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2009 LB Preview and Some Football 101

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Posted 05-21-2009 at 07:25 AM by hagan714
Updated 05-21-2009 at 07:31 AM by hagan714

Now what have the Saints done to improve the LB corp in 2009? Lets take a look. I have included a basic outline of each players role also. Remember Basic is the key word.

4-3 Outside Linebackers

Outside linebackers (4-3):

Will (weak side, or non-tight end side)
Sam (strong side, or tight end side).

The OLBs roles vary from defense to defense, but the basic idea behind it is covering an outside zone, the area between the hash and the cornerback . They are responsible for both the run and pass coverage.

Both the Will and Sam are asked to much of the same things today. But the assignments on the same play call will vary. There is a basic principle for OLBs in the NFL that is still around since the 43 defense started.

Strengths/weaknesses/roles of each.

Player diversity is key today. But this principle still applies.

Against the run their assignments pretty much the same. They have to keep the RB contained between the conerback (CB) and defensive end (DE). They are responsible for not letting the RB run wide and turn the run up field if the corner back can not do it. Ideally they run the RB out of bounds for no gain. Thats a tie and victory goes to the Defense.

Sam linebackers

Sam's are generally the bigger, stronger backers and better able to take on a block and beat that blocker. In general the Sam line up over the tight end. He is often is required jam (get a quick hit on) and cover the tight end in passing situations. Keeping the TE from getting a quick (clean) release. Their help usually comes from the strong safety or help over the top comes from the SS.

Will linebackers

Wills are basically faster, more athletic linebackers. Wills usually play more zone coverage assignments and cover or jam slot receivers in passing situations. Will is more of an attack LB than Sam not only because of speed but they do not have the TE to worry about. They pick up the RB first in man coverage. If the back stays in to block then he is covering the weak flat (short routes to the sidelines) or hook/curl (come back routes) areas in zone coverage assignments. Play call determines what he will do of course.

4-3 Middle Linebackers


Mike is usually your quarterback of the defense. He usually is the player responsible for receiving the defensive play calls. Mikes are usually the most well-rounded and versatile linebacker on the field. They must be a solid open field tackler that consistently brings down a ball carrier 1 on 1.

Keeping interior offensive linemen from getting to the second level of the defenseis key to keeping the middle linebacker free to make plays (first level is the defensive line (DT,DE)). Even the great Mikeís requires a good defensive front to ensure his freedom of movement.

Once again roles will vary from team to team but basically the Mike backer is assigned to protect in between the hash marks and shut down the running back.

Depending on the scheme, the Mike may be assigned to a particular gap (an area boundary defined by particular players on the OL). That gap is determined by the play call for the Defensive line. The Mike plugs the weak spot left by the defensive line play assignment.

The most common use of a Mike is in run support from sideline to sideline, filling the gap between the defensive end and the outside linebackers. The Mike's first responsibility is taking away the cut back lane between the outside linebacker and the defense end of a ball carrier running to the outside of the tackles.

The Mike in passing coverage is usually assigned a middle zone in passing situations. A passing situation is a second or third of 6 or more yards for a first. The Mikes help usually comes from a slot corner back (CB), free safety (FS), strong safety (SS). Sometimes even from a Defensive Lineman dropped into coverage. All this depends on the play called.

Blitzing and stunts are for another blog.

Now for the 2009 Saints starters we are familiar with.


55 - Scott Fujita, LB, 6-5, 250, 4.64, 30, 8, California

Flash of greatness loom here at times. Solid as they come. At 30 it is time to think of grooming a replacement plus he will be one of our key FA next year. Along with Brown at OT


51 - Jonathan Vilma, LB, 6-1, 230, 4.55, 27, 6, Miami (Fla.)

Vilma is the jewel addition of the defense last year. It is hard to imagine how good he will be once he gets the help from the secondary he needs. Last year his zone coverage was too deep and to wide. As was his basic line depth on running sets.


58 - Scott Shanle, LB, 6-2, 245, 4.69, 29, 7, Nebraska

How can I knock this guy? While he may not be the fastest player on the field and it often cost us, he is smart and a hard worker. He is easily one of the best backup LBs in NFL who finds himself starting.

