In Depth Look At The Linebackers: Past, Present and Future

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

Sorry I am getting to this next breakdown so late. The last couple of weeks have been insane for so many reasons. I am glad to be back in my happy place writing about the Patriots though. This weeks article focuses on the Linebacker position. More specifically, this will be looking at guys who traditionally play at Inside Linebacker. In my previous article, I grouped the Outside Linebacker, Edge and Defensive Ends together because the Patriots traditionally mix and match those players and look for similar physical and athletic attributes for those players. With that said, lets see if they look for anything specific from their Inside Linebackers.

The Past:

The Patriots have drafted 9 Inside Linebackers over the past decade. One thing that stuck out to me is that the team either gets their guy early or waits until later in the draft. The Patriots have drafted two in the first round in that time with the rest of the drafted guys coming in either round 6 or 7. Here are their average physical and athletic traits for the position.

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 237 Lbs

40 Yard Dash: 4.66 sec.

Vertical: 33.5″

Bench: 19 reps

Broad Jump: 9’10”

3Cone: 7.12 sec

Shuttle: 4.33 sec.

The one thing that stuck out was the Bench. I assumed upper body strength would be important at the position, but it does not seem to be a big factor for the Patriots. One aspect I do not have all the data collected for yet is arm length and that could be an interesting correlation potentially. Once again, the team definitely looks at lower body explosion and change of direction, which is to be expected.

The Present:

Here is the Patriots Current Depth Chart.

Dont’a Hightower

David Harris

Elandon Roberts

Kyle Van Noy

Shea McClellan

Harvi Langi

Trevor Bates

Brooks Ellis

There is a bit of a caveat with this group. Van Noy and McClellan are hybrid players that have played multiple positions and could be listed on a depth chart at a number of different places. I thought Langi would play his more natural role at ILB, but he seems have been put in the same category as Van Noy and McClellan. With the depth issues at Defensive End, Hightower could be a guy they play outside more this year. I have not seen much from Harris yet this summer and Roberts has been up and down so far this camp. It will be interesting to see how this group looks after roster cuts are made.

The Future:

Here is a look at this years college Seniors that I will be watching to see if they could be potential fits for the Patriots in next year’s draft.

Matt Thomas, Florida State

Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama

Rashaan Evans, Alabama

Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

Azeem Victor, Washington

Josey Jewell, Iowa

Micah Kizer, Virginia

Chad Whitener, Oklahoma State

Taylor Young, Baylor

Reggie Carter, Georgia

Brett Taylor, Western Illinois

Kevin Palma, Stanford

Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame




19 Responses to “In Depth Look At The Linebackers: Past, Present and Future”

  1. steve earle says:

    Ahmad Brooks is said to be on the block out in LA. Else they have to release him. Better then Valoago who has no record to look at? Someone we know can play vs a guy we don’t know? Just a thought.

    • GM-In-Training says:

      Brooks has been pretty good for a lot of years and a 2nd team all pro twice. He was probably cut because Eli Harold on a Rookie deal was up and coming and Brooks had a $6 million cap hit, so no one would trade for him. The Niners waived him today.

      I think he’s definitely worth a workout. The question is what’s his market? I’m guessing $3M per year with some incentives, probably on a 2-year deal. I think he plays SAM.

  2. Russell says:

    Detroit trade rumors. Detroit is looking for a #3 WR, So I would not be surprised to see BB trade; WR Devin Lucien for DE Jeremiah Valoago, in the near future.
    Kony Ealy likely cut.

    • steve earle says:

      Okay, why? What is it that you think Bill sees in Valoaga other then physical description, size? Most of us know next to nothing about him other then he was not highly regarded during the pre-draft weeks. Detroit’s media has nothing to say on him that I could find so what’s up, why?

      • Russell says:

        Valoago has the mindset to fit the Patriots system. He is committed to the run, not just a pass rusher. On tape he uses solid gap control, keeps his eyes on the ball, controls his blocker. interviews very well, team guy. The lions have another DE Bennet (Rookie) who is playing better than Valoago, The Lions NEED another WR, that’s why I think Lucien 6’2″ 205 lbs may look good to them.

        • steve earle says:

          Oops, Edelman blew out his knee, BB’s not going to rush out and start trading promising WR’s just yet. Give it a few days to see what’s what.

  3. EdgeX says:

    Info leaking out that the Pat’s are trying to trade Kony Ealy.

    Seems like a wise decision if they don’t think he will fit in with this team. I was never really a fan of this pick up, but was hopeful he could change on this team. If they don’t trade him I see them cutting him.

    Pat’s DE situation:

    Trey Flowers – Only really stable presence at this point.
    Derek Rivers – likely done for the year with ACL
    Deatrich Wise – rookie recovering from concussion
    Ninkovich – retired
    Adam Butler – maybe he will make the roster holding this position?
    Keionta Davis – added importance maybe he fills in now?
    Donta Hightower – possible to get a more prominent role here
    Lawrence Guy – I think he’s more of a interior pass rush presence but maybe pats use him on outside too?
    Harvey Langi – has some experience at the edge, but I feel is probably better suited for a traditional LB/OLB role.

