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Change comes to the LBs.

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by AzPatsFan, Aug 23, 2006.

  1. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    The Patriots Linebacker corps is changing this off season.

    I have written before that I think the time of dedicated ST LBs is or will be drawing to a close. Don Davis had the most ST tackles last year and clearly outplayed Larry Izzo, as did departed Mike Stone. Larry cannot play a regular defensive LB position. He is older, slower, and way to small; he has severe problems shedding blocks. OTOH, Davis can also take a few snaps as a coverage LB; at one time he was a regular, and a starting MLB for the Rams Super bowl club, but not a star. He started out his career as a SS to LB conversion, so he did have legitimate speed for a LB, and some coverage ability.

    The OLB contingent contenders are:
    Vrabel 6-4 260# 31
    Colvin 6-3 250# 29
    TBC 6-2 250# 26
    Brown 6-2 250# 35
    Mincey 6-3 260# 22
    Woods 6-5 255# 23
    Oh and also
    Bruschi 6-1 247# 33

    A total of 7 contenders for a3 or 4 man rotation.

    The ILB contingent contenders are:
    Bruschi 6-1 247# 33
    Gardner 6-1 245# 29
    Beisel 6-3 245# 27
    Seau 6-3 255# 37
    Vrabel 6-4 260# 31
    Davis 6-1 235# 33
    Izzo 5-10 228# 33
    Alexander 6-2 240# 24
    Roach 6-2 255# 23

    A total of 9 contenders for a 4-5 man rotation including specialists.

    That is a total of 14 players and over the last few seasons the Patriots have carried ten guys nominally labeled as LBs. A couple were nothing but LBs in name only, and really just sizable ST tacklers. They could be substituted for by large SS who might have superior speed.

    So who are the Four cuts from this group?

    I think Larry Izzo is gone.
    I think C Brown injured, is waived but will return; meanwhile he is a safe "shadow roster " cut.
    I think F Roach is cut but may join the PS.
    I think E Alexander beats out Davis for the ST LB and Davis is cut.

    Alternative 1: one of Mincey/Woods is cut and signed to the PS. Davis survives, for his last season due to intangibles like "locker room leadership".

    Alternative 2: one of the safeties, like Tebuckey Jones or Sanders is kept (like Jerrod Cherry), and given the ST job. Then Davis goes as well. The Pats carry 9 LBs, instead of 10, all of whom can contribute in some way to the regular LB defense.

    In the case of my prime prediction the LB corps is 37,33,31,29,29,27, 26,24,23,23 years of age, averaging 28.2 years old.
    With the starters at 37,33,31,29. Its almost a young LB corps.

    In Alternative 1 the lb corps is 37,33,33,31,29,29, 27,26,24,23. year of age averaging 29.2 years old.

    And Alternative 2 the LB corps is: 37,33,31,29,29,27,26,24,23 years of age, averaging 28.7 years old.

    Now whether any of these contingents can play is a question but I see them as a relatively young and talented contingent. Among the LBs are three former pro bowlers, and five of whom were judged to be superior LBs.

    The first replacement is to recall Chad Brown 35, to add to the depth from the "shadow roster" rather than promoting a PS rookie, all of whom need seasoning...

    The Patriots are hardly devoid of talent in their LB corps, and I will make the assertion that this is probably the youngest, deepest and most talented LB corps, he has placed on the field, since his arrival in 2000.

    Its amazing to see BB and Pioli to rebuild, to fit the pieces, to patch, together a strong LB corps in the matter of a single off season. This is a much improved group in comparison to the relatively weak group that entered the 2005 seaon, even without Willie.
     
  2. primetime

    primetime Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #18 Jersey

    The thing that amazes me is Brown is only 35. Last year he played like he was 80.
     
  3. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    But last year he was suddenly asked to play ILB fulltime, in an unfamiliar Defense. And to play it next to another raw newcomer as well. He was asked to play behind a NT who was having problems; and in front of a SS who went down in the third game, and a parade of SS experiments started.

    Now he has a year in the system and is asked to play a spot rotation at OLB, so he can pace himself. And in back of a rising star at DE and in front of a FS who has had pro bowl mentioned alongside his name. Its a much different proposition, IMHO.

    But note that I don't think he makes the cut; merely that he comes back quickly, while on the "shadow roster", when healthy.

    The same applies to Monty Besiel who has been similarly judged wanting after a tough audition.
     
