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Best 4 Linebackers in the Game?

So, all this talk of the best 4 LBers in a 3-4? I thought I'd take a look...let you decide for yourself. This may raise a few eyebrows from last season's production:

Teams that run the 3-4 include: from SAM, TED, MIKE, WILL (Sacks – Tackles – TFL)

Note: TFL totals are very inaccurate
San Francisco 49ers - Brooks (7 - 50 - 3), Bowman (2 - 143 - 11), Willis (2 - 97 - 5), Smith (14 - 37 - 1)
San Diego Chargers - Phillips (3.5 - 42 - 4), Spikes (1 - 106 - 4), Butler (2 - 96 - 8), Barnes (11 - 41 - 0)
Kansas City Chiefs - Houston (5.5 - 56 - 6), Belcher (0 - 87 -2), Johnson (2 - 131 - 8), Hall (12 - 66 - 4)
Dallas Cowboys - Spencer (6 - 66 - 7), James (0 - 44 - 0), Lee (0 - 105 - 10), Ware (19.5 - 58 - 6)
New York Jets - Westerman (3.5 - 32 - 3), Scott (4.5 - 66 - 5), Harris (5 - 86 - 4), Pace (4.5 - 72 - 7)
Green Bay Packers - Walden (3 - 60 - 3), Hawk (1.5 - 84 - 2), Bishop (5 - 115 - 5), Mathews (6 - 50 - 5)
Baltimore Ravens - Johnson (2.5 - 56 - 5), Lewis (2 - 95 - 2), McClain (1 - 84 -2), Suggs (14 - 70 -10)
Arizona Cardinals - Haggens (3 - 46 - 2), Washington (5 - 107 - 11), Lenon (3 - 93 - 3), Acho (7 - 40 - 0)
New England Patriots - White (0 - 37 - 0), Mayo (1 - 95 - 4), Fletcher (0 - 32 - 1), Ninkovich (6.5 - 74 - 2); Carter (10 - 52 - 5)
Pittsburgh Steelers - Woodley (9 - 69 - 2), Farrior (2 - 78 - 0), Timmons (2 - 93 - 2), Harrison (9 - 59 - 5)
Washington Redskins - Kerrigan (7.5 - 63 - 4), Fletcher (1.5 - 166 - 4), Riley (1 - 68 - 5), Orakpo (9 - 59 - 0)
Houston Texans - Barwin (11.5 - 47 - 1), Cushing (4 - 114 - 5), Ryans (0 - 64 - 6), Reed (6 - 45 -1)
Miami Dolphins - Taylor (7 -18 - 0), Burnett (2.5 - 106 - 8), Dansby (2 - 103 - 8), Wake (8.5 - 42 - 6)

  • The Cardinals already incorporate the 5–2 defense, an older variation of the 3–4, in some of their defensive schemes
  • The Dolphins had also incorporated elements of the 3–4 defense into their scheme, under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but with the hiring of Kevin Coyle as their new defensive coordinator, the Dolphins will switch to a 4-3
  • The Ravens run a hybrid defense and occasionally shift to 4–3 schemes during games

To me, based on production alone, Brooks had the 2nd or 3rd best season of any 3-4 SAM, Bowman had the 2nd best season at TED, Willis maybe had the 5th best season at MIKE last year and Smith had the 3rd best season at WILL based on production numbers alone. Overall, I do think we have the best 4 3-4 LBers from top-to-bottom but one could argue that the Chiefs had a similar productive season.
[ Edited by NCommand on Jun 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM ]
Very cool...http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/67870/a-surprise-choice-for-49ers-breakout-player#comments?login=-1&errors=Member+name+and+password+were+not+found.++Please+try+again.

Brooks is picked to be the breakout player of the year on defense for us (see Whitner's points - all good ones). That said, he lead the team in TFL last year, was very good in coverage and only 2 SAM's had more sacks than his 7 (Woodley @ 9.5 & Kerrigan @ 7.5). Barwin rotated between WILL & SAM and that is why he had 11.5. Reed had 6 from the starting WILL position on the other side; in short, they used Barwin like how the Packers used Matthews, moving him all over the place to create mismatches even though he was slated as the "starting SAM." Whitner also makes a great point about how Brooks was THE OLB who was double-teamed all year and still had a monster year. For this year, with teams having to focus on Justin Smith & Aldon Smith, Brooks could be free to injure even more QB's and approach low double-digit sacks (which is like getting high double-digit sacks from the WILL position). He's also got the contract and peace-of-mind to go balls out and he looks to be in the best shape I have ever seen him and I believe he had perfect attendance all off-season with Justin Smith. Man, this LB corp is amazing!
[ Edited by NCommand on Jun 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM ]
I don't think we have best 4 just yet. The potential is certainly there. Willis & Bowman. Aldon is still learning to be an every down guy. But the talent is there. Brooks is solid if not underrated. If Aldon can be all he can be this coming year, I would put these guys up against any group and have a go at it.
My top 5 (Couldn't get down to 4)

Patrick Willis
DeMarcus Ware
Clay Matthews
NaVorro Bowman
Terrell Suggs

If this was 3 years ago I would put Ray Lewis high, but he has fallen off a tad, he would be 6, with Orakpo and Kerrigan behind him.
Originally posted by AB83Rules:
My top 5 (Couldn't get down to 4)

Patrick Willis
DeMarcus Ware
Clay Matthews
NaVorro Bowman
Terrell Suggs

If this was 3 years ago I would put Ray Lewis high, but he has fallen off a tad, he would be 6, with Orakpo and Kerrigan behind him.

Yeah, I honestly don't even know how to answer it...based on production from last year at each 3-4 position? Overall career, consistency, taking into consideration they types of 3-4 schemes, what is asked of each players (e.g. Willis being asked to cover more last year), etc. That's why I just showed the top three productive stats (sacks, tackles and tackles for loss) to at least get perspective. What I learned is that some guys had some MONSTER individual years and you can see how certain 3-4's are run differently than others.

You probably nailed it on overall guys...dream team of a 3-4 LB group though!
Originally posted by AB83Rules:
My top 5 (Couldn't get down to 4)

Patrick Willis
DeMarcus Ware
Clay Matthews
NaVorro Bowman
Terrell Suggs

If this was 3 years ago I would put Ray Lewis high, but he has fallen off a tad, he would be 6, with Orakpo and Kerrigan behind him.

Cameron Wake has done way more than enough to deserve a mention. He's been better than Matthews (slightly).
Originally posted by Evilgenius:
Originally posted by AB83Rules:
My top 5 (Couldn't get down to 4)

Patrick Willis
DeMarcus Ware
Clay Matthews
NaVorro Bowman
Terrell Suggs

If this was 3 years ago I would put Ray Lewis high, but he has fallen off a tad, he would be 6, with Orakpo and Kerrigan behind him.

Cameron Wake has done way more than enough to deserve a mention. He's been better than Matthews (slightly).

True, not sure why I forgot Wake, has made a huge impact for the Dolphins.
Originally posted by AB83Rules:
True, not sure why I forgot Wake, has made a huge impact for the Dolphins.

Credit Parcells, guy has an eye for OLB's.
Aldon Smith is going to be on that list preeeetty soon.
parcels drafted Bobby Carpenter...... Lmao