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Tag Archives: linebackers

There are a few lesser known players that many people are not discussing. One of those is inside linebacker, Kwon Alexander, from LSU for all you IDP owners.  After watching his games against kwonMississippi State and the Florida Gators, there were a few things to like and some things that raised my concerns.  Here are my thoughts:

LB Kwon Alexander, LSU 6’1” 227 lbs.

Cons: The defender is a bit on the short side and the light side weight-wise to play inside backer in the NFL.  While this certainly won’t stop him, it might make it more difficult for him to find a starting job.  He strikes me as more of a finesse player who seemed to bounce off ball carriers instead of smashing them.  Alexander also has a bad habit of guessing incorrectly.  The backer runs around blockers instead of trying to run through them on the way to the pigskin.  When he does get tangled up with blockers, it takes him too much time to disengage them to make his way to the pigskin.  Perhaps it is his size, but Alexander does not see the field well, got sealed off a lot, and made most of his tackles by the ankles.  I’m not sure how much of a pass rusher he is either. Read More »

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This year’s draft is full of pass rushers.  Outside of the top six of Vic Beasley, Shane Ray, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, Randy Gregory, and Leonard Williams, there is a lot of debate who should be eliharoldnext.  One of the names that get mentioned is Virginia’s Eli Harold.  He is a bit undersized for a typical defensive end role, but has some good tape out there.  I reviewed five of his games against UCLA, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Maryland to get a better idea of what he can bring to the NFL.  Here is what I saw:

OLB/DE Eli Harold, Virginia 6’ 3” 248 lbs.

Cons: The defender does not have any specialized skills in trying to get to the quarterback.  Most pass rushers use spins, swim moves, dips, and bull rushers in some sort of concert to create separation between themselves and their blockers, not him.  Harold shoves and pushes with only a glimpse of a spin or swim move, despite having quick hands.  He tends to lunge and get off-balance, which makes it easier to get him on the ground or out of the way.  Too many times the defender let the offensive lineman into his body which makes him easy to pass or run block against.  Harold needs to use his punch more often and anchor himself forcing the ball back inside.  He also fell for a few too many fake handoffs from UCLA’s Brent Hundley; the first time understandable, but to fall for it multiple times… Read More »

In a draft full of pass rushers, Missouri’s Shane Ray did not participate at the NFL Combine setting him back in some draftniks’ eyes.  He was active in the Missouri pro day, but did not stand out shanerayaccording to reports of people in attendance.  I decided to let his college film do the talking as I reviewed his games against UCF, South Carolina, Florida (2014 and 2013), and Kentucky.  This is what I noticed:

OLB/DE Shane Ray, Missouri 6’ 3” 245 lbs.

Cons: The first thing I noticed is that he is a bit awkward moving laterally, not smooth. Ray has a bad habit of letting blockers into body, but has a powerful enough torso to move them around to where he wants.  The defender needs to be more proactive and attack instead of letting the offense come to him.  There are times he gets too aggressive though and works himself out of the play.  His instincts are good, but he needs to understand better what the offense is trying to carry out.  Ray needs to get stronger against the run, stepping up and filling the gap.  I thought he looked a little stiff dropping back into pass coverage and might be more of a pass rushing specialist. Read More »

With the NFL Draft less than a month and a half away, there are plenty of players that many draftniks get excited about, but we aren’t quite sure how they will fit at the next level.  One of those shaqattackplayers is Washington’s Shaq Thompson.  He got recruited as a safety and running back, but played much of his college career as a linebacker.  I watched five of his games against BYU, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, and Illinois to get a feel for what skills he will bring to an NFL team.  Much like NFLN’s Mike Mayock, I believe he could be a better strong safety than a linebacker.  Scheme and coaching will make their mark too, but here is what I saw:

S/LB Shaq Thompson, Washington 6’ 228 lbs.

