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  1. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Andy Hart and Eric Scalavino discuss the position with the biggest question mark heading into training camp for Patriots Football Weekly.

    Official Patriots Football Weekly Blog Blog Archive From the Hart: Role call! — OLB

    Hart wonders if TBC can hold up as an every-down player, but has him locked in as one starter. He also thinks Cunningham will overtake Burgess as the other starter early on, with Crable not making the roster. Scalavino also has TBC and Burgess starting to begin the season, with somebody - not sure who - replacing Burgess at some point; he likens the position to RB, with a committee approach for the season.

    The only thing I would add at this point would be to replace the term 'starter' with 'most reps', or words to that effect. It may not be unusual for the starter to get half the reps a non-starter does.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  2. JFK

    JFK Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I don't believe in Cunningham. At least not this season.
  3. Sicilian

    Sicilian Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I think we can expect TBC to play well as one starter. Maybe not as good as last year (or at least not with the numbers), but he should be solid. The other side I expect to be a revolving door depending on situation, gameplan, health, and some wildcards (what kind of players are Ninkovich and Crable really, and how much will we get out of Cunningham as a rookie).

    I agree though, that TBC and Burgess are the frontrunners for the two starting positions, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cunningham earn some time early on passing downs (depending on matchups).
  4. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: OLB

    Rich Perillo profiles Jermaine Cunningham in one of his 'Meet the Rookies' columns on patriots.com

    Meet the Rookies: LB Jermaine Cunningham

  5. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    I believe that OLB is our weakest position. That being said, everyone but Thomas is returning from 2009.

    One presumes that Ninkovich (after a year of learning the system) and Cunningham will take the 2009 reps of Thomas. I would also note that Burgess has had a year to learn the system and was looking better toward the end of the year. And yes, Crable could win a roster spot and be in mix.

    BOTTOM LINE
    The OLB's will likely look very similar to 2009.
    The overall defense should be better given improvements at ILB and CB.
    Improving on a record of 5th in points scored against may be a difficult task.
  6. Sicilian

    Sicilian Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I agree with your assessment. Though, while improving on a 5th in PA ranking may be tough, I think consistency (playing good D against the good opponents and on the road) would be great, even if the overall numbers look a little lower. I expect the offense to improve this year, so a consistent defense should mean plenty of wins.
  7. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    The OLB position could be better than 2009 for a number of reasons:

    - Derrick Burgess was pretty good in December of last year. It seemed his biggest problem was picking up the system and he finally got it down by the end of the season. If he can be the Burgess of December right off the bat, that is a huge upgrade from Burgess from September, October, and November.
    - With the addition of Spikes and the return of McKenzie, Gary Guyton may move outside that might be his more natural position. He was the fastest LB in the 2008 draft and was a blitzing specialist in college.
    - Cunningham might be a pass rush specialist and be very good at it.

    There are no guarantees. But if those three things happen, the OLBs could be a significant improvement from last year. I still think it is the biggest question mark on the team though.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  8. SEPatsFan

    SEPatsFan Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I'm still perplexed in what anyone sees in Ninkovich that makes them think he a possible answer?

    SSDD
  9. BradyFTW!

    BradyFTW! PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #12 Jersey

    Re: Olb

    I agree that improving the scoring defense will be difficult. I expect to see some improvements, but in other areas (most notably red zone defense).
  10. BradyFTW!

    BradyFTW! PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    No idea. Whenever someone does well in the preseason, people are all over him like this. Personally, in the games where he produced, Eric Alexander and BJGE shined too, which tells you everything you need to know about level of competition since we know what they are (nice role players at best). If Ninkovich can work his way into the OLB rotation in any capacity at all, I'll be pleased with him.
  11. eom

    eom Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I don't think burgess plays olb.
  12. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    He does. He play at OLB in December at times. He plays the McGinest role at times although not extensive. OLB in the 3-4 and DE in the 4-3 and sub packages.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  13. eom

    eom Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    he probably plays LE in the 3-4 at least as much, if not more, than OLB.

