach Ron Rivera and his play on the field Saturday was nothing short of that of a veteran of the league.

“That first series was fast, that was a big thing I realized is the tempo is fast, everything is faster, you have to get lined up faster, but then you know after the second series it kind of slowed down a little bit for me, but it was still fast and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but you know it was good getting out there finally,” Kuechly said.

The Panthers could have used Kuechly on special teams as they struggled mightily there throughout the night.  A short kickoff by Justin Medlock led to a Trindon Holliday 90-yard return for a touchdown. Miss tackles and poor pursuit plagued the Panthers coverage units all night.


Backup quarterback, Derek Anderson stole the show from starter Cam Newton as he delivered an impressive night throwing the ball 7-of-12 for 99 yards with an interception (bobbled pass by Seyi Ajirotutu). Newton finished the night 2-for-16 for 17 yards and had a decent drive to end his night, but started out with back-to-back three-and-outs.

“It was good, but it can be better,” Rivera on Newton’s play in the first quarter.

The national spotlight on the Panthers' preseason game was shifted from the actual game to breaking news on a certain player about an hour before kickoff.

The team announced that fifth-year running back, Jonathan Stewart, signed a four-year extension with the team with an option for fifth year. The deal consists of a $9 million signing bonus and a $9 million option bonus. Stewart on his new contract, “This is a special team and great running back group. I love Charlotte, and I’m glad this will be home.”

Game Highlights: Carolina was outgained on the night in total net yards, 375-137. Jordan Senn had 13 total tackles (10 solo, 3 assists). Undrafted rookie, Tauren Poole had Carolina’s only touchdown; a rush from 1-yard out.

Camp Competition:
Medlock and Olindo Mare were solid on field goal attempts. Mare’s kickoffs were better tonight. Advantage: Even.

Brad Nortman had a booming 57-yard punt earlier in the game, but Nic Harris had his fair-share of stellar punts. Advantage: Even.

The wide receiver group was unimpressive in tonight’s game. Louis Murphy led the group with two catches for 42 yards.

The Panthers will face the Miami Dolphins on August 17 in Bank of America Stadium.