It's time to talk football and the New England Patriots's roster. In this Spotlight On series, I will pick a position and dive into the players with a few tidbits on each (not too much - I can't come close to Marima's skill at analysis ;-)). So, let's get cracking.
After our resident Colts's blogger, shake n bake, crafted a most excellent analysis of the Patriots's rookies and how long before they may be useful , It got me thinking, "Have the Patriots's done enough to shore up issues for our linebacker core?"
The concerns with our linebackers have been well documented and in the draft, Belichick wanted to get younger and faster on defense . Given that it takes some time to come up-to-speed, have we done enough? Have we plugged the gap between the old guard (Bruschi, Seau, Vrabel) and the youngins (Mayo, Crable)? Let's check it out.
The Patriots and NFL columns are years experience and NOT what you'll find on the Patriots's website ; they use current year the player is in (ie: a newborn is in his first year).
Eric Alexander - mostly lining up on special teams, Eric sees spot duty as an LB. A proficient special teams tackler, Eric is brought in to the strongside OLB position when called for.
Tedy Bruschi - What can you say, Tedy's Tedy. He's the heart and soul of this defense, not to mention a clear leader; he is continuously voted defensive captain by his teammates. At 35, it is safe to say he's only got a few years left of active duty. Noone wants to see him go, but it's a fact of this business; it's a young man's game.
Shawn Crable - A new guy in town, Shawn will play OLB and is a tall, big dude. I'm really hoping he turns into the pass rusher he projects to be, but he may need to get bigger and stronger to muscle offensive lineman.
Gary Guyton - He needs to bulk up a bit, but this ILB has a great vertical and long jump, and is super fast for his position. He seems to have good hands and can get down with OLs as well as blitz when needed.
Victor Hobson - Vic comes to us as an FA from the Jets and will fill that "middle ground" between old guard and new. An OLB in Mangini's 3-4, he would be a better fit for ILB due to his lack of speed.
Larry Izzo - Leading or tying for the special teams tackle record 7 years out of 8, Larry is Mr. Special Teams for the Patriots. Voted special teams captain 6 years in a row (2001-2006), he's the heart and soul of that unit.
Jerod Mayo - We expect big things from this young man. Jerod will, more than likely, play ILB, but he's more than capable to play OLB if called upon. He's not tall and may not have the long arms for wrapping up, but he sure seems powerful.
Vince Redd - Projected to play OLB, at 6-6 260 lbs this kid is freakin huge. With those long arms, OLB is just where he needs to be - batting down balls, wrapping up RBs and receivers, and terrorizing quarterbacks.
Bo Ruud - OLB is the place for Bo, but he needs to bulk up. He doesn't have much experience in a 3-4 and may have a lot to learn, but he is apparently a film junkie. Since High School, his football brothers and he would watch and study film. Let's hope his geekness translates to the field.
Adalius Thomas - A lot was expected of Thomas in his first year, and he had a very average 2007, but that's not totally his fault. A more natural OLB, he was asked to take on ILB duties for a while. He certainly has the experience and his time with the Ravens proved he has the skills. I'm looking forward to 2008.
Mike Vrabel - A veteran Patriot, Vrabel is the ideal OLB - he makes quarterbacks really nervous. He may not register a sack, but lots of QBs are looking over their shoulders. Mike will also line up as TE on red zone and goal line packages. He's got receiver-like hands and it's a real kicker to see a linebacker catching touchdown passes.
Pierre Woods - A special teams ace, Pierre is a very productive tackler, consistently leading that unit by either tying or coming up with the most tackles in a game. Pierre will sometimes jump in as a reserve LB.