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Saints' linebackers (all of 'em)

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; I recently started a thread on Courtney Watson and I think it was misunderstood and I also think I did a poor job of stating my opinion. So, I want to talk about ALL of our LBs for a sec. ...

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Old 03-01-2005, 07:34 AM   #1
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Saints' linebackers (all of 'em)

I recently started a thread on Courtney Watson and I think it was misunderstood and I also think I did a poor job of stating my opinion. So, I want to talk about ALL of our LBs for a sec.

But, before I talk about any of the individual players we have at LB, I want to talk about the importance and differences of each spot.

Weak side linebacker 4-3
The weak side backer is the second best playmaker on the defense usually. He has a little further to go at times to make plays but is often left unaccounted for in the blocking scheme. Many big play linebackers come from this position because they are allowed to freelance more and flow to the play with less traffic to fight through. A good strong side backer makes a perfect set up man for the WLB when he clogs the play and forces the ball carrier back to the middle. The WLB generally has fewer responsibilities than other front 7 positions. He is responsible for shutting down the reverse and closing up cut back lanes against the run while most of his pass responsibility amounts to keeping tabs on relief valve receivers like backs on swing passes or short back side screens. One side note when it comes to outside backers in the NFL, some teams have gone to right and left side linebackers where instead of switching sides based on strength of formation, the defenders remain on the same side and responsibility changes with the formations.

Strong side linebacker 4-3
Here is where we answer the question of why a strong side linebacker struggles to produce in the box scores. At a glance it would make more sense that since teams run to the strong side more often, the strong side backer should make more plays. It all goes back to the description of formations. While its true that teams run to the strong side more often, the reason they do so is to take advantage of the additional blocker or blockers. A strong side backer often finds himself at the point of attack which means the offensive blocking scheme has accounted for him with at least one blocker, often a TE or fullback, but sometimes a pulling guard is responsible for taking him out. The main responsibility of this position against the run is to defeat or at least eliminate the blockers at the point of attack so that the runner has to alter his course by cutting up early or stringing out toward the sideline. In concept this is to allow pursuit from the safeties and/or other linebackers to bottle up the runner. Against the pass a strong side backer is usually responsible for the tight end or fullback out of the backfield. Chances are if there isn't a TE or FB, the defense will be in a nickel formation where the SLB position is basically eliminated. Some schemes take advantage of a SLB who is a good pass rusher by leaving him free to blitz instead of dropping into coverage when the TE releases into the pass pattern. If a strong side linebacer is on the field in obvious passing situations he must possess the speed to be able to cover the tightends. Examples are: Lavar Arrington in Washington, Rosevelt Colvin last year in Chicago, Jamir Miller the year before last for the Browns and to a lesser degree Mark Fields in Carolina.

Middle linebacker 4-3
This is the ultimate position of all the linebackers because all defensive schemes are designed to funnel plays to the middle of the field. The MLB is protected from blockers by the tackles who make it tough for either the center or guards to get off the line. Miami's defense does this as well as any in the game, keeping Zach Thomas free from blockers while forcing ball carriers toward him. Ray Lewis is probably the NFL's premier linebacker. He is able to flow to the play and pile up the tackle numbers. At the snap of the ball the middle backer will look for keys that tell him if the play is pass or run. His first read is the offensive line. A pass blocking offensive lineman will stand up out of his stance as opposed to a run blocker who fires out to engage the defender. Offenses have tricks such as draw plays to disguise their blocking schemes so there are reads beyond the initial line movement. Pass coverage responsibilities will depend on the cover scheme called but once run is diagnosed, the MLB has a single assignment, get to the ball carrier.

Okay, hopefully everyone agrees with the description of all the linebacker positions in the 4-3 defense??

There's been much talk on this board about the OLB being the most important LB on the field. However, that is not true.

In fact, the OLB has the easiest job of any of the linebackers. He has less blockers to worry about and his play generally depends on how well the SLB sets up the play for him. He might pile up great stats, but that's becasuse he's playing in space and doesn't have to worry about much.

I'm going to leave it at that for a while and hopefully we can get some good opinions on the linebacker positions in general....