    I doubt he played 10% of his snaps last year at OLB --- that's hardly a 'starter'.


    here's the post:

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  14. eom

    eom Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    why did you delete that other post about him starting games at OLB, and which games do you think he started at OLB?
  15. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    Because you weren't talking to me and I thought you were. I also said "I thought he started a game or two at OLB, but I could be wrong."
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  16. patfanken

    patfanken Rookie

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    #91 Jersey

    Re: Olb

    I don't think that people should get caught up in "who is the starter" and who isn't. Given the varied skill sets we have out there, I wouldn't be surprised to see a large number of combinations out there depending on who we are playing and what the match ups are. Different weeks will present different opportunities to the players.

    For example when we play the Jets, Pierre Woods should get a chance to shine vs their run game, where I would be surprised to see him play a big roll when we play the Colts.
  17. TheComeback

    TheComeback Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    Burgess played 3-4 DE in about two games last year, where he got blown up on regular basis. The rest of 2009 he was a DE in a 4-man line or at OLB. Don't comment if you have no idea what you're talking about; to say that he didn't spend more than 10% of his snaps at OLB is flat out ridiculous. Belichick himself labeled Burgess as an OLB multiple times.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  18. Taxed in Maine

    Taxed in Maine Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    In a way I think OLB will be similar to last year, personnell wise. At least they did finally draft one early with Cunningham, and if Crable shows well in pre-season they almost have to keep him. We know what we have in the other guys.

    The biggest difference in the performance of the OLBs is going to be the play of the RDE.

    If G. Warren can play to his potential there, and consistantly draw double teams, the OLBs will be able to make plays. If noone steps up at RDE it will be a long frustating year for the OLBs AND us as fans.
  19. eagle eye

    eagle eye Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    I'm gonna say it again for those who don't believe in Cunningham. He is the guy that everyone will be saying he is ok. Then in about 3 years time, the pundits will suddenly realise just how good he is and he will suddenly be rated in the top 7/8 OLBs.

    I think he will be sharing time with TBC and Burgess who I expect to be the starters but as the season goes on he will wrestle a starting spot from one of them.
  20. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Re: Olb

    He didn't.
    He is considered an OLB because that is where he would play in the base D.
    Those players also align as DE in the sub packages.
    95% of the snaps Burgess played were at DE in the sub packages.
    Since McGinest, Vrabel, Colvin, etc did the same thing in sub packages, there is no need to label him a DE.
    He is an OLB. However he is not a capable 34 OLB so he does not get on the field in the base D.
  21. eom

    eom Rookie

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    Re: Olb

    what % of his snaps did he play OLB?
  22. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Rookie

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    My theory is different from many. I maintain the pass rush or lack of it came from unfamiliarity by newcomers, but more from weakness against the Run. It wasn't a glaring hole, but nonetheless Teams could run against the Pats and did. At third down, it was frequently a 3rd and short, like 3rd and 2. Nobodies pass rush works well in that situation.

    Toughening up the Run Defense by playing Warren/Lewis/Wright at RDE, and starting a big SILB run stuffer at ILB, and a tough run stopper at SS like Chung should solidify the Run Defense.

    Facing 3rd and 8s, the Pass Rush will appear, as if by magic.
  23. eom

    eom Rookie

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    yeah, I agree that this is at least a contributing factor ---- it'd be interesting to compare their 'pass rush opportunities' in '09 with, say, '07.

    if Iwas to go back and count them up game by game, what kind of yardage parameters do you think we should use?
  24. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Pat Kirwan of nfl.com offers a sobering viewpoint on high expectations from rookie pass rushers. He points out that for every Clay Matthews of Brian Orakpo there is a Vernon Gholston or Jarvis Moss.

    Want to predict which rookies will be busts? Look at pass rushers

    The problem for many rookie pass rushers is that they have technique deficiencies, lack multiple pass rush moves and don't realize the level of desire necessary to succeed at the pro level. Another issue is that many come in undersized and with limited strength or power. They get so beat up playing the run, that they have nothing left when it's time to pressure the quarteback.
  25. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Mike Reiss gives his outlook of the linebacker position in this piece for espn boston. He sees possible improvement due to the addition of the new players: Cunningham, Spikes, McKenzie - and possibly even Crable.

