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Brees: Kuechly, Davis best LB tandem 'maybe ever'

Drew Brees isn't buying the anti-hype associated with the Panthers' dismal 1-4 start.

The Saints quarterback has been around the block enough times to know you can't keep a talented team down for long, especially when that squad boasts a linebacking tandem as feared as Carolina's. So ahead of New Orleans' crucial NFC South matchup, Brees is pumping up his weathered competition.

"Those two linebackers, Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are one of the best tandems certainly in the business now, but maybe ever. Those two guys are pretty incredible," Brees told ESPN.com. "Just what they do and how they execute the defense and run the scheme and get everybody squared away with what they're doing, they're a very smart group and a high performing group. I've got a lot of respect for these guys."

In just five short years, the Kuechly-Davis duo has indeed developed into an all-time great unit. The two interior linebackers have combined for 1,116 tackles and 23 sacks since Kuechly was drafted out of Boston College in 2012. Both Kuechly and Davis were first-team All-Pro in 2015, the third straight season Kuechly had been honored, and they captained Carolina's conference-champion defense in 2015. So far this year, Kuechly is second in the league in tackles (57) and Davis has 24 to his name.

But are Kuechly and Davis the best linebacking tandem of all-time, or even right now?

Bills linebackers Zach Brown and Preston Brown aren't household names, but they're putting up solid numbers (105 tackles, one sack combined) for Dennis Thurman's revamped defense -- that inside pair doesn't even include outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander who entered Week 6 leading the league with seven sacks. Tampa Bay boasts young threats in outside linebacker Lavonte David and stat-padding inside linebacker Kwon Alexander. Cardinals pass rushers Markus Golden and Chandler Jones are sack masters in the desert, but they've only been together for five games.

Von Miller took back the sack lead on Thursday night, and is also the bookend of another great (outside) linebacking tandem in Denver with DeMarcus Ware, though the latter has been bothered with injuries. Brandon Marshall and former Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan also deserve recognition for their brief reign in Mile High. In the same vein, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman's time in San Francisco together merits accolades.

Getting into the discussion of all-time duos, it may be too early in Kuechly's career to see how Carolina's captains match up against Jack Ham and Jack Lambert's Steel Curtain, Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson's '85 Bears, Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper's 2000 Ravens and any two members of New Orleans' own Dome Patrol.

What can't be argued is the respect that both of these Panthers players have rightfully earned from the football community, even from one of their most vaunted rivals.

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