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'Frankie's a dog': Luvu's new teammates love what he brings to Washington's roster

Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu (49) takes the field during player introductions prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)
Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu (49) takes the field during player introductions prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)

Marcus Mariota is thrilled to have Frankie Luvu as a teammate, not just because the two have bonded through their Polynesian heritage, but also because he doesn't have to see Luvu on the opposing sideline anymore.

"Aside from him hitting me all the time," Mariota said when asked about his and Luvu's relationship, "I've gotten to know him a little bit over the course of the last six or seven years. Man, if you ever just turn on tape and watch that guy run around and make plays, it's really, really impressive."

Luvu, ranked No. 35 on Pro Football Focus' list of top 200 free agents heading into the new league year, was one of the first players Washington signed as part of the new regime's efforts to recalibrate the roster. Though he's been in the league since 2018, Luvu has only recently begun to hit his stride on the field, collecting 12.5 sacks, 20 quarterback hits and 136 tackles in the last two seasons.

Several of Washington's new players were asked about Luvu, and Mariota isn't the only one who's relieved the linebacker is joining the Burgundy & Gold.

"Frankie's a dog," said new Commanders safety Jeremy Chinn. "They're definitely gonna get somebody who's high energy, somebody who's gonna put his all on the line every single Sunday, every single week."

Chinn has had an up-close look at Luvu's maturation as a player. Prior to arriving in Carolina in 2021, Luvu was a rotational piece with just four starts and 59 combined tackles in three seasons with the Jets. His first year with the Panthers presented a similar situation; while he did get more snaps and recorded a then-career high of 43 tackles in 2021, he was behind Jermaine Carter Jr., Haason Reddick and Shaq Thompson on the depth chart.

But then Reddick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and Carter joined the Browns ahead of the 2022 season, creating multiple open spots in the Panthers' starting lineup. Luvu pounced on the opportunity, and his coaches made sure to use him in every way possible to maximize his talent.

"It's been an eye-opener for me, it's a challenge, but I'm up for the challenge," Luvu said. "Wherever they put me, said it since OTAs and training camp, whatever they want me to do, I'm going to learn it and do whatever I can."

Take a look back at Frankie Luvu's previous stops before joining the Washington Commanders. (Photos via The Associated Press)

And Luvu backed up those words over the last two seasons. Though he has some talent in coverage -- he has nine pass breakups since 2022 and returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals -- he's known more for what he can do as a pass-rusher. Since 2022, he ranks fourth among off-ball linebackers with 43 pressures and first with 9.5 sacks.

"He's one of those guys who plays fast, plays physical; he's the Energizer bunny to this defense," Thompson said. "He's a fast-twitch guy and just makes plays."

Luvu, who led the Panthers in combined tackles since being a full-time starter, has garnered praise from his fellow linebackers around the league for his versatility, leadership and motor. He earned the respect of Luke Kuechly, with the future Hall of Famer saying that "[Frankie] plays the game the right way. I'm jealous of the guys that are still out there that get to play with him."

Luvu will get to play alongside another all-time player in nine-time Pro Bowler Bobby Wagner. The two worked out together this offseason before coming to Washington, but Wagner has had his eye on Luvu for a while.

"I've always watched his game from afar," Bobby Wagner said of his new teammate. "He's done an amazing job. He's really, really good at getting to the quarterback ... I'm excited to start working with him."

And Luvu is ready to learn from him, too.

"He's the epitome of a linebacker," Luvu said of Wagner. "He does it all. [He's a] Student of the game, how he goes about his ways and habits, watching film. You can name it all. So, to have him in the building and to work with him, it's just a blessing."

Luvuv wants to bring energy, tenacity, grit and a dog mentality to the Commanders' defense. All of that would be welcomed among the team's linebackers, who have generally struggled in recent seasons.

Luvu wouldn't classify himself as a linebacker, though. He believes his skill set is a little more diverse than that.

"You can put my anywhere," Luvu said, "and we're gonna go get it."

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