Breakout Player Recap: Linebackers

Justin HoustonWith different defensive schemes, linebackers can breakout in various ways. It could be as a tackling machine in your traditional 4-3 defense or as a rush linebacker in the ever evolving 3-4. In terms of success rate for my predictions of last year’s breakouts players, I probably fared the best with this group of linebackers. If you’re interested, this is what I wrote about them around this time last year.

Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons: With the Falcons making a deep playoff push, Weatherspoon showed over the course of the year why he’s one of the best young linebackers in the league. Despite missing three games, he recorded 95 tackles, three sacks and an interception. As the Falcons once again look to be one of the teams to beat in the NFC, the pressure is on for Weatherspoon to continue his high level of play. From what he has done in his three years so far, there is no reason to doubt him.

Hit or miss: Hit

Daryl Washington, Cardinals: Washington broke out in a big way in 2012. He set a career high in tackles with 134 and recorded a ridiculous nine sacks as an inside linebacker. Remarkably, that came without recording a sack in the last five games of the season. To go along with that, he also forced two fumbles and had an interception. This performance helped Washington make his first career Pro Bowl. Washington had an interesting off season as a positive drug test already suspended him for the first four games of the year and he ran into other off the field issues as well. When he does play this year, Washington should continue to have a huge impact on an underrated Cardinals defense.

Hit or miss: Hit

Brooks Reed, Texans: Reed had a great opportunity as a starter in his second year after showing pass rushing potential as a rookie in 2011. However, he didn’t have the type of impact I expected. For the season he recorded 2.5 sacks and ended up missing four games with a groin injury. Granted, some of those sack opportunities probably went to J.J. Watt considering he had more than 20 last season. Now that Connor Barwin left, Reed will probably stick at outside linebacker as he has still proven to be solid against the run.

Hit or miss: Miss

Justin Houston, Chiefs: Houston showed his pass rushing abilities towards the end of 2011 and they carried over into his second season. He recorded ten sacks on the year and went on to make the Pro Bowl in his first full year as a starter. Along with the sacks, Houston also had 66 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. The scary thing is he’s only scratching the surface of his potential and he should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Hit or miss: Hit

Aaron Maybin, Jets: Maybin’s 2012 will go down as one of my worst breakout predictions ever. After a 2011 season where he recorded six sacks as a situational pass rusher, I figured he had turned the corner and could be a nice piece for the Jets. Instead, he played in only eight games and recorded a single tackle. Needless to say, he’s no longer a Jet and the Bengals brought him in as he reaches the “well, he was a top ten pick so let’s give him a shot” stage of his career.

Hit or miss: Miss

Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins: Kerrigan improved on his rookie totals but it wasn’t to the extent I thought it would be. For the season he recorded 54 tackles, 8.5 sacks and even returned an interception for a touchdown. That isn’t even mentioning the eight pass deflections or two forced fumbles. Kerrigan looks to be a building block for a Redskins defense that had its ups and downs last year. Don’t be surprised if double digit sacks and Pro Bowl appearances come sooner rather than later.

Hit or miss: Push

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One Response to Breakout Player Recap: Linebackers

  1. Another great article. Solid guys throughout, surprised at the amount of Chiefs named. Maybin is a huge miss and I think Washington and Kerrigan get better this year., I’m thinking 100 tackles for Darryl and 9 sacks for Kerrigan.

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