Letís look at the backups returning:


54 - Troy Evans, LB, 6-3, 238, 4.54, 31, 8, Cincinnati

He is yet another solid veteran addition to the LB corp and a great addition to Special Teams. But he to in getting up there at the rip old age of 31.


53 - Mark Simoneau, LB, 6-0, 245, 4.63, 32, 10, Kansas State

He was a solid addition for an area of need way back when we picked up Shanle. Actual was a nice package deal. He is a versatile back up. But his age at 32 is a big question mark here. He could end up odd man out.

50 - Marvin Mitchell, LB, 6-3, 249, 4.95, 24, 3, Tennessee

Among the biggest yet slowest LB we have. He will be fighting to make the roster.


52 - Dan Morgan, LB, 6-2, 245, 4.54, 30, 8, Miami (Fla.)

We all have been waiting for him to hit the field. Can he make it through the season without hearing bells is the question here. His impact could be huge if comes close to playing up to his previous pro bowl level.

56 - Jo-Lonn Dunbar, LB, 6-0, 226, 4.57, 24, 2, Boston College

I have to hold back when talking about this guy. Even as a backup he made impact plays on defense and special teams. How good can he be? Are we talking Pro bowl? Doubt it. He can be a top #1 reserve in the NFL though. I want to see how much his play has improved going into year 2.

Now for the new players added this year:

59 - Anthony Waters, MLB, 6-3, 238, 4.62, 24, 3, Clemson

Waters should be a step above all the others. He has the ability to be listed as the steal of the 2009 free agent class. He should thrive in the 43, just like Vilma. Now Waters is a Mike trapped in a Sam body and has enough speed to play Will. Nice problem to have. If not for the injury he would have been a first round pick during the draft. He bears resemblance in his style of player to Brian Urlacher. Yes I went there and forgive bad puns.

He makes Marvin Mitchell time with saints to be very short and could put Simmons at risk. I have Waters in the mix with Simoneau and Morgan at the start of camp. If things go well he might be pushing Shanle as a starter. The only reason I do not go with push at Mike is because Vilma is too good at Mike to move to the Will linebacker position. Who knows maybe as soon as opening day. But by next year is he should definitely be in the mix. Neither of the scenarios is out of the realm of possibilities. Thinking about it he may be groomed to take over at the Sam when Scott is ready to step down.

I am looking for things to come together for him in 2009. He is has to want it and if he does, we need to get use to hearing his name.

57 - Stanley Arnoux, WLB, 6-0, 232, 4.61, 22, R, Wake Forest

Arnoux and Dunbar are a bit of same type of players. Both are solid Fireplugs. While I understand the pick I am still scratching my head with selecting a player like Dunbar. He is quicker I have to admit. But in Williams I must trust. As it turns out we have to wait till next year to see why the pick was made because he just became our first player on IR

62 - Jonathan Casillas, WLB, 6-0, 228, 4.50, 23, R, Wisconsin

Here is the biggest UDFA signing in my book for 2009. While he may not have been a day one pick in the draft, he certainly has third round talent. Injury moved him into the fourth or fifth round in my book because of the early recover timing of the injury. But to go undrafted? I was shocked.

The Question will be if he is ready to play. He could end up with Arnoux, on the IR' by the time the season starts.

If Casilles ends up on IR with Arnoux then we have little movement to talk about in the LB corp for the Saints going into camp. If Morgan does not work out then I see the saints working the wire like they did last year at DE. So depth at LB may become an issue in 2009 for the Saints.

A lot of riskier moves with injured players have been made again this year by the Saints at LB and if they pay off we should be be sitting sweet for 2010.:cool:
Total Comments 3


  1. Old Comment
    papz's Avatar
    Great blog Kevin... very informative. I definitely learned something today.
    Posted 05-21-2009 at 03:07 PM by papz papz is offline

  2. Old Comment
    saintsfan1976's Avatar
    Great post. I read it twice.

    Any plans to do one on O line and D line?
    Posted 06-02-2009 at 07:19 AM by saintsfan1976 saintsfan1976 is online now
  3. Old Comment
    hagan714's Avatar
    as soon as my divorce is over you will see more. I promise
    Posted 06-20-2009 at 11:40 PM by hagan714 hagan714 is offline
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