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Rounding out the LB crew -- roles and requirements

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Fencer, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    I don't know whether anybody has done a careful study of the Pats' real LB needs, but as I see it they use LBs more or less as follows:

    1. Generic 4-LB sets, with 2 each OLBs and ILBs.

    2. Nickel/dime sets. 2-4 OLBs can be used, some with their hands down at DE. 0-1 ILBs are used.

    3. Short yardage. Even though there are extra DL -- the more fast, strong LBs, the better.

    4. True 4-3. If the Pats really go with 4 DL, then the 3 LBs need to have good range on pass coverage. Ditto in a 3-4 when the guy who puts his hand down at DE is dead-certain to actually rush.

    5. Special teams. Lots of use of LBs on STs. FBs and TEs are partial substitutes.

    So where does that leave us? Vrabel, Colvin, and Thomas are all excellent OLBs, in or still near their primes. Colvin's run-stopping is so-so; Vrabel's overall decline may be coming soon; still, this is an outstanding core group.

    Bruschi's play at ILB is now controversial, but most would consider him at least a capable starter. It also seems near-certain that Thomas can play inside effectively. Still, with Bruschi, Vrabel, and Thomas all having big ST roles, there's a need for at least one more LB to take significant reps even when everybody's healthy, and a need for one-two more who are rep-worthy given the constant likelihood of injury.

    Also, despite Morris, Evans, Mills, and the three starters who are strong on STs, there's a need for major ST contributions from several more LBs.

    What we have to fill those slots is (not TBC, as he'll get good bucks elsewhere), Alexander, Woods, Mays, Izzo, Davis, and Gardner. They won't get it done, so we need some replacements; I say "replacements" because there are probably at most 6 LB jobs available beyond the 4 stud starters, and I just listed 6 guys. I think among the replacements need to be at least one no-apologies ILB run-stuffer (Seau would be just fine) and at least one guy who's not a liability in deep pass coverage.

    The latter is the problem; Bruschi is still very good in short-yardage coverage, but he's never been a stride-for-stride cover guy. Alexander was exposed in Indianapolis, although he's young enough that of course there's hope for improvement. And I don't think anybody has confidence in Seau in coverage over the course of a season, his occasional excellent play in that regard notwithstanding.

    One option would be:

    Seau
    Edwards
    1 of Izzo/Davis/Gardner
    2 of Woods/Alexander/Mays
    1 new young guy

    Does anybody have better ideas than that?
  2. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    To state the bottom line first, it's too soon to truly spleculate on team make-up.

    It's too early to write off what Alexander or Woods might be capable of, Vrabes spoke well of Alexander's development and Woods had a head start from his 3-4 exposure at Michigan as he demonstrated in pre-season. At minimum we can expect one or two LBs to be signed as UDFAs after the draft, and we can hope for one or more LB/DE conversion prospects to be drafted. They most likely will compete for Special Teams slots, though we can always get lucky with a prodigy. Mitchell is a Rodney-sized S who can fill roles where smaller Izzo-sized LBs have been used, and there are a number of similar sized Safeties and coverage LBs in this draft, some who will be available late in day two and as as UDFA targets.
  3. shirtsleeve

    shirtsleeve Rookie

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    shhhh....I dont think they're done in FA yet...not like today, but expect another shocking present ant ILB....:D
  4. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    I agree. Just as they have four expensive players for 3 DL positions, I expect them to wind up with at least 5 "starters" at LB, quite possibly 6.

    Right now, they have Colvin, Vrabel, Bruschi, and Thomas. Not long ago they had Colvin, Vrabel, Bruschi, McGinest, Phifer, and Johnson, if memory serves.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2007
  5. shirtsleeve

    shirtsleeve Rookie

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    I dont like the word expensive, though.
  6. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I am a big fan of Edwards, funding permitting. Junior can't be counted on to last a season any more at this point, gate to gate. You don't just throw out a guy like that, with the passion to win, who'll play cheap to get his shot. You keep him for whatever he can offer... but he gets dinged enough now that you have to see him as a role player/contributor.

    We'll see about Donnie Edwards. Wouldn't count it out.

    PFnV

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