In a season where New England’s high flying offense gets most of the pub, their defensive stalwart is having an all pro season.
Third year linebacker and team captain, Jerod Mayo is having a career year anchoring a defensive squad that is very young and finding “their way”. After a much maligned season where the Patriots’ defense ranks near the bottom in almost every statistical category (except takeaways which they rank fourth in the NFL), Mayo has led by example.
His relentless and tenacious playing style inspires his teammates and sets a good example for rookies such as Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham. Mayo took the torch at middle linebacker from Patriots’ legend, Tedy Bruschi and learned a lot playing along side of him.
Once the student, Mayo is now the teacher.
After a sensational defensive rookie of the year campaign, Mayo struggled with injuries in his sophomore season playing in only 13 games. It was noticeably visible that he wasn’t the same player as he was in 2008.
A healthy Mayo, however, is a dangerous threat for any opposing offense. And the NFL is feeling his full impact in 2010. Mayo is posting some eye popping numbers thus far but isn’t getting the national recognition he deserves.
Unfortunately, Mayo falls in the shadows of star linebackers such as Ray Lewis (117 tackles) of the Ravens and Patrick Willis (116 tackles) of the Niners. Mayo may not be a household name yet, but after this season the league will have to take notice.
After just 13 games, the first round pick out of the University of Tennessee is leading the NFL with 148 tackles. That is 13 better than second place Stephen Tulloch of the Tennessee Titans.
And most of Mayo’s take downs are of the solo variety.
In back to back games versus Miami and Baltimore, the announcers must have become hoarse saying repeatedly, “Number 51 Jerod Mayo on the tackle.” Mayo performed with ferocity by posting a 16 tackle (14 solo) effort against the Dolphins. Even a bye week couldn’t slow down the inside linebacker’s tenacity.
After the week respite, Mayo was all world yet again versus the Ravens posting 18 tackles (11 solo) which was the second highest game total of his career. Since then he has averaged nine tackles per game including a 15 tackle performance against the Indianapolis Colts.
The tackle stat in the NFL should not be taken for granted or brushed aside. These numbers illustrate Mayo’s headiness and instincts for the game. He always seems to be right in the thick of the things. Mayo’s football intelligence and preparation seldom leaves him at a disadvantage on the field.
The Patriots’ defensive margin for error is very small due to their youth and inexperience. And Jerod Mayo is the veteran “glue” that keeps the other 10 players on the field together.
He is the captain, defensive signal caller, heart and soul of this Patriots defense as was Tedy Bruschi before him.
With experience and Mayo’s leadership, this unit will only get better.