  4. arrellbee

    arrellbee Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    AzPatsFan
    Is there something concrete that you are basing your opinion on that Izzo and Davis will be cut ? Or are you just speculating to be 'different' or to have a 'notion' ? This has been a recurring speculation in past years and, of course, has turned out to be incorrect each and every time.

    Certainly Izzo and Davis will retire or be dropped some year. But why this year ? Izzo, especially, is only 32 at this point. He is a pro-bowler at the ST position and is regarded highly enough by the Pats that he is the special teams captain. What rationale do you have other than just a 'notion' or 'speculation' ? LBs and DBs are not interchangeable in special teams coverage. And the rampant discussion on this board is how thin our LB depth chart is and how inexperienced and yet you just toss out two of the most experienced and productive ST LBs that we have.

    I wonder what your reaction will be if Izzo and Davis both make the team ?? ??
     
  5. 14thDragon

    14thDragon Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    Shock and Awe.

    I think Izzo is a goot ST captain and is going to stick around for that fact.

    Davis, while a ST guy, looked horrific in as regular linebacker. Alexander is in the same mold, former SS, has spent two years learning the system on the PS. Showed excellent ST capablity so far this preseason and showed some flashes in the regular LB line-up.

    You know what we are going to get with Davis, good special teams guy, emergency safety, but not enough for an ILB. Alexander seems to have the first two covered while adding upside at being a real possiblty at ILB.
     
  6. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    AZ,

    I see one of the advantages of a 228# Izzo over most of the S candidates as the ability to fight through ST blockers, I believe only Harrison and Jones are close to his weight with Mitchell out. For the same reason, an Izzo would probably be a little better as a blocker with a few extra pounds.

    There was an interview with Don Davis this Spring where he talked about practicing and developing his skill set to play Special Teams, as opposed to trying to maintain himself to play MLB consistently. If I recall it correctly, he saw it more as a trying to serve two masters situation, and put most of his emphasis on the Special Teams once he had adjusted to his role here.

    Chad Brown and Seau are monkey wrenches as far as trying to forecast the back half of the LB depth chart. Kids like Mincey and Woods should make the roster to start their development. Alexander looks to be contending with Izzo and Davis and has a longer shelf life. Roach looks interesting, but he's fighting for a Practice Squad billet. I see Mays as someone who, like Alexander, could be developed as a Special Teamer, if BB wanted to relegate him to the Practice Squad. That accounts for the four "kids."

    TBC's preseason would seem to have earned him some rotation time with Colvin and Vrabel. Beisel's injury time, plus Bruschi's injury, seem to have set him back a great deal with Seau's presence. I can see the improvement from last year, but I don't know if it is enough - I have no hesitation in saying he needs to be playing alongside a Bruschi or Vrabel field general at this stage of his development. A healthy veteran Brown brings value to the team, but is it worth carrying an injured Brown and cutting a kid or Special Teams expert off the back of the depth chart?

    My LB prognostications are pretty much 4 locks and lots of questions. As they say in Nepal, Ay Carumba!.
     
  7. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    Arrellbee,

    Its pure speculation on my part. But Davis had 25 ST tackles last year and Stone had 17 ST tackles in half a season versus Izzo's 18 for a full year. You do know that he was passed over for the probowl last year after making in in 2004. IMHO I think Larry is fading.

    I hold him in high respect though, not least that he went to Rice, not exactly a football factory, but certainly one of the better academic schools in the country and stil played pro football even when severely undersized and undertalented. Heart. Pure heart.

    If either or both make the Team, I think its more for intangibles rather than athletic performances. But intangibles DO matter. I rate Don better than Larry at this point in their careers, but I don't vote, Bill Belichcik does.

    I just think that other athletes in the LB corps have passed by thier abilities.
     
  8. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Not to be a wise backside (yeh right :D) who drew the most double-teams? ;)
     
  9. arrellbee

    arrellbee Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    OK. Interesting observations. We will know shortly what Belichick's assessment is.

    I think you have to be careful comparing tackles stats between Izzo and a role like Stone's. I don't follow special teams in detail. Maybe Pats1 or Box could comment on what Izzo's key role is.

    I'm not sure I think intangibles have much of a factor in a player making the final 53.

    By the way, Davis was one of the winners of the offseason workout awards:
    "The nine 2006 off-season award winners are Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Don Davis, Kevin Faulk, Logan Mankins, Josh Miller, James Sanders, Benjamin Watson and Mike Wright."
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  10. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I can't grasp your concept of dumping Davis and Izzo, the heart of the a special teams corps that was shaky itself last year, simply because you want youth on the roster.

