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Luke Kuechly dominant in Carolina Panthers' first half

Carolina Panthers veteran Jon Beason already has anointed Luke Kuechly "the best in the league" at middle linebacker.

If the first half of Thursday night's 34-27 preseason victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens is a sign of things to come, Kuechly even might give J.J. Watt a serious run for top defensive player in the NFL.

Middle linebacker can't be played better than Kuechly did in racking up seven tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and two passes defensed over two quarters. He was everywhere. Check out the play below in which Kuechly was shot out of a cannon to separate Ravens running back Bernard Pierce from the ball.

Kuechly is the catalyst for what NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah views as perhaps the most underrated front seven in the league. First-round defensive tackle Star Lotulelei put a clown suit on Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele, twice making tackles in the backfield and adding a third-quarter sack. Second-round defensive tackle Kawann Short similarly was impressive, notching a sack and a tackle for loss in a span of three plays for the Panthers.

On the flip side, it doesn't say much for the struggling offense when the best chance of the Panthers scoring is with Cam Newton watching from the sideline.

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