Who Will Our Starting LB'rs Be (Marrdro's Analysis - Guess)
SAM – Strong Side = Chad Greenway, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell
Mike –Middle = Possible candidates - Erin Henderson, Michael Mauti, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges
The strong side linebacker, or Sam Linebacker, is a versatile run and pass coverage backer in a 4-3 defense. He needs to provide strong run support and fill his gap on the run, but he also is required to drop in short zones in both cover 2 and cover 3. At times, he will also play man-to-man coverage on either the tight end or the number two or three receiver. Depending on the tendencies of the teams you play, your Sam linebacker might be more of a pass coverage guy, or more of a traditional "linebacker" type. Either way, versatility and speed are critical traits for a good Sam Linebacker.
The Sam linebacker will line up on the strong side of the formation, about seven to eight yards back from the tight end, if the offensive formation has one. If there is no tight end, the Sam linebacker will essentially split the space between the end man on the line of scrimmage and the inside slot receiver. This allows him to be in close proximity to stop the run, and in good position to drop in pass coverage if necessary.
The Sam's responsibilities are to fill his assigned gap (which will be different if the play flows towards him or away from him) on the run. He can't waste any steps in his pursuit of the football. He also has pass coverage responsibilities which vary from covering the tight end, or the back out of the backfield, to dropping to the deep hook/curl zone.
The middle linebacker, or "mike" linebacker, is a central anchor point in any good defense. He's the key run stopper, and should find himself involved in almost every tackle on running plays. He epitomizes the football player persona, because he's big, strong, and hard-nosed. He is a key vocal leader in most defensive schemes, calling out formations and strengths, and communicating adjustments. He also is a key communicator for all the linebackers and defensive linemen, as he calls out formation strength and signals.
The mike linebacker lines up about 4-5 yards deep, and head up on the center, in most cases. This alignment allows him to step quickly to the left or right to fill gaps to stop the run.
The mike linebacker is assigned as primarily a gap destroyer and a run stopper. He will take on any lead blocks and spill the back to his teammates if need be. In the case of a pass, he will drop to his appropriate responsibility, depending on the coverage called. For example, in cover 2 zone, he will drop, read the quarterback's eyes and break on the football. There are also times where the mike linebacker is assigned to cover the running back out of the backfield on either side.
Will – Weak side= Possible candidates - Gerald Hodges , Erin Henderson, Audie Cole,
Linebacker descriptions provided by
The weak side linebacker, or "Will" linebacker, is one of 3 linebackers on a standard defensive crew. Like the other two linebackers (Sam and Mike), he's primarily concerned with stopping the run. But, he quickly transitions into a pass defender as needed, and often ends up assigned to slot receivers, even more than the Sam. The will linebacker has to be quick and agile, and able to move laterally with the ball carrier to force the run inside, but because he lines up on the weak side of the formation, he is often pursuing the play as it goes away from him.
The will linebacker lines up five or six yards deep, and he usually splits the "B" gap on the weak side of the formation. This puts him in a nice position to stop the run if it comes his way, but also gets him leverage to be able to drop in coverage, or cover the back out of the backfield. If he has a slot receiver to his side, in most cases, he'll widen his alignment to be in position to cover the slot.
The will linebacker is responsible for forcing any outside run to his inside, as well as cutback and reverse plays. He also has a great deal of pass coverage responsibility.
Will Linebacker: How To Play Will Linebacker
Player Analysis - History - Scouting Reports
Chad Greenway - Lock to start at the the SAM, no analysis provided.
Erin Henderson – Shifted from QB to LB the 2004 season at Maryland. Has little to no experience at the Mike position having spent his time at the WILL. He is a smart football player who once converted from QB to LB in his first collegiate season and has done a pretty good job for the Vikings at the WILL position. Knowledge of the scheme and natural abilities tend to make me think he is the leading candidate to take over at the MIKE and should get the life of his two year contract to settle in at that position.
Erin Henderson, Maryland, NFL Draft - CBSSports.com - NFLDraftScout.com
Marvin Mitchell – Big strong bodied LB’r who probably isn’t fast enough to play the Mike (4.86-5.02 40-yard dash times). Marvin will struggle at times shedding blocks as well as with reading pass recognition. No shot at playing the Mike this year for the Vikes. Marvin should wind up on the 53 man roster providing depth at the SAM.
Marvin Mitchell, Tennessee, NFL Draft - CBSSports.com - NFLDraftScout.com
Tyrone McKenzie – Played the SAM predominantly at the collegiate level and was projected to go in the second round but was ultimately selected in the third round by the Patriots. Reason for slide was thought to be related to how many schools he played for at the collegiate level and not because he lacked talent. More of a IB/OB than a true MIKE or SAM but projected to play SAM at the next level. Joined the Vikes in 2012 and should stick with the team to add depth at LBr as well as on ST’s.
National Football League: NFL Draft 2009 - Tyrone McKenzie
Audie Cole – No experience at the Mike, however, he did play the SAM in college and was expected to move to the Mike but that was delayed because he broke his hand. Good at read/recognizing run and pass plays. Outside shot to start at the Mike for the Vikes this year.
Audie Cole, ILB, North Carolina State, NFL Draft - CBSSports.com - NFLDraftScout.com
Gerald Hodges – No NFL experience. After switching from S to LB, Hodges started 26 of 44 games for Penn State at strong side linebacker and had 249 tackles, 21 of those for losses, 5˝ sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Projected as a WILL in a 4-3 C2 but could also make the move to the MIKE if he can add some extra weight, however, that is highly doubtful because of the extra weight he added when he shifted from S to LB. My guess is he will make the 53 man roster as either the starting or backup WILL.
Michael Mauti – No NFL experience. Played mostly as the MIKE at Penn St. when he could stay healthy. Labeled as a good but not great athlete who relies on natural awareness and great read/react skills. He is a hard-nosed, “lunch pail” kind of guy that has had repeated knee injuries that is working hard at being ready for the 2013-2014 season. My guess is that he was drafted by the Vikes as insurance for the 2014-2015 season if Erin doesn’t work out at the MIKE and will be allowed to work back to slowly this year to ensure his knees are completely healed. Not sure what roster spot he will get but I assume it will be IR related.
Michael Mauti, OLB, Penn State, NFL Draft - CBSSports.com - NFLDraftScout.com
Anticipated starting LB'rs
SAM – Chad Greenway
MIKE – Erin Henderson
WILL – Gerald Hodges