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Old 03-01-2005, 08:23 AM   #2
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There\'s been much talk on this board about the OLB being the most important LB on the field. However, that is not true. In fact, the OLB has the easiest job of any of the linebackers. He has less blockers to worry about and his play generally depends on how well the SLB sets up the play for him. He might pile up great stats, but that\'s because he\'s playing in space and doesn\'t have to worry about much.
This is where you stretch it. Just because plays funnel back toward the middle doesn\'t mean its the most important position. In fact, it would appear that the MLB typically requires the least amount of atheleticism of the 3 backers. The MLB simply has to be a solid tackler. Ever wonder why most teams scheme against the opponents OLB\'s rather than the MLB\'s?
James Allen was switched from WLB to SLB because of his abilities to play through traffic.The SLB is apparently the one position that requires the least thinking of the 3. Thats why many (including me) thought his switch to SLB would work fine because he didn\'t have to think as much. But it appeared the mental part of the game didn\'t click for him until week 12. Was it a fluke? Or did he finally get it?

I forget who said it but they nailed it. It depends on the defensives schemes you implore as to which is more important. Thats why Brookings (one of the top MLB\'s in the league) was switched to WLB.

As far as \"gifted atheletes\" go the giftd OLB is usually an atheletic freak of nature. The MLB isn\'t typically as fast or as atheletic as the OLB\'s. But he is typically bigger and stronger than the other two.

But I\'d rather have a stud OLB and a good MLB over a Stud MLB and a good OLB anyday. Unless you\'re weak up the middle. Then the MLB becomes the key stop-gap. But I\'d rather fix the problem up front 1st.
But times are changing. The skillset of all 3 LB\'s appears to be merging closer and closer as offenses innovate new ways to spread the field. Power and Speed are more important than ever.
But it appears you aren\'t gonna give up you\'re MLB/Watson angle no matter what. But at least its not yet another AB arguement. Or will it be?

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Old 03-01-2005, 08:43 AM   #3
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THe MLB calls the plays for the defense..he has to be intelligent to focus on what plays are being run by the offense. therefore the MLB is the QB for the defense.
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:13 AM   #4
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But at least its not yet another AB arguement. Or will it be?
Wow Danno. You seem to be the only one who can\'t let that go. You get what you want and you still poke your hand in the fire. Obsess much?
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:25 AM   #5
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There aren\'t too many here that weren\'t beat down by the AB Wars of 2003-2004.

You get what you want
And what was it that Danno got, exactly?
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:43 AM   #6
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And what was it that Danno got, exactly?
Pretty much every AB discussion, or offense discussion in general, Danno felt was a waste of time cause we were discussing the wrong positions and the wrong side of the ball. Now mainly ALL of the talk has been on defense, and LBs in particular, and it has been very interesting, and he still has to poke at the AB debate. SO he got what he was begging for, yet he is the only one who can\'t let it go.
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Old 03-01-2005, 10:06 AM   #7
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This is where you stretch it. Just because plays funnel back toward the middle doesn\'t mean its the most important position. In fact, it would appear that the MLB typically requires the least amount of atheleticism of the 3 backers.
Danno --

The WLB is a guy who makes a lot of plays. He\'s also the guy, out of all 3 linebackers, who has less blockers to take on. He\'s pretty much free to roam around and make plays. The WLB is mostly unaccouted for.

The MLB, on the other hand, is usually met by a fullback or an offensive lineman and must be physical enough to shed those blocks and get to the ball carrier. He also must be fast enough to cover in the passing game.

Both the OLB and the MLB need to have enough speed to cover in the passing game. Both must be able to tackle. But, the middle linebacker needs to be stronger to be able to shed blocks.

And I just cut and pasted the write up on the importance of the positions. That wasn\'t me who said it.....

