The Top Seven Inside Linebackers in the NFL Today
I did Patrick Willis for you guys!
Anyway, I love doing these lists. I seem to get some good reaction and reads, so I decided to make them my main thing. I will write articles occasionally, but mostly lists and slide shows.
Now I am sure you all know who will be No. 1. If you don't, then you are crazy! No, it isn't Timmons, but it is someone from the same draft class...
Now feel free to read on, and I thank you all in advance for your comments and reads!
No. 7—James Laurinaitis
Yeah, he's young and he was a rookie last year, but he was one of the Rookie of the Year candidates and had a great season. The only reason he isn't higher is because he is still so young. I just can't put someone who was just a rookie in the complete upper echelon of players. But I do foresee him getting more—especially if the rest of the Rams defense is so horrifyingly awful!
He played quite well overall last year. He wasn't crazy in any of the stats, but he had a lot of tackles, especially solo ones. He had 120 tackles, with 107 of those being on his own. That shows he is a sure tackler. Maybe Rams fans can tell me otherwise, but I think this kid has what it takes.
It's funny to me that I called him "kid!" It's because other people do it, but he's like seven years older than me!
Predictions: 137 tackles, 113 solo, and 24 assisted;
2 INTs; 3 FF; 3 sacks
I think he will improve pretty much across the board. Look for him in more "Top 10" lists next year.
No. 6—Lawrence Timmons
I am clearly a Steelers fan and a Timmons fan. But I think I bring good points to this. He is one of the most athletically gifted linebackers in the NFL next to Patrick Willis and Ernie Sims.
Ironically, Timmons played at FSU with Sims and was in the same draft class as Willis. He has the speed to pursue players and the strength to bring them down. Look at his arm in the picture. That is no weakling.
He has many things going for him. He has the best defensive coordinator ever in my opinion in Dick LeBeau. He has fellow linebackers to show him to be a better player to wrap up RBs and the like in players like James Farrior and James Harrison.
I saw him play a game against the Browns—I know, it's the Browns, but whatever!—during which he completely destroyed two plays for them. I believe he had two sacks in a row, with the first being a forced fumble. His stats on the season were: 78 tackles, 56 solo, and 22 assisted. He also had seven sacks and four forced fumbles. He was among the league leaders in yards lost on a sack, and he had the highest average of anyone with more than more sacks.
I think he has a ton of potential, and I think he could be climbing up the list sooner rather than later.
Predictions: 112 tackles, 85 solo, and 27 assisted;
2 INTs, 5 FF's, and 9 sacks
He should be the No. 1 ILB in the 'Burgh, and he will get more opportunities.
He did also have this awesomely funny quote from his Web site:
"Favorite foods: Pecan encrusted salmon, and I like the veggies with it, too. Also steak and potatoes, Kobe beef, the bloomin’ onion, and, of course, hot wings with grape soda."
No. 5—Brian Urlacher
Did you notice that he has the jaw of, like, a superhero? It's huge!
Now I personally think he could have been lower on the list—or not even on it in the first place.
But due to his past success, I think he could probably do it again. I'm not saying he'll do 123, 5, and 5 again, but he'll be at least among the better ILBs in the league.
He has always been a good cover linebacker, but one of the main reasons is because opposing offenses are afraid of a blitz. He had a season in which he had five interceptions, five sacks, and 123 tackles. Now that is a very good season. Not the best ever, but it was very impressive.
The only thing is, he's been playing for 11 years and is coming off a serious injury. I think he will be good, but I am quite undecided on this one.
Predictions: 98 tackles, 74 solo, and 24 assisted;
3 INTs, 1 FF, and 3 sacks
Also, for more on Urlacher, follow the link to my colleague Dustin Brown's article.
No. 4—Barrett Ruud
Well, I guess he is intimidating on the fiel, right?
Let me ask you for this information: Have you ever heard of Barrett Ruud? Because I get the feeling that about 80 percent of you haven't. The other 20 percent is composed of Tampa Bay fans and people who only heard about him once or twice.
