Well, BGN...after all the FanPosts I've made, I finally got one Rec'd, lol. People wanted the other positions so here are the linebackers. We have a lot more options at linebacker than at defensive tackle, so the poll will seem to never end, but bear with me. I will only put up combinations that make sense…so don’t expect to see options with Fokou at WILL or Clayton at SAM, etc. As with before, make sure to say who should start AND why. More after the Jump.
Warning You Again...THE POLL IS CRAZY.
If you choose the last option (Some Other Option), please put your option in the SUBJECT line of a comment below so that I can properly tally the vote. Thanks.
The first thing that has to be noted is that we are INSANELY young at linebacker. With three linebackers drafted, probably only two of them will make this team and since none of them have any NFL experience, I have to go to the college ranks to try to project what they can be in the NFL. Complication factor times 10. The second thing of note is that even though he will probably not be back, I MUST include Ernie Sims in the analysis. Don’t chop my head off…it’s all in the interest of being complete.
- Stewart Bradley played in and started 12 games. He recorded 48 tackles, 11 assists, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 7 passes defended.
- Ernie Sims played in and started 15 games. He recorded 48 tackles, 7 assists, 2 sacks, 5 passes defended, and 1 fumble forced.
- Moise Fokou played in 16 games, starting in 11. He recorded 31 tackles, 7 assists, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, and 1 fumble forced.
- Jamar Chaney played in 14 games, starting in 2. He recorded 27 tackles, 9 assists, 1 pass defended, and 1 fumble forced.
- Omar Gaither played in 14 games, starting in 2. He recorded 24 tackles and 4 assists.
- Akeem Jordan played in 16 games, starting in 3. He recorded 13 tackles, 4 assists, and 1 pass defended.
- Keenan Clayton played in 7 games, starting in 1. He recorded 4 tackles, 3 assists, and 1 pass defended.
- Rashad Jeanty played in 15 games, starting 1 (For the Bengals). He recorded 8 tackles and 7 assists, mostly on special teams.
- Ricky Sapp did not play.
- Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, and Greg Lloyd are all rookies.
The "Eye" Test:
- At 6’4", 254 pounds, Bradley is one of the biggest linebackers you will find in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has yet to return to his 2008 form. And, honestly, despite his pretty good statistics from that year, I never really considered him a pro bowl caliber option at middle linebacker. That being said, I DO think he would be a pro bowler at SAM, especially with Washburn’s Wide 9 scheme now being employed. In his scheme, the pressure is on the linebackers to make plays in the run game. Because of this, oftentimes there will be an offensive lineman that makes it to the second level. The combination of his size, speed, and strength should make him adept at handling that and getting to the ball carrier.
- By all accounts, the Shark in the Water was not what we had hoped when we traded for him. That being said, I am in the minute minority that feels like he wasn’t quite as bad as is being made out to be either. I don’t think he will be brought back, if for no other reason than the fanbase going bananas. However, it is worth noting that at 6-0 225 pounds, he is the same package as the last 5 SAM and WILL linebackers that played behind a Washburn run scheme. There are a lot of things to dislike about his play. However, he seems completely willing to throw himself into a play, at times even into an offensive lineman that has over 100 pounds on him. That is a characteristic that may make him attractive in this new scheme. Remember, the Wide 9 scheme affects the whole defense, not just the defensive line.
- Moise Fokou is the wildcard in the situation. And his role in this defense could come down to what the team decides to do at middle linebacker. I think it is safe to assume that Jamar Chaney earned a look on the field, more than likely at MLB. That will force the team to decide what to do at SAM between Bradley or Fokou. Economics could also factor into that decision as Bradley makes too much to be a reserve, but I doubt they want to let him walk or trade him. As a player, Fokou is ONLY a SAM linebacker…but has the tools to excel at the position. Extremely long arms keep him from getting swallowed up by offensive linemen.
- Jamar Chaney responded to his first significant playing time as a starter at MLB by performing like a veteran. He possesses prototypical size, great speed, and a knack for finding the ball. He has shown the ability to get deep in pass coverage and with a little seasoning, has the tools to be excellent in coverage. I guess I’m continuing to let the cat out the bag that I am HUGE on this kid in the middle of the defense for years to come.
- Akeem Jordan has always been a steady but unspectacular player at linebacker. He lost his starting job in game 4 of the season and, unlike Bunkley, struggled to even find the field again despite the notable struggles of Ernie Sims. I think that the proverbial writing is on the wall and he won’t be brought back next year.
- Omar Gaither has been a mainstay at linebacker for years, providing depth at all three positions and some quality spot starts. While his value has been tremendous, I believe he is part of the "turning over of the roster" that the front office is talking about.
- Keenan Clayton is probably our best coverage linebacker. He had some games last year, in particular against Peyton Manning and the Colts, where he separated himself in terms of coverage. He shows the ability to get deep in coverage, to run with tight ends, to play solid zone on slot receivers, and to make plays on the ball while in the air. I’m sure that he will see a lot of the field this year in the nickel package.
- Rashad Jeanty was an early offseason signing from the Bengals. For them, he was a special teams standout but is recovering from a fractured fibula in the playoffs. He brings 32 career starts to the Eagles, which ranks him second on the Eagles, slightly behind Gaither with 36. I can’t pretend to know very much about him but with his size and lack of passes defended, I would have to project him to SAM. He chose the Eagles over offers from the Jets and Dolphins.
- Ricky Sapp might as well have been drafted this year. Now, he did get a full year to study the playbook, but it never comes together until you have had the chance to run it on the field. He is probably the most athletic of all the linebackers, which is saying something when you include Chaney, Clayton, and Sims. However, he was primarily used as a "joker" in college so there are some positional things that he needs to learn. All I can say is we will see how he comes along. When he was drafted, I was high on the value of the pick.
- It cannot be said enough times. Casey Matthews is not Clay Matthews. That being said, he was every bit as productive in college. Whether it is tackling a running back in the backfield for a loss, sacking the quarterback on a perfectly timed blitz, or dropping into coverage, Casey was ALWAYS around the ball. His combine results were horrible, only achieving 13 reps in the bench press (Clay can do that with his pinkie toe) and not electing to run the 40, which allowed the knock on him (lack of speed) to sound justified. However, he would not be the first player at MLB to have a successful career despite lacking the measurables.
- I could probably cut and paste the writeup for Casey Matthews above for Brian Rolle. Even more undersized, many people think that he projects to strong safety better than linebacker. However, don’t discount his relentless downhill play. All three of our rookie linebackers have a penchant for finding the ball. I don’t think Rolle will be called on to play serious snaps at linebacker for us anytime soon, but he will probably be a standout on special teams and, out of the three, is most responsible for what I think will be the release of Gaither.
- Greg Lloyd is strictly a project pick. While he has the size to play linebacker on this level, his speed will probably be the question mark. Not to mention his knee injury that caused him to miss much of his senior season. If healthy, he will need to make his mark on special teams to make this roster.
We have a TON of raw ability and athleticism at linebacker. I think we struck gold when we found out how good Chaney can be in the middle. He deserves a shot to win that role, which makes us better at two positions by putting Bradley back at his natural SAM position. The WILL linebacker is up for grabs. Ultimately, the "simplification" of the defense that we keep hearing about from Castillo may mean Sims gets another shot here. At worst, he could provide solid depth and starting experience. If not Sims, the edge probably goes to Clayton or Matthews. They are our two best coverage linebackers. We have 11 linebackers to probably fill a maximum of 7 spots so expect the competition to be VERY strong whenever training camp arrives.