Breakout Player Recap: Linebackers

Before starting, I thought this was a good time to clarify what the term “breakout” means as it is a question that I have been asked. In some cases it is a player bursting onto the scene (Arian Foster is an example) or a player who takes his game to the next level and is viewed in higher regard when the season is over. This article is about a position where that is starting to occur frequently: linebacker. It could be due to all the 3-4 schemes where they are used as pass rushers but it seems that at least two or three new ones make a huge impact each year. My comments from the preseason on these players can be found here.

Rey Maualuga, Bengals: Maualuga built off a solid rookie season and was even better in his sophomore campaign. Along with 75 tackles, he also notched a sack and two interceptions. This could only be the beginning for Maualuga as he is projected to move to middle linebacker and should be even more effective for the Bengals.

Hit or miss: Push

DeAndre Levy, Lions: Levy only played in 11 games but continued to show why he is a building block for the Lions defense. He notched 72 tackles and even recorded two interceptions. One of which was returned for a touchdown. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley up front for the Lions this year, look for Levy to contribute even more this season.

Hit or miss: Push

Kaluka Maiava, Browns: Maiava showed lots of promise at the end of his rookie season but wasn’t able to build on it in year two. That is due to the fact that he had a season ending injury and only played in two games. He should have an impact as a reserve and on special teams this upcoming year.

Hit or miss: Miss

Jonathan Goff, Giants: Goff had to fill Antonio Pierce’s shoes after he retired and filled in rather nicely. He started in all 16 games recording 80 tackles while also recording a sack and a forced fumble. While those numbers have room for improvement, the Giants have to love the value as he was a 6th round pick in 2008.

Hit or miss: Push

Quincy Black, Buccaneers: If he didn’t miss five games, Black’s season would have looked very impressive. When he did play he recorded 61 tackles, two sacks and an interception while also forcing a fumble. As the Buccaneers young defensive line improves, Black should benefit as he will see more opportunities.

Hit or miss: Push

Tamba Hali, Chiefs: Hali recorded what was then a career high 8.5 sacks in 2009 but almost doubled it this past year. He developed into one of the league’s elite pass rushers finishing in second with 14.5 sacks and also forced four fumbles.  Hali put the finishing touches on his career year by turning in a dominant performance against the Ravens in the Chiefs playoff loss. In the game he recorded two sacks and had seven tackles in all. Look for Hali to continue to build on his play this upcoming season.

Hit or miss: Hit

Cameron Wake, Dolphins: After playing part time behind Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, Wake finally got his chance to start this past season and it was worth the wait. The former CFL standout recorded 14 sacks on the year which was good for third in the league. He also forced three fumbles in the process. James Harrison has shown that late bloomers can still have a long and successful career and it wouldn’t be surprising if Wake took that same path.

Hit or miss: Hit

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