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Linebacking Corps: Thoughts

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by NEPettyOfficer72, Apr 20, 2013.

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  1. NEPettyOfficer72

    NEPettyOfficer72 Rookie

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    I wanted to know what are everyone's thoughts on the Linebacking corps heading into the 2013 season and how they compared to past corps, and additionally, how good they look now or could look with a contribution or two.

    Jerod Mayo - Perhaps the AFC's best ILB. Definitely a probowler/allpro and all the above. Can he play outside too? How is he against the pass? SEC TRIO
    Rob Ninkovich - This guy when they have him at LB looks alot like Mike Vrabel, just not quite as good against the run but rushes the passer very well, and has a knack for being a situational game changer. Forced fumbles, stripped sacks, ints, you name it. I think maybe we are underrating his talents as I've read some NFL analyst call this guy a premiere hybrid player in this league that many don't know about.
    Brandon Spikes - Best LB against the RUN in the NFL maybe, and one of the strongest at shedding blocks that I've ever seen. Lack of speed but makes up for instincts and football intel. Played defensive end in College at times, versatile. How does he fair? SEC TRIO
    Don'ta Hightower - rising superstar that has the ability to rise to elite status? We'll see. Has all the intangibles. Can he also put his hand in the dirt and play situational defensive end? I tell you what though, he was on a bit of a roll before he stumbled with injuries a little, last year. SEC TRIO
    Dane Fletcher - we get this guy back, who has showed very good skills versus the run in the past before injury. With him in the fold again, perhaps can have more flexibility, moving some pieces around? What are your thoughts?
    Jermaine Cunningham - defensive end but can play OLB in some packages. I think he is solid but just not panning out as that game changer. More of a momentum type pass rusher.

    I mean we obviously have alot more options and depth now, especially with more depth in the solid vet Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian, special teamer Niko Koutouvides and Mike Rivera.

    Thoughts anyone?.....
  2. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Rookie

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    You seem to have forgotten Ninkovich. With the newcomers on the D-line, he is free to and can take some snaps at OLB...
  3. cstjohn17

    cstjohn17 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Patriots have a good set of traditional 3-4 LBs, big, ability to take on blocks, some pass rush skills but slow and poor in coverage. This becomes an issue in sub packages especially when the slot corner and safety are weak.

    Versus Baltimore AFC Championship Game the Patriots had a 4 man line with Spikes and Mayo as LBs, Cole at slot CB and Gregory at Safety. The combo of Spikes, Cole and Gregory was abused by Boldin and Pitta.

    The Patriots have a hole in their sub packages, the question is how do they fill it?

    They likely have their preference but the draft board may dictate the direction, IMO is is best to take the best players and have some flexibility with the scheme than to look for a specific fit. Again just my opinion but the defense needs more play makers, the scheme is ok.

    So back to the LBs, it is more of a question of how to help the sub packages:
    - coverage LB - would fill a need but could force Spikes and/or Hightower off the field
    - CB/S hybrid - play a corner slot type role with some run support responsibilities
    - Safety that can cover and play the run (hard to find) but this would allow the Patriots to utilize the dreaded Big Nickel with a Safety playing a LB role in nickel
    - improve pass rush - an outside or interior pass rushing specialist

    I don't know which way the Patriots will go, it could be a combination of all of the above but shoring up the Nickel package is essential to remain a championship contender.
  4. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    It's a very good 3-4 LB corps. It gets exposed in the 4-3, particularly against the pass, because Hightower and Spikes are both weak links in the 4-3. If they had the 3-4 DEs, they'd be better off switching their base back. As it is, they've got Fletcher as the coverage LB, and they'll probably be scouring the cuts list for others to come in and fill that role, as well.
  5. VrabelJr

    VrabelJr Rookie

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    The problem is we have three or four 4-3 MLBs but not really a WOLB that can cover (Mayo is better at MLB than WOLB, in my opinion). Hightower and Ninkovich are good SOLB, Ninkovich is a better DE than SOLB though so I think he will stay at DE. Next year, we need Hightower to make a big step forward and we need to draft (3rd round or later) a true WOLB that can cover. Mayo is smart enough to be moved around. I'd like to see him at WOLB in running downs and MLB in the Nickel.
  6. doesntmatter1

    doesntmatter1 Rookie

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    Only mayo and fletcher have the required speed and quickness to hold up in coverage. I honestly feel that spikes has the best coverage instincts but he is just too slow.

    I agree with cstjohn17 that our sub is truly the problem. Against the ravens is when gregory showed how bad he can be. He can play zone very well but he misses many tackles and at times brutally roasted when in man coverage. Pitta toyed w/ gregory and the worst was an incomplete wheel route that burned him by 10 yards. Spikes should have benched once we forced them into pass mode. Spikes gave up a few easy completions here and there but it wasn't as bad as gregory. I personally don't like cole's finnese style but he had great coverage but was out muscled. And lastly we were inconsistent with holding the edge.
  7. doesntmatter1

    doesntmatter1 Rookie

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    Also, hightower's and ninko's play is almost identical. The big difference is hightower tackles better. They both give decent coverage and i believe they both would do best as 3-4 olb. Our dline as it currently is constructed is best suited for a 4-3 but our lb are almost pure 3-4.