    Camp Countdown: LBs & development - New England Patriots Blog - ESPN Boston

    Why it’s a top issue: One of the Patriots' main weaknesses in 2009 was a lack of a pass rush: The team blitzed more than 40 percent of the time, ranking them seventh in the NFL, which was a sign that there wasn't enough pressure out of the standard four-man rush. The fourth rusher most often comes from the outside linebacker spot. Furthermore, the heart of the defense is the inside linebacker spot and former undrafted free agent Gary Guyton played 84 percent of the snaps there in 2009, the second highest total of any defender.
  26. eom

    eom Rookie

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    yeah, that's been posted here:
    http://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/10/339722-schefter-burgess-re-signed-one-year-deal-page10.html

    and this was my response:

  27. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Bruce Allen looks at each of the eight outside linebackers in this piece for Patriots Daily.

    Positional Previews – Outside Linebackers | Patriots Daily

    At this point, this is one of the weakest areas on the team, and without much depth to speak of. Beyond Banta-Cain and Burgess, the Patriots are going to need a big rookie year from Cunningham, and hope that Crable can get on the field and live up to the promise he had coming out of Michigan two years ago. That might be a tall order. The Patriots have done a good job building up depth and experience at all other defensive positions, but this remains an area in desperate need of upgrade. Hopefully Cunningham can step in, but that’s a tall order for a rookie. Don’t be surprised to see the Patriots bringing guys in that have been cut by other teams over the course of training camp, hoping to find treasure in another team’s trash.
  28. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Jeff Howe gives his assessment of both linebacker positions for NESN.

    Patriots' Young Linebacking Corps Gives Bill Belichick Room for Creativity in 2010 - New England Patriots - NESN.com

    After releasing controversial outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, the Patriots have a hole to fill in their lineup. Tully Banta-Cain is a candidate to take a chunk of snaps on one side, but New England is looking at rookie Jermaine Cunningham, Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable, Marques Murrell and Ninkovich to fill in on the other side.

    Clearly, the Pats would like to get instant production out of Cunningham, who was selected nine spots ahead of Spikes in the second round, but Cunningham is looking at a development process while transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. He might be an asset on the pass rush, but his coverage skills will naturally take time.

    With that, Guyton's experience might actually be more of an asset at outside linebacker than on the inside. Then, it would become a competition between McKenzie and Spikes to pair up with Mayo.

    Either way, the Patriots have effectively gotten younger and more versatile at linebacker. There might be some trial and error involved in finding the right combinations, but their list of options is definitely intriguing.



    I have previously thought about Guyton as an OLB, where he could use his speed without being eaten up by big guards. However, I don't know if he has the right frame to be effective there in a 3-4.
  29. dhamz

    dhamz Rookie

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    The stat I recall seeing had the Pats as the 2nd or 3rd worst defense in the league on 3rd and 8 or greater. That would make it seem that the magic pass rush seemed to not appear as much as it did everywhere else in the NFL.

    In this case I would say lack of magic equaled lack of talent.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  30. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Tom Curran looks at both the OLB and ILB units for Comcast Sports.

    Linebackers must carry Pats forward

    Outside linebacker is a different situation. The lack of pass rush generated by this group last season made it hard on everyone. That goes for the secondary, the defensive line and the coaching staff. For instance, if the Patriots could have made Peyton Manning at least a little uncomfortable in the pocket, maybe that fourth-and-2 in Indy could have been a punt. But they couldn’t and they took their chances (which, you may remember, didn’t work out).

    The rotten presence of minimal-effort Adalius Thomas didn’t help the outside crew on the left side of the Pats defense. And Derrick Burgess didn’t make a marked impact either, even though Bill Belichick said often that Burgess was playing the spot well. The only Patriot who provided consistent pocket pressure was Tully Banta-Cain. He wound up with 10 sacks after being cast aside by the 49ers and earned himself a fat new deal. So the right side of the defense should be set. After that, we’ll see.

    Hard luck Shawn Crable absolutely looks the part of an NFL outside linebacker: Tall with long arms, fast, and jacked. But his string of injuries has kept him from making any mentionable contribution since being drafted in the third round in 2008. The Patriots are anticipating his football demise, it appears, having drafted a facsimile of Crable from the University of Florida named Jermaine Cunningham. It will be interesting to see if Crable can outplay Cunningham over the course of 2010 and remain healthy while doing so. That battle is not one to be observed solely in camp because there’s too much for Cunningham to master at this point for it to be a fair fight.

    The other guys in the mix at OLB are Rob Ninkovich – whose effort made AD look like a slug whenever he got on the field – Marques Murrell and Pierre Woods.




    Well, I certainly hope the start of Cunningham's career is not a facsimile of Crable's.
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