One must not always look at the positional talent in a vacuum, but at how altering that talent will affect the team across the board. Is Kuechly more talented than Belcher? Yes. Will this talent upgrade at SILB make our linebacking core better? Probably not, and if it does, it will be marginal.
Hence the title - a world in which Belcher plays to run interference for DJ vs. a world in which Kuechly would roam free and essentially run interference against DJ.
Let's get something straight right off the bat, before we even start talking about interference. Jovan Belcher is a solid LB... I am not really sure why people do not see this. A 100 tackle season is a mark that puts a LB in the top linebackers in the league (as in not every team even has one that does this), Jovan Belcher just missed that mark with 87 tackles. This mark ranked him as the #42 LB in the league. Considering that there are 32 teams in the league, this put him at just under the first tier, or top 32 LBs in the league. And he did not play all the snaps (which makes his tackle mark all the more impressive)... and is less of an indictment of his cover skills as it is simple intelligence in putting more DBs on the field in dime. Why people want a LB that can cover in 3rd and long to keep all 4 of our 'backers on the field is beyond me. I will take a safety playing a hybrid LB role all day long... you know, someone who covers as their positional duty, to... well, cover... (I know, mind blowing concept)
Couple this with the fact that he was undrafted! And his consistent durability, all of a sudden you are looking at a talent that just by the numbers rates as average. However, due to his role in our defense, maintaining the numbers that he has show an above average talent. Here we go, on to the main point of this post... interference.
DJ has said many times that Belcher runs interference for him. Essentially his primary responsibility is to absorb blockers or to hit holes to make the RB make a decision and make his cut. In other words this completely selfless position responsibility is to make DJ a better player, a pro bowler, basically to make DJ do what he is capable of. This is interference for...
Kuechly is a supreme talent. He is a tackling machine and he would be amazing to put into our D right? He would easily get over 100 tackles and start making some plays!
Okay, back to reality. You can plug Kuechly in to our defense and ask him to do two different things. The first is to take on the same primary responsibility that Belcher does. Well... I have no doubt he would be great at slamming into big 'ol pulling guards... the only problem is that this doesn't create any different results than Belcher has been creating. Belcher's SILB work has DJ at nearly an All Pro level, I don't think Kuechly would be any more effective at this than Belcher is.
So... how about running wild and making plays! Sounds good right? Sure he would be more effective than Belcher in that case... however DJ would be less effective. You need to average together the effect and you probably have an equally effective LB core. This is what we effectively call interference against. Me personally? I don't want our "impact" 1st round pick lessening DJ's effectiveness. And who cares if Kuechly could play in obvious passing situations? A safety would do this better anyways.
You want an improvement in Belcher? How about less free bodies coming through the LOS? Our DL is the worst position group on our defense. Go DL with our 1st pick and you may actually see what Belcher can do. Right now our SILB has a very defined responsibility, this is because he is forced into that role. I would love to see Belcher with less free bodies coming at him and see how it improves his "stat impact", the one most people care about.
It's still a team game, and sometimes the players that people like to forget about and throw under the bus are the ones that matter the most. I think Jovan Belcher is much better than most of you think. The bottom line is more important than the shiny player stat line.
And people wonder why we haven't met with Kuechly... maybe because he is not needed.