    We are missing critical 4-3 elements and it shows up in our sub defense. We need coverage lb. Think guys like urlacher when he was yound. And it seemed that our best penetrating dt was the undersized cunningham.
  8. NEPettyOfficer72

    NEPettyOfficer72 Rookie

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    Cole was indeed outmuscled by Boldin and Steve Gregory's coverage at times was spotty. But see, that's the key.. health and depth. Had either Aqib Talib not been injured or a solid backup behind him we could have won the game against BAL. Marquice Cole was simply not good enough. Imagine if Ras-I Dowling could come in for Aqib, different outcome more than likely. And back to Gregory, he has good technique and quickness, especially with slot receivers but still lacks for route anticipation at times .. lacks that natural instinct of sniffing out plays and that's where Adrian Wilson comes into play. He is just an animal, even at age 33. And what about Tavon Wilson? I'm sure he'll improve from his rookie year, but even so he did really good. The kid had 4 INTs.. very good. But.. lol back to the linebackers, we have the SEC Linebacking corps and good depth behind them. They all have strengths that can help our defense out, I just think in all honesty that we should go back to a 3-4 base defense. And while some say Ninkovich is better at DE, I think he can cover as well. Additionally, a guy like that who is a great pass rusher can rack up sacks regardless of lining up with his hand in the dirt or standing up. I prefer him at OLB, and Justin Francis on the other side of Chandler Jones (who should emerge his second year) but that's just me.
  9. EwanSellars

    EwanSellars Rookie

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    i think we should draft someone like arthur brown or maybe khaseem greene and let spikes go after next season adding one of those two would make the linebackers a much more rounded group
  10. DocHoliday

    DocHoliday Rookie

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    ??? I can't think of any two LBs on our team that are any more different than Hightower and Ninkovich. Maybe Fletcher and Hightower.

    Other than capability to play on the line they're diametric opposites.
  11. VrabelJr

    VrabelJr Rookie

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    That's it. I've had it. I'm buying a Ninkovich jersey. Somebody has to support the guy for his great play.
  12. Claremonster

    Claremonster Banned

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    As odd as this sounds, linebacker isn't the Pats weaklink. It isn't the best in the league, but, it isn't terrible.
  13. Off The Grid

    Off The Grid Rookie

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    The "Enter" Key is so awesome.

    It's really amazing how much more readable your blasts of gibberish can be...
  14. Claremonster

    Claremonster Banned

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    You should have done this about 3 years ago. He is a role player only. One of the main reasons why the Pats DON'T have a consistent pass rush. Sure, he tries hard, but, so do I. WFC about that...the Pats need a STUD!
  15. manxman2601

    manxman2601 On the Roster

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    Well the Pats have worked out or had in for a visit pretty much every top 3 round likely WILL in this draft so your WOLB might be coming this year...and early.
  16. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    All the talk of 43 vs 34 is pretty much irrelevant. First of all if you stand Chandler Jones up (which we often do, btw) you can call it a 34 with an overshift. The 'other 3' LBs responsibilities are the same only they are overshifted by a man.
    The idea that coverage responsibilities are different is simply wrong, because in our 34 on of the LBs always rushes, so its still 3 LBs covering the LB zones.
    This is a strong LB group.
  17. Ochmed Jones

    Ochmed Jones Rookie

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    A guy like Minter of LSU could be that coverage type LB this group needs.

    Spikes is just too slow for the NFL.
  18. SwedishPat

    SwedishPat Banned

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    This is a good linebacker corps. But we have one big problem, and that is pass. I think that we should let Spikes walk next year and bring in a low round LB who can cover. Hightower may be very big, but he is faster than Spikes and can hopefully become a decent coverage guy.
  19. NEPettyOfficer72

    NEPettyOfficer72 Rookie

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    Very accurate, but I would hope that we keep Spikes, as though he is slow, his play anticipation, instincts, and football knowledge is too good to pass up. I also think he is not a bad pass rush guy either, especially on those delayed blitzes. And against the run, there is just about no other linebacker in the league better at that particular strength than him other than the usual suspects (Bowman, Willis etc). As for Don'ta, I think he will become a very fine linebacker in coverage when he puts it all together, hopefully this season. In all, very sound and very good linebacker corps that just needs a little more stronger pass rush (has alot to do with scheme and packaging as we don't blitz enough anymore, and 4-3 I just don't like) and stronger support from the group defending behind them, which is the last line of defense and should be alot better this year (Adrian Wilson signing, McCourty at safety all year, and Talib resigning and healthy, Dennard not missing the season, Ras-I coming back).

    - And adding extra "toys" to the corps via draft or free-agency could never hurt any hopeful to be great defense..
  20. micronin127

    micronin127 Rookie

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    I look at our top 3 linebackers (Mayo, Spikes, Hightower) and I think DAMN, that is some size. They are all pretty tall and stout. All of them could play MLB for sure and they all seem to struggle when they drop out into coverage.

    Spikes in particular drops to a 'zone' of the field and gets rooted in place eyes in the backfield. A TE/RB can run straight at Brandon and he won't latch on and follow. The player can literally cut right in front of him and he won't budge from his spot of dirt. He's more like a highway cone in this regard.

    The middle of the field opens up in sub packages. When our rush doesn't get there quickly QBs can pick us apart with check down and sometimes they get so comfortable they get greedy and pump it downfield against our safeties who give up big plays at nearly a league leading pace.

    Not sure the best way to address the defense. Certainly, Talib changed the whole look-and-feel. It was like they had enough confidence in the secondary to send the LBs on blitzes. This forced quicker decisions and mistakes and all it takes in one successful 3rd down to get off the field.

    We can use a pass rusher. We can use a corner. We can use a safety. And we can use a LB with cover skills.

    Aside from WR, not sure the offense needs a lot, especially after bringing back Vollmer.

    There is another wave of free agency to get through too. John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Shaun Phillips, Karlos Dansby, and others seem to be waiting for things to shake out after the draft.
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