I appreciate the honest question and unlike everyone else, I will try to give an honest FOOTBALL answer. Willis is highly regarded because of his ability to do a variety of things very well. You're right, when we ran the 4-3 he was a beast on the stat sheet. That is how a 4-3 is designed. With Fangio's 3-4 scheme, the ILB's have to share the "glory." Willis probably will not ever lead the league in tackles, at least not while we run the 3-4. Couple that with the outstanding play of Bowman, and his stat sheet production has gone down even more. He's also not an amazing pass rusher, so his sack totals suffer, and he's only a marginal "ball hawk," so he doesn't get many INT's.
I know it may sound like I'm down on Willis, but I'm not. He is the most complete ILB ever. EVER. By far the most sure tackler in the league today, and maybe of all time. When do you ever see anyone break free from him? I can't think of one time. He takes on lead blocks and stuffs them immediately, creating space for Bowman to make a play. That aspect of his play cannot be understated... How many players can you think of that would have their role changed from being the featured player on defense (the MLB in a 4-3) to just a "piece" of a team defense?
The most underrated aspect of Willis' play though, is his pass coverage ability. In Fangio's scheme, he's asked to do this A LOT. And he's not asked to cover FB's or even RB's. No, he's covering TE's. And we all know that most TE's today are just WR's with a "TE" next to their name. His pass coverage is excellent. And when he's 30 yards down field, he's not going to get as many opportunities to make tackles and be on the stat sheet. TEAM PLAYER.
Obviously he is physically gifted, and his ability to go sideline to sideline is well documented. But his willingness to sacrifice his own personal glory for the good of the team, and his ability to excel at every aspect of what he's asked to do - is why he is so highly regarded.
What a bunch of fluff responses......less than a handful of you were even able to articulate why he is good.....LOL. I know he's good, or I should say great, but its like looking at fine art, if you dont understand what your looking at its hard to appreciate. I was just hoping to get a better understanding of "what actually makes him so great?" My guess is that he has elite physical ability, mixed with text book fundementals. Relative to other LBs he doesn't have a weakness. Can he cover like a elite CB, no. However what LB can? The only thing I'd like to see more of are big moment plays. Yet I'm afraid we'll see less and less of them as he's always in some coverage assignment.. The truly great game changers are allowed to roam. One stat I was suprised to see was how many fumbles he's caused. Again, with the exception of a few, thanks for the weak responses.
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