Player Name: OLB Shawn Crable
Experience: 2 Years in the NFL, both with the New England Patriots
Past Role: Annually Injured. He spent his rookie season on the IR with a shin injury and spent his sophomore season on the IR with a groin injury. He has shown excellence in pre-season games, but the bottom line remains: Crable has yet to play a regular season down in the NFL.
Predicted Role: Crable will back-up Tully Banta-Cain with the primary job of reaching the quarterback at the ROLB spot. He'll be used to give Banta-Cain breaks on defense. I believe that Crable will beat out Pierre Woods for a roster spot due to Crable's sheer athleticism and the potential that he shows during the pre-season- like he does every year. However, I believe that Crable will be able to stay healthy this pre-season and should end up as a reliable substitute for our linebacker core.
While I wouldn't expect Crable to push for starting time unless Banta-Cain gets injured over the course of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if Crable is given the starting nod for a couple games over the course of the season, just because his size matches up well against opposing offenses.
Look for Crable on special teams, as well, as he knocks the helmets off of return men.
Predicted Season Numbers: 16 Games Played, 3 Games Started. 35 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 2 Passes Defended and 1 Interception.
Lofty, but achievable, goals for Crable. To put these numbers in perspective, 4 OLBs on the Patriots last season had over 34 tackles and I believe that Crable will be more of a defensive threat than Adalius Thomas.
Predicted Depth Chart: #2 ROLB
Summary: Crable will finally emerge as a contributing member of the Patriots defense, and should add additional depth on special teams. He'll have a solid "rookie" year, despite having to answer the question, "How happy are you to be finally playing?" after every game.