Cons: His size is that of a traditional NFL safety, not of a linebacker as he is more long and lean than stout and muscular.  His timed forty at the Combine of 4.64 is not outstanding either, but well within a slower defensive back or slightly above average linebacker.  My first concern is that he prefers to run around blocks instead of stepping up and shedding blockers.  This extra time getting to the ball carrier might not be so costly in college, but it could be the difference between a two yard rush and a twenty yard play.  Thompson makes about half of his tackles right around the ankles; it will be harder to bring down the best runners in the NFL that way.  He is not strong at the point of attack and appears to absorb more force than he delivers.  In pass coverage, the linebacker does well playing zone, but seems to struggle in man to man situations chasing someone all-round the field.  Thompson has a little Troy Polomanu to his game with his gambling tendencies when he instinctively jumps gaps and/or launches himself towards targets when the outcome has not been decided. Read More »

One of the highest risers due to the results of the NFL Combine is Clemson’s linebacker Stephone Anthony.  He posted an impressive forty time of 4.56, ran a 4.03 seconds 20-yard shuttle, and stephoneajumped a 37 inch vertical.  This caused many draftniks, including myself, to review more of his work to see if these numbers translate.  I watched his games against Florida State, Syracuse, Georgia, North Carolina, and Ohio State to get a better feel for the skills he brings to the next level.  Here is what I thought:

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson 6′ 3″ 243 lbs. 

Cons: His Combine results do not show up to that extent on the game film.  Anthony possesses tremendous straight line speed, but does not change directions that quickly.  He seems to be tightly hipped and runs a bit too high.  I thought he took a lot of bad angles and had to run around blockers, instead of stepping into them and shedding on the way to the ball.  The linebacker, at times, appeared flat-footed and did a lot of his damage as a clean-up tackler.  This means he usually was not the first to arrive, but made sure the ball carrier got brought to the ground.  Anthony has limited pass rushing moves and got quite handsy out in pass coverage.  There is a reckless abandon to his game.  Read More »

There is a lot of family tradition in the NFL.  Look at the Mannings (Archie, Peyton, and Eli), the Lucks (Oliver and Andrew), and now come the Kendricks (Mychal and Eric)?  While his brother, erickMychal, is a solid linebacker, can Eric hang?  I reviewed four of his games against Virginia, USC, Texas, and Stanford to get a better idea of what he brings to the next level.

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA 6’ 0” 232 lbs.

Cons: The first thing that jumped out to me on film was that he plays with more finesse than power.  He needs to get better at delivering hits instead of absorbing them.  Sometimes when pursuing a ball carrier down the field, Kendricks takes some bad angles that allow blockers to take him out of the play.  This also carries over to when the linebacker focuses too much on the quarterback’s eyes when he is back in pass coverage and scrapes off other defenders.  He does not match up as well against tight ends and wide outs as he does against running backs.  Kendricks is a bit lite for his position and might only be able to play a weak side backer in a 3-4 or a middle linebacker in a 4-3.  Read More »

Welcome to Day Three in Indianapolis.  This is usually my favorite day of the combine with huge men looking more athletic than they should.   The defensive linemen as a whole impressed, while thescoutingcombine linebackers were not as crisp as they had been in years past.  Here are some thoughts on players that stood out today:

DT/DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

He was a big, muscular monster.  The defender showed good balance and some quickness, but definitely belongs on the defensive line.

DE/LB Vic Beasley, Clemson

If the combine needed to have a winner for the day, it would be Beasley.  This muscular, quick twitched athlete ran an impressive 4.53 forty yard dash.  He was explosive with no wasted motion changing directions effortlessly (an impressive three cone drill time of 6.91), while showing off quick, powerful striking hands.  Beasley also looked nature dropping back into coverage. Read More »

While this year’s draft class is full of talented outside rushers, there was an inside linebacker that stood out most to me in Mobile.  It was former Miami Hurricane Denzel Perryman.  Although he denzelpmissed the Wednesday practice, the backer came back and made quite the impression on me.  Perhaps it’s because I played the same position while being undersized too.  After viewing nine of his college games against South Carolina, Duke, Nebraska, Louisville, Florida State (both 2013 and 2014), Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Florida, his skills and talents that he brings to the NFL were clearly visible.   Here is what I saw:

ILB Denzel Perryman, Miami 5′ 10 5/8″ 242 lbs.

