Breakout Player Recap: Linebackers

Linebackers can breakout in a couple of different ways. With teams playing in the 3-4, some linebackers can emerge as elite pass rushers. Other linebackers can do it the old fashioned way by being tackling machines. Here are the linebackers I predicted to breakout last year and what I wrote about them can be found here.

Paul Posluszny, Jaguars: Posluszny was the Jaguars biggest free agent acquisition last offseason and he didn’t disappoint. Anchoring what ended up being a solid defense, he recorded 119 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Dating back to his days as a member of the Bills, Posluszny has been one of the most consistent performers at the middle linebacker position. There’s no reason why that should change in 2012.

Hit or miss: Hit

Connor Barwin, Texans: After recording only 4.5 sacks in his first two years in the league, Barwin burst onto the scene in year three. He stepped up after Mario Williams suffered a season ending injury and recorded 11.5 sacks. With Williams departing in free agency, look for Barwin to play an even bigger role in the Texans defense this season.

Hit or miss: Hit

Anthony Spencer, Cowboys: Spencer had a solid year for the Cowboys recording 66 tackles, forcing a career high four forced fumbles and recording six sacks. Spencer has been a popular breakout candidate for a while now as he is the beneficiary of single coverage due to playing opposite DeMarcus Ware. Up to this point, Spencer has never had a double digit sack season like many expected but an above average pass rusher is nothing to scoff at.

Hit or miss: Miss

Mathias Kiwanuka, Giants: Kiwanuka moved back to defensive end this past season and while his sack numbers didn’t rise, he was still very efficient. For the year he recorded 84 tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception. Kiwanuka also added 3.5 sacks all of which came in a three game stretch. Look for him to be another key contributor on defense as the Giants look to defend their Super Bowl title.

Hit or miss: Miss

Rey Maualuga, Bengals: Despite playing in only 13 games, Maualuga had the best year of his career in 2011. He recorded 88 tackles, an interception and recorded three forced fumbles. The Bengals defense was one of the league’s biggest surprises this past year. Once they start getting the attention they deserve, Maualuga should be one of the players credited.

Hit or miss: Hit

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