    The youth outside of Mincey is Alexander, Woods, Roach, and Mays.

    Quite frankly, there's not enough upside in any of those names to displace the production and leadership both Izzo and Davis have brought. They needed to be spectacular in camp to win the jump, and none of them have, outside of a few flashes from Woods.

    BB will never waste any roster spot. He understands the value of role players like Izzo and Davis. Younger players aren't going to get a handicap because of their (limited) potential, unless you're talking a draft pick the team has invested in. Again, none of them are.

    Furthermore, there's a slim to none chance of Alexander, Woods, Roach, or Mays ever climbing higher than a special teams role player in their careers. If they're going to be on this team, they'll be playing special teams. That's it.

    So the question is, if those roster spots are going to be filled with special teamers, why not have the best you've got?

    You want change, but they're quite simply hasn't been enough to warrant it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  11. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    :wha:

    Would you care to readdress this point? :confused:
     
  12. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    What Davis brings to table as a ILB or S is only an added plus. If he has to see time in those positions, the team is already in trouble, and Davis - or any other back-end player on the roster for that matter - can't change that.

    Davis knows what his role is, knows it's not going to bring him millions or super stardom, but he's been coming to work every day for the past 10 years and working as hard as any other player.

    He, just like Izzo, is great at what he does, and BB recognizes that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  13. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Sure, you'll always find a diamond in the rough when it comes to UDFAs, but the majority of the guys who stick are going to make their NFL livings on special teams. Through hard work and determination, they can climb their way up over the years. You don't see UDFAs who make an immediate impact anywhere other than special teams every year. Gay was an exception.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  14. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Okay, I see where you were taking that point now. And I'll grant Mincey as a 6th rounder isn't that far above UDFA. That said, aren't you setting the bar high using Gay as the UDFA standard?

    I found the performances of Mincey and Woods against Atlanta to be very encouraging when measured against TBC's progress. Woods was especially promising for a UDFA, he set the edge quite well, he needs lots of work in pass coverage, but what rookie LB doesn't.

    I also saw some good things in Roach's play that allows me to pencil him in on the Practice Squad (not to mention that he didn't look that bad on Special Teams).
     
  15. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Strong words...I'm not so sure on Woods. First off, can somebody please clarify:
    WAS IT WOODS OR ALEXANDER WHO CAUSED THE FUMBLE LAST WEEK???
    The announcers said Alexander, and since then a bunch of posters seem to be upgrading Alexander as a "ST standout." But somehow I thought it was actually Woods who made the play. He was also an ST ace in college, and has outstanding measurables and a quick pass-rush burst. I could easily see Woods developing into a productive situational pass-rusher as well as a major ST contributor.

    My crystal ball says that one of Davis & Izzo stays for stability, reliability and leadership, but one gives way to the likes of Pierre Woods. But heaven knows my crystal ball has been wrong before.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2005
  16. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    http://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/showthread.php?t=39480
     
  17. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #11 Jersey

  18. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Ain't that the truth! I'm comfortable with my D-line judgements, but everything else on defense is hitting the dividers on my dartboard!
     
  19. bucky

    bucky 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    I agree that Roach is probably a PSer and Brown looks to be headed for the shadow squad.

    Both Mincey and Woods have looked promising in the preseason, but I think only 1 of them makes the team. Woods has looked better, IMO, but Mincey has the advantage of having been drafted. So I'll give the nod to Mincey.

    Izzo, even if he is slipping, still apeears to be the best ST player on this team. So he stays.

    I think the big battle is at the backup ILB/ST spot. And I believe there are 2 spots with 4 candidates - Davis, Gardner, Beisel and Alexander. I've been writing off Davis for the last 2 years, but somehow he keeps sticking around. Gardner hasn't impressed me at either LB or ST. Alexander hasn't shown much improvement as a LB. Beisel, at this point, has to earn a spot as a ST player. Supposedly, that's been his strength in the past, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt there and say he and Davis get the spots.

    So my early prediction for the LB corps: Vrabel, Colvin, Bruschi, Seau, TBC, Mincey, Izzo, Davis, Beisel.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2005
  20. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Makes sense, though I'd be inclined to go at least 10 deep and keep Gardner for youth/speed at MLB when they go 4-3. I'd give the nod to Woods ahead of Mincey, but either one is #11 if BB goes that deep.
     

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