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Panthers' Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis best LB tandem in NFL?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Al Holcomb can't wait to get to Bank of America Stadium every day.

You can't blame him.

The Carolina Panthers linebackers coach has arguably the most talented group in the NFL, led by two-time Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly and 2014 NFL Man of the Year Thomas Davis.

The two recently were rated the No. 1 and 3 linebackers by Pro Football Focus. Both made ESPN's ranking of the league's top 100 players, Kuechly at No. 13 and Davis at 98.

The Baltimore Ravens were the only other team to have two linebackers in the top 100. They had three: Terrell Suggs (62), C.J. Mosley (68) and Elvis Dumervil (72).

Kuechly was the only linebacker ranked in the top 15.

The combined 799 tackles Kuechly and Davis have since 2012 are the most by any linebacker tandem in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The only other current linebacker tandem to combine for 700 tackles during that span are Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson (with 764), but they played together for only one of those three years.

Only 17 linebackers have at least 300 tackles since 2012. Kuechly (473) and Davis (326) are two of them.

"They're probably the best duo in the league," said Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who stares across the line at Kuechly and Davis every day in practice.

That is why Holcomb can't wait to get to work. He realizes that 20 years from now, when he looks back on the Kuechly-Davis era, it will be "special."

"I think that today," Holcomb said. "I come in to work every day and I feel blessed and fortunate that I have the best room in the National Football League as a coach."

Holcomb is talking about more than Kuechly and Davis. He's talking about first-round draft pick Shaq Thompson, A.J. Klein, Adarius Glanton and Jason Trusnik.

Holcomb believes Thompson, in particular, is special. Put him on the field with Kuechly and Davis, and the coach can't imagine a faster linebacker trio.

"A dynamic presence," Holcomb said of Thompson. "Athleticism, smarts, versatility, all the things Thomas and Luke share."

Thompson's presence makes Holcomb look forward to work even more. With the former University of Washington star, the Panthers have the flexibility to blitz one linebacker and keep two in coverage.

"Potentially," Holcomb said. "It's all based on the opponent that week and who we want to attack."

It begins with Kuechly and Davis, whose ability to cover and make tackles are the foundation of a defense that has ranked in the top 10 the past three seasons.

"Those guys really do play about as good as I've been around," Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said.

A former linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Rivera played with a unit that included Wilber Marshall, Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. Rivera was the defensive coordinator for a Chicago team that had Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

Rivera would put Kuechly and Davis up against any of them.

"Luke has one of the best first steps I've ever seen," Rivera said. "Right or wrong, he gets going in the right direction. He really is all about football.

"TD has got tremendous athletic ability. He's probably the best athlete I've ever seen play the position. That's what makes them special."

That's what makes Holcomb so happy to come to work every day.

"Obviously, I'm a bit biased coaching them," Holcomb said. "So I believe they are the top tandem in the league."