    So I guess the Pat’s have some versatility to use guys at the DE position – but for a lot of them that seems like playing them at a spot that is a weakness for them and not one of their strengths – which I thought the Pat’s were trying to avoid doing in their system.

    I don’t see this position as settled and I still feel they will trade for another DE.

    • steve earle says:

      Your evals look to be right on at least until to be shown otherwise which I wouldn’t expect. Now I do think BB is going to have to be looking for at least one more actual DE and possibly two if Ealy is traded or released. Also I would not be surprised to see another OLB brought in. Personally a good pick up would be Sampson Ebukam currently with the Rams I believe. Very green but very talented and could make ST and spot play in passing downs from time to time. As for DE’s Mike provided an excellent list here. So we wait and watch, and hope.

  4. Russell says:

    Mike forgot a guy I think has a real shot at making the Patriots roster. LB Trevor Bates has rated higher than Roberts, this preseason and took a turn calling the D. (green dot helmet) Bates has shown me more this preseason, after last year on the P-Squad.
    Of this College group of LB’s Jewell is the guy I’ve watched the most. Not the size you hope for, but is a side line to side line tackler.
    I agree with Mike this Keonta Davis is a guy I like and have seen him play at UT Chatt. and talked to him once. He has the right mind-set to fit in with the Patriots. his issue is the minor injury bug.

    • steve earle says:

      Hopefully we get to see Davis on the field tomorrow night even if only in 4th quarter action. It would let us see whether or not he’s able to play this year or will be rehabbing.

    • Mike Gerken says:

      Can’t believe Bates slipped through my eval. Good pickup by you Russell, he has been added.

  5. GM-In-Training says:

    Pats really seem to be in a position to deal a 3rd-down back to some other club. I could also see them dealing Elandon Roberts, as he’s a good run stuffer, but not a pass rusher or coverage guy, and doesn’t do much in special teams. This year’s club seems to be about super versatility, rather than super super at just one thing. I guess it’s easier and cheaper to get guys who are above average at everything, but not top 10 in the League at anything, and use scheme to do the rest.

    I’d still like another stud pass rusher to bookend Flowers. I know HighTower can do that, but I he can do so much more, I wouldn’t want to have to put him in that role.

    • steve earle says:

      I think Mike’s break down is very revealing. The narrative has always been that BB drafts LB’s in the 6-4 250-270 range but looks like Mike’s numbers support your premise of LB’s that can do many things well but nothing super.
      Also I too would like another pass rushing DE but would settle for some one who can set an edge in relief of our starters and hope our LB’s can add the extra pressure while our DB’s cover. As for Hightower I expect he will see an increase on the outside but nothing exclusive.
      Maybe we can tap Mike’s vast store of knowledge of DE’s currently on other rosters that may become available around the beginning of next month? Mike?
      Not excluding you GM from the vast store of knowledge list, I’m sure you must have some thoughts here.

      • Mike Gerken says:

        One might be on the roster already. The team recently signed Keonta Davis out of UT Chattanooga a week or so ago. He was a guy I liked coming out of college and could be a nice rotational pass rusher if he is indeed healthy.
        Some other names that might be available are:
        Duane Smoot, Jax
        Mike Catapano, Hou
        Max Valles, Buf
        Trey Hendrickson, NO
        Barkevious Mingo, IND
        Zach Moore, CAR
        Larry Webster, CAR
        Owamagbe Odigizuwa, NYG
        Samson Ebukam, LAR

        • steve earle says:

          Thanks Mike, great list. I liked Samson Ebukam for past draft but Rams grabbed him in the 4th. He’s as green as grass but tremendous potential. Agree LA might risk him to wavers. What are the chances Bill would bite? Not crazy about Obwan from NY, whats your take on him? I’d bring Smoot back if we could though. Again thanks for the info.

      • Mike Gerken says:

        I loved OO coming out of college. He has dealt with some injury issues and at one point it looked like he might retire, but he played this past weekend. I thought he played with a great combination of speed and power in college. Was a little stiff turning the corner as a pass rusher, but was stout against the run and had a great motor.

        • steve earle says:

          Everyone loved OO in collage, me too but he hasn’t been the same sense the injuries, maybe even before? Anyway my question is, does he have any ability to help us now?

        • Mike Gerken says:

          That is above my pay grade. On guys like this, they don’t make their team for some reason. In doing this exercise I had a few criteria to help me narrow down my list.
          1. Familiarity with the system.
          2. In person evaluations by the Patriots coaching staff, i.e. joint practices.
          3. Players on teams that have deep depth at the position
          4. Players who were highly drafted that have not worked out with their current team.

          Kony Ealy fits #4 and it looks like that one will not work out. These guys are lottery tickets. It is near impossible to get a guy right now that you can really count on to come in and be productive. A guy like Owamagbe was a higher draft pick that showed NFL skills on tape. Injuries and depth have stunted his development. A change of scenery and some luck might produce a player like Ninkovich. That goes for any of the guys I listed.
          It can take one play the coaches see on tape to give a player a shot. It just depends on what they look for.

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