Eagles rookie LB Jamar Chaney started up an interesting discussion on twitter pertaining to the Pro Bowl and since it's the week of the game I figured I'd like to pick up the discussion here. It has to do with 3-4 and 4-3 linebackers and what place they have on a pro bowl roster. I'll let him begin.
"Question? Do y'all consider OLB's in a 3-4 defense Linebackers? To me their hybrids. I think they should have a special category. I think there was only 1 TRUE(4-3) outside Linebacker that made the ProBowl. ( Lance Briggs). The others were 3-4 OLB w/ a lot of sacks."
It may seem like a trivial debate at first, but this is important to players. Not only is there the prestige of getting a pro bowl nod, but there's money at stake as well. Many players have incentives for making the pro bowl that range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. Julius Peppers actually got a $3 million bonus for making the pro bowl this year. Plus, players on the winning team make $45K while the losers bring home $22.5K. That may be chump change to a guy like Julius Peppers, but that's significant money to a young player.
So what's a 4-3 linebacker to do? They're never going to put up gaudy sack numbers like a 3-4 linebacker will and we all know sacks are a glamor stat. Plus, there's the issue of putting together a real team for the pro bowl. While a 3-4 linebacker plays the role of a 4-3 DE, Chaney argues that in the pro bowl he generally will be asked to play 4-3 style linebacker.
"I mean, in the probowl they have to play a true Outside Linebacker in a 4-3. Most of them are the size of Defensive Ends."
He then asked if there was a 4-3 linebacker that ever racked up 10 sacks in a season, which might be the only way they could compete for pro bowl votes with a pass rushing 3-4 OLB. People hurled a bunch of names at him, but he disproved them all.
Actually, the one 4-3 OLB he seemed to find that recorded 10 sacks was Julian Peterson with the Seahawks... but fellow Eagle and former Seahawk Darryl Tapp said that wasn't true.
"nope Julian Peterson was playing defensive end in our scheme. I know I was there"
So you basically have these 4-3 guys that are primarily responsible for coverage and run stopping being judged by sacks totals versus guys who rush the passer nearly every down. Not really fair for the 4-3 guys. But what to do about it? Do you classify a 3-4 OLB as a defensive end and let the likes of Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware compete for a roster spot with Julius Peppers and Justin Tuck? By doing that, you'd probably just end up shutting out deserving players at both positions, which is what we're trying to avoid in the first place.
Or could the NFL just start a new category specifically for 3-4 defensive ends? After all, it is just the pro bowl and who really cares if they invent a new spot on the roster?
Or maybe you do nothing and just tell the 4-3 OLBs of the league to try a little harder?