Re-Introducing the Linebacker/Safety Hybrid

Jared Wickerham

Bill Belichick's had some dream positions on defense that haven't come true. Is it time for that to happen?

Tank Williams. 6'2 1/2, 225 lbs, 4.45 speed, 6.78 three cone, and, well, check out his physicals.

He was supposed to be Bill Belichick's not-so-secret weapon as a linebacker and safety hybrid. He's a big enough thumper to hold his own against the run and a savvy enough coverage player to drop back against the pass.

Williams never panned out due to injuries. But is this the season when Bill Belichick's Mad Science-like conceptions come to life?

One of his goals of pairing together two coverage safeties, ignoring the historical notions of a "free safety" and a "strong safety", is currently in play. What's to stop Belichick from trying to implement a second element to a conceptually flexible defense?

We have a player on the roster who currently fits that role in Jamie Collins. A former safety/lineback/defensive end/back to linebacker, Collins is a physical enough freak to play any spot needed. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw specific packages that drop Collins into the middle zone to confuse the opposing quarterback.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Belichick kept Collins in a role that would take advantage of his obvious pass rushing prowess. Collins is a terror in the pocket and while there will certainly be times that he's dropped back into coverage, I believe he's too valuable in the backfield to warrant playing him as the deep hybrid.

Here are some names to watch:

Telvin Smith. His games.

Christian Kirksey. His games.

Kevin Pierre-Louis. His games.

All three are roughly 6'1-6'3, and 220-235 lbs. They have legitimate 4.50 speed, serious explosion, the ability to diagnose and react in coverage, and are able enough to attack the run.

All three are potential fits early on the last day of the draft.

The Patriots are looking for depth at the linebacker position, so why not invest in a player that can not only fill a depth role, but potentially carve out a larger unique role in the defense?

Belichick has a need for depth and space to attempt to grow this dream position of his. Maybe we'll see Collins adopting an enlarged role. Maybe Belichick won't even bother- the dream is but a dream of the past. But the opportunity to at his finger tips and the talent is available in the draft.

I don't see why he couldn't take a chance.

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