Here\'s the article:

http://www.redeyesports.com/Breakingdownadefense.htm
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Old 03-01-2005, 10:07 AM   #8
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And what was it that Danno got, exactly?
Pretty much every AB discussion, or offense discussion in general, Danno felt was a waste of time cause we were discussing the wrong positions and the wrong side of the ball. Now mainly ALL of the talk has been on defense, and LBs in particular, and it has been very interesting, and he still has to poke at the AB debate. SO he got what he was begging for, yet he is the only one who can\'t let it go.
I was just poking fun.
Lighten up dude! Having AB withdrawals?
Maybe I shoulda
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Old 03-01-2005, 10:09 AM   #9
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I doubt that many here believe that AB is the answer at QB, despite what Danno says. I respect Danno\'s opinion, but honestly, I\'m not sold either. But the AB threads were some of the longest, most volatile subjects we\'ve had on this board, with many posters angering one another continuously. I\'ve seen political debates that didn\'t have as much heart.
This goes out to everyone at B&G.net. You don\'t have to agree with someone\'s opinion to respect what they are saying. Know that we have the most knowledgeable Saints\' fan base on the net. Give respect, and you will most certainly receive it. We\'re all guilty of blowing our tops and unloading on someone, I am as guilty as anyone here. Just let posts roll once and a while, don\'t feel like you have to constantly kidney punch someone into submission.

[Edited on 1/3/2005 by BlackandBlue]

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Old 03-01-2005, 10:14 AM   #10
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(1) On many defenses (including ours) in the NFL the SS calls the defensive plays (and, in turn, might well be considered the \"QB of the defense\"). This makes sense since, Safeties are more likely to be on the field every play than LBs.

(2) I\'ll quote myself:
Here is something that may be of interest. Brooking has been moved to OLB, where he had 101 tackles. Draft, who played the MLB had 56 tackles. That doesn\'t sound to me like a team that thinks there playmaker should be in the middle. In fact, Stewart, who played the other OLB had 71 tackles (and only played in two more games than Draft - which puts them at about the same). Note: Brooking played inside in the 3-4, but when they switched to a 4-3, Brooking (their leading tackler) was moved to the outside.
The WLB is uniquely suited, as Billy even points out, to be the playmaker. While there was a trend toward rangy, playmaking, MLBs, that trend has been dying off, since there are few players who can manage to be that way - Urlacher and Lewis are examples of these types of players. Many other teams tried it, but there has been limited success.

(3) Funneling means crashing blockers to force the runner back toward the middle. There are two main reasons for this: (a) it shatters the blocking scheme, reducing the number of possible blockers at the point of attack, and (b) more defensive players have shorter distances to go to make the tackle (as the middle of the field is closer to them). At the point of attack, you want there to be as little room for the RB to make moves as possible, so forcing him between the tackles is a goal. Guess who should be the first guy there? The MLB. Thus, funneling is NOT intended to force plays to the MLB because the MLB is so important/skilled/super-awesome, it is because that is the best place to shut down a runner and make it easier for more defensive players to reach the ball carrier.

(4) Perhaps the disagreement is about what constitutes the \"importance\" of the position. The point that I believe Danno and I are making is this: the WLB (or at least a stud OLB) is more important than the MLB for the following reasons - (a) WLBs are required to be more versatile blitzing, tackling, in coverage, and read and react, they are asked to think more, (b) LBs who are freed to make plays, must make plays, and the MLB is rarely freed to make plays outside the tackles, and (c) WLBs usually have further to go to make plays, and many teams\' stats show that they do.

Billy seems to disagree, but his notion of \"importance\" seems to be this: (d) MLBs are asked to make plays against the run first and most often, (e) if a MLB fails to do his job a RB make shake into the secondary and that usually ends poorly, (f) teams design defenses to set the MLB up to make plays.

I believe that (c) and (d) are a wash. (f) versus (b) appears to me to not a sign of importance, but a sign of which job you need to do. Finally, (e) appears to me to be important, but then again so does (a). I guess, I\'m at a loss to decided which is more important in these ways.

I suppose, it is my general view that if you got two equally good (whatever that means) LBs, one at the OLB and one at the MLB, the OLB would have a greater skill set, as he is required to do a greater variety of things over a greater distance. Of course, I acknoweldge that the job description for all the LBs is getting closer together, but it is my view you can get by with a big, strong tackler at MLB (mostly because the MLB has the advantage of funneling that, say, a WLB does not), but at at least one OLB position you need a guy who can cover, read, fly to the ball, and make plays when he is freed to do so.

(5) Who started talking about AB? When I find him, I\'m gonna kick him in the nutz.

"... I was beating them with my eyes the whole game..." - Aaron Brooks :cool:
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