I think it's a shame that certain very good— possibly great—players go this underrated. But I guess that's something for another article...
But back to the point about Barrett Ruud: He has been among the best for the past three years and is only getting better. He had 114 tackles in '07, then 137, then 142. The guy is just getting better every year.
He only has four forced fumbles in his career, but I can forgive him for that—with all the tackles.
Some would say he is awful in pass defense because of his lack of interceptions during his career. I think I would blame that on his D-line. They get no pass rush, and if I'm not mistaken, have the worst in the league.
A lot of the linebackers who have a lot of interceptions have a great pass rush to help out. Case in point: Brian Cushing. Yeah, he led all linebackers in interceptions, but he also had Mario Williams coming after the QB. That helped a lot! Ruud also doesn't have much of a secondary behind him. Only Ronde Barber is a good player—and he is old!
There are plenty of upsides to Ruud, and he has been consistent. I think he is just a star waiting to be seen.
Predictions: 137 tackles, 103 solo, and 34 assisted;
2 INTs, 2 FFs, and 2.5 sacks
The reason for him having fewer tackles and more interceptions is that I think the Buccaneers will be picking Ndamukong Suh—which will help Ruud's pass rush for sure!
No. 3—Ray Lewis
He's a wizard!
Yeah, he's old, but he's a force in on the field. He plays hard and hits harder—No, you don't get to us that! :D
Surprisingly, he has never been a big forced fumble guy in reality—I guess Madden is more generous about his fumble-forcing abilities—and I don't expect that to change.
He does, however, pull in a large amount of tackles. He had 134 tackles, 95 of them solo—not as good of a percentage as Laurinaitis, but 134 tackles is great for me!
He is also good against the pass. He didn't have any interceptions this year, but he has had plenty in his career—28, to be exact. That's an extremely good career for a linebacker, and Ray probably has two more years left in him. Maybe three. Know what? I'll say he'll pull a Seau and go on forever.
Predictions: 128 tackles, 94 solo, 44 assisted;
3 INTs, 2 FF, and 3 sacks
No. 2—Jon Beason
No, you're not No. 1—but you are close!
I believe that Beason, along with Barrett Ruud and David Garrard, are a few of the most underappreciated players in the NFL.
Beason is a beast in almost every aspect. He gets plenty of tackles, with 142, 112 solo. That shows he's also good in the passing game, with three interceptions.
Beason is a very good player who plays tough—and he is a good role model for the younger players already, even though he is still technically one of them! I doubt he will be No. 1 on the list any time soon, but he could stay a solid second!
I would really enjoy having him on my team, but I guess No. 1 will have to do!
Predictions: 143 tackles, 114 solo, and 29 assisted;
3 INTs, 3 FF, and 1 sack
No. 1—Patrick Willis
Yeah, dude! You also play video games! Yeah, you came in second for best real player to play Madden (to Maurice Jones-Drew), but you win here!
I can't put anyone ahead of him. I don't care what you say; he is the best. He may not be the best in pass defense, but he is just so fast—and so good overall. He is especially good against the run.
When I said that he is not the best for pass defense, it was not a knock on his play. He still had three interceptions this year, with one being a touchdown. He also had eight passes defended. He can more than hold his own out there!
The 49ers do need a cornerback, though. Really, not all that great in the defensive back department.
I am a Patrick Willis fan, and I would love to have him on my team—next to Timmons!
Predictions: 148 tackles, 123 solo, 25 assisted;
3 INTs, 3 FF, and 3 sacks
Here is where I would like to wrap things up.
I must tell you now that I had to rewrite this entire article twice because of incidents happening on my computer. Yeah, to put it lightly, I was furious!
Well, anyway, I finished! It took like a day of writing, and rewriting, and rewriting, but I eventually finished.
I would like to thank you all for reading my rather long and lengthy article! Remember, I really do want to know if you have even heard of Barrett Ruud!
And that's how the cookie crumbles...
Man, I need my own catchphrase to close an article.