Bill Belichick has had the opportunity to coach the greatest outside linebacker to play the game in Lawrence Taylor. Lawrence Taylor has been, is still, and will always be the perfect prototype for an outside linebacker. Belichick said it best in 2005, "Lawrence Taylor set a standard that is all his own" .
So what made Lawrence Taylor the best outside linebacker of all time? "Lawrence completely sells out on every play, He doesn't care about his body—or anyone else's for that matter. He will do anything it takes to win. Anything." said Belichick.
With that said let's breakdown the Patriots outside linebacker and try to find what Belichick looks for an outside linebacker.
1. Size and Power Factor
Bill Belichick likes his outside linebackers big. Lawrence Taylor stood at 6'3" and 247 lbs, Willie McGinest 6'5" 270 lbs, Mike Vrabel 6'4" 261 lbs, Adalius Thomas 6'2" lbs 270lbs. The reason behind this is when playing against the run they usually take on the offensive tackles.
2. Speed and Burst Factor
Speed is very important for the 3-4 outside linebacker. Lawrence Taylor ran a 4.5 40, but typically Belichick's outside linebackers run in the range between of 4.6 and 4.65. The logic behind this is simple, the outside linebacker has to get to the backfield faster while covering more ground then a defensive lineman thus speed is important.
3. Intelligence and Instinct Factor
This is a very important trait for Bill Belichick's OLBs which is something you cannot put a number on. On field adjustments are necessary when the offense sets up or adjusts a blocking scheme. Both outside linebackers should see and feel the play before it actually happens, because both of them should be able to recognize between themselves who will be rushing the passer.
Going into the 2009 season, a lot have criticized the Patriots for not addressing the outside linebacker position via draft or free agency. However, it has to be noted the traits and skill sets required from a 3-4 outside linebacker is different from a 4-3 OLB. Why would you draft or sign a player that would struggle in your scheme?
In conclusion, the Patriots 3-4 outside linebacker is there mainly to generate pressure for the backfield to make the big plays, set off the edge against the run for the inside linebackers or safeties, and to pressure the quarterback.