Re: LB Versatility & Deployment
posted at 6/4/2010 4:03 PM EDT
I remember when football experts would always talk about how Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning would have chess matches on the field. His ability to fluster Peyton was a critical aspect in the Pats ability to dominate the Colts and other teams. It seems to me that the defense got away from creativity when Coach Pees was calling the shots. They saw success with the little creativity they showed last year using "organized chaos". Linebacker versatility is critical to be able to employ unique defensive schemes.
Mayo could play all over the place. He can line up at the "Mike" or "Will" in the 3-4, or all three spots in the 4-3. He has one ILB spot locked up. I really hope he can start producing more big plays. A rush up the middle would help disguise the weak OLB rush.
I believe McKenzie has the ability to line up at every spot in either defense. That would be a fantastic asset and really allow the defense to be flexible. I think his versatility will make it impossible for him to not find a way on the field.
Guyton is interesting. He seems like the prototypical 4-3 "Will", but would probably be best utilized as a coverage linebacker in the nickel or 3rd down. The idea someone brought up about him being a S/LB hybrid is interesting, and should be explored more by Belichick.
Spikes seem to be a thumper best suited for the "Mike". What interests me about the Florida product is his instincts. He really came off the tape as a football player, one that would make plays no matter here you stick him.
Banta-Cain is a little overrated in my eyes, due to the fact that 5 out of his 10 sacks came against Buffalo's incompetent line. That said, he has the flexibility to line up as a down end or standing up as the "Jack". In an ideal situation, he comes in on 3rd down as a pass rusher.
Burgess isn't all that versatile, and seems limited to strictly rushing the passer from the outside. That said, I can see him playing relatively well next year, as I project about 65 tackles and 9 sacks for him. He can do it.
Crable is an unknown quantity, but could be an X-factor. He was a beast at Michigan, where he lined up all over the place. He will be rusty from two years off, and you cannot expect much from him. If he can return to college form, the rush would be bolstered. I see him as an elephant, mainly rushing, but has the ability to drop back in coverage.
Woods is a serviceable player who should not be starting for this team. His greatest asset is as a special teams contributer, as seen in the first game of last year. He is a fine backup, but I would not be surprised if he gets cut.
Ninkovich. I am not exactly sure about him. He played fine last year, but I feel he should be relegated to coming off the bench as an occasional sub or could spot start in case of injury. For me, he did not make enough plays that were a defensive staple of past Patriots teams.
Murrell. I have not watched any tape on him, so I cannot say anything about his abilities. From what I have heard, he is a special teams ace who played well for Appalachian State.
Eric Alexander should be cut, and I will be shocked if he earns a roster spot. There is no reason for him to make the team over more talented players who can actually contribute to a successful season.
Jermaine Cunningham should contribute right away, but will still need time to understand the complex defensive schemes of the NFL. I am not expecting anything huge for the first year or two, but fully expect him to become a mainstay at ROLB in the future. Mel Kiper Jr. stated that when he went back to look at Cunningham's tape, he was extremely impressed.
William Thomas. I know absolutely nothing about him, but I read he had been lining up at fullback in the workouts.
Dane Fletcher. Not sure about this player either. I read from someone that he lined up both inside and outside at rookie mini camp. It is that kind of versatility that Belichick craves. There is usually one undrafted free agent to make the squad, and for all we know, it could be this kid.
Pat Chung. Yes, I know he is not a linebacker. That said, I would not be surprised if he plays close to the line of scrimmage next year. He is a tough, physical safety who knows how to lay the wood.