The NFL's Best Inside Linebackers, 2000-2009
Continuing my positional rankings for the past decade, linebackers are up next.
There have been some great ones at this position in the last ten years and there are a few young guys now who are clearly carrying the torch into the next decade.
Patrick Willis and Jon Beason are both great young players who have made an immediate impact on the game, they however fall short for this list by just having three full seasons under their belts.
Now to the guys who did make the cut, feel free to tell me what I screwed up!
No. 13: DeMeco Ryans
Ryans is the youngest player on the list but has already established himself in just four seasons.
His stats are: 404 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 8 fumble recoveries. He has been named to two Pro Bowls and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
No. 12: Lofa Tatupu
Tatupu was solidifying himself as one of the best MLB in the game before suffering a season ending injury early last year. He has 352 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 9 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries while going to three Pro Bowls and being named a first team All-Pro in 2007.
No. 11: Antonio Pierce
One of the under appreciated backers of the last decade Pierce was a force in the middle for the G-Men most of the decade including the Championship season of 2007.
In 124 games this decade he has 528 tackles, 9 sacks, 7 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries. Pierce was picked for his only Pro Bowl after the 2006 season.
No.10: Jonathan Vilma
Vilma came out the gates strong as a rookie, then had a bit of a hiccup in the middle, but with the Saints he has established himself as an elite MLB.
His stats for the decade include 488 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 10 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles and 6 fumble recoveries. Vilma is also a two-time Pro Bowler and was the 2004 defensive Rookie of the Year.
No. 9: Tedy Bruschi
One of the leaders on a three-time championship winning team, Bruschi was an important piece of the New England mini dynasty both on the field and off.
His stats for the decade are: 526 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Bruschi went to his lone Pro Bowl after the 2004 season.
No. 8: Jeremiah Trotter
Trotter could be higher on the list, but down years in the middle knocked him down a couple of spots for me.
His stats for the decade are: 629 tackles, 10 sacks, 7 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. Trotter was a four-time Pro Bowler and once named first team All-Pro.
No. 7: Keith Brooking
Brooking is not one of my favorite guys in the league but it is hard to deny his place on the list.
His stats include: 868 tackles, 18 sacks, 11 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries. He has been named to five Pro Bowls this decade.
No. 6: James Farrior
Farrior has been a co-captain on two championship teams and one of the most dominant defenses of the decade.
His stats were: 758 tackles, 24 sacks, 11 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries and he was a two-time Pro Bowler and a first team All-Pro in 2004.
No. 5: Al Wilson
Wilson was one of the best linebackers in the business when injury prematurely ended his career.
His stats from 2000 through 2006 were 502 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 5 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles. Wilson was a five-time Pro Bowler and once named All-Pro.
No. 4: London Fletcher
London Fletcher is the new poster boy for Pro Bowl snubs, all he's done is tackled more ball carriers than anyone this entire decade and not missed a game his entire NFL career.
In his maxed-out 160 games this decade, Fletcher has amassed 982 tackles, 27 sacks, 15 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and 9 fumble recoveries.
No. 3: Zach Thomas
The overachieving little guy on the list, Thomas was one of the best and someday will probably get HOF consideration.
For the decade Thomas had 742 tackles, 15 sacks, 9 interceptions, 9 forced fumbles and 6 fumble recoveries. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro for the decade.
No. 2: Brian Urlacher
Pretty easy to pick the top two spots on this list.
Since coming into the league the only thing that has slowed down Urlacher is injuries. He's been a Defensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Rookie of the Year, a 6-time Pro Bowler and a 4-time first team All-Pro.
His stats for the decade are: 816 tackles, 37.5 sacks, 17 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles and 9 fumble recoveries.
No. 1: Ray Lewis
There may end up being a couple Hall of Famers on this list, but there is only one sure fire first ballot and that is Ray Lewis.
Lewis will go down as one of the best to ever play the game and he deserves that honor. Just this decade he has two Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Super Bowl MVP, eight Pro Bowls and six times he was named first team All-Pro.
His stats for the decade include: 866 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 21 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries.