Tahir Whitehead Admired the Way Kuechly Played, Now Seeks His Advice
Attempting to replace an all-time great such as Luke Kuechly is easier said then done. The man was a 7X Pro Bowler, 5X All-Pro and the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year - there's no replacing that.
However, Carolina had to do something about the void Kuechly left behind, so they went out and signed free agent veteran Tahir Whitehead to a one-year, $2.5 million contract this offseason. This type of a deal could be a "prove it" sort of deal, but with eight years under his belt, it's not so much about talent, but more about whether or not he has a lot of highly productive football in him at age 30.
During Thursday's Zoom press conference, Whitehead talked about filling in Kuechly's place and the pressure that comes along with it.
“Not necessarily, I wouldn’t say pressure. At the end of the day, I’m always hypercritical of myself. I always say that I’m my biggest critic. I’m always looking for ways to improve my game and make sure I can go out there and just do anything and everything I can to help my team. That’s how I’ve always approached the game and that’s how I’ll always approach the game," Whitehead said. "So with that being said, I still take advantage of the fact that Luke is in the building. I’m not prideful in any way, shape, or form, egotistical, and like, you know, ‘I’m not going to talk to him just because he was here and everyone loved him.’
"I love the way Luke played. We came in the same year and I’ve always admired the way he played. From the big plays to the energy he played with. So for me, it’s a blessing to still be able to pick his brain. He’s a great dude, he’s open and always willing to sit down and break down film. When he’s out on the field, I’ll ask him what he thought about certain things, what he’s looking at when he’s dissecting runs or plays. I’d be a fool to not take advantage of the fact that he’s still around.”
Although Whitehead may not be able to match the production of Kuechly, he is going to be a valuable piece of this defense. His knowledge of the game and experience in the league will be of great benefit to a defense that is particularly young. He, along with Shaq Thompson, forms a robust linebacking duo that will account for a myriad of tackles and negative plays.
Over the course of the last four seasons, Whitehead has done nothing but produce. Again, not on the level of Kuechly, but he has carved out a very well respected career. In the last four years alone, he has notched 476 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and six QB hits.
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