Cons: The Senior Bowl weigh-in gave scouts the first chink in the armor of the backer, Perryman is not six feet tall.  This limits him in being able to see plays develop at the line of scrimmage when he can’t see around the offensive line.  Of course, the linebacker can watch and anticipate where the linemen are going, so he can overcome this limitation.  But this does leave him flat-footed when reverses and trick plays get called.  Perryman is not silky smooth dropping back into pass coverage and gives an occasion false step.  That isn’t to say he cannot make up for his errors, but it isn’t a strength.  The defender wasn’t effective when he rushed on designed run blitzes as he lowered his head and seemed to have tunnel vision taking bad angles.   The former Hurricane is not overly fast to chase down a runner on the backside, as he uses more patience and is quite methodical.  He sometimes launches himself like a missile into the ball carrier, but the backer needs to make sure he is making contact with his shoulder pads first. Read More »

In Mobile, the question every year is who can convert from a defensive end into an outside linebacker.  While Utah’s Nate Orchard is a very athletic defensive weapon, I struggle to believe he will be nateoable to make the transition to linebacker if he gets forced to drop back into coverage.  I reviewed his games against UCLA and Oregon State along with his outstanding Senior Bowl practices and game.  Here is what I saw:

DE/OLB Nate Orchard, Utah 6’ 4” 255 lbs.

Cons: At his size, Orchard has the build and athleticism for an outside linebacker and does not have the backside or power to play defensive end at the next level, especially as an anchor DE in a 3-4. When the defender dropped back into coverage on game tape or in practice, he seemed slow-footed and very mechanical.  Any tight end or running back would separate from him after two steps in coverage. Read More »

 

In fantasy football, there are some new trends that I enjoy writing about: dynasty leagues, and individual defensive player leagues.  This weekly column will combine two of those by discussing two cypyyoung IDPs.  I will give my scouting thoughts on how they played a particular week.  Today I will be discussing Jacksonville safety Jonathan Cyprien and the infamous San Diego linebacker Manti Te’o.

S-Jonathan Cyprien, JAX-This second year safety plays all over the Jacksonville defense as he lined up near the line of scrimmage like an outside backer, but also played some deep middle and off coverage on the opposing tight end.  Cyprien flies around the field quickly using good tackling technique (either wraps the ankles or controls their hips).  He doesn’t give up on plays and is solid in run support.  With the improved play of the Jaguars linebackers, his tackle opportunities decreased.  This shows against the Titans with only three tackles, an assist, and one pass defended. Read More »

 

In fantasy football, there are some new trends that I enjoy writing about: dynasty leagues, and individual defensive player leagues.  This weekly column will combine two of those by discussing two cborlandyoung IDPs.  I will give my scouting thoughts on how they played a particular week.  Today I will be discussing linebackers Chris Borland and Keenan Robinson.

LB-Chris Borland, SF- This rookie was one of the most heralded linebackers coming out in the 2014 Draft until he landed by the bay.  The 49ers top two linebackers, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman, appeared to be cemented as starters for years to come.  Fate didn’t exactly turn out that way with Borland being the only healthy one of the three backers so far this season.

The young linebacker certainly turned heads as a Wisconsin Badger and made quite an impression during the Senior Bowl practices in my eyes.  Yes, Borland is an undersized backer standing only 5’11”, but his small compact body delivers quick striking hits.  He has great vision finding the ball carrier and makes a point to step into blockers to knock them off-balance and shed them quickly.  The linebacker is a good student of the game, because he watches the quarterback’s eyes and anticipates where the play is going, getting there sometimes before the offense.  Read More »