Despite all the sweating we had been doing recently due to fairly annoying, humid and hot summer we are still going strong and we are just around the corner that would allow us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And the light should be visible in couple of weeks but for now we are still in the darkness of the 7th week. It is kind of length of school holidays here in UK for primary kids and while the kids want to cherish every minute of it, we want these 7 weeks to go as fast as a nasty linebacker gets through his gap to tackle a running back for a juicy loss.
So here. The theme has been set and now it is time to find these 7 blokes who patrol the inside lines and give headaches to defensive coordinators. Here we are with the top 7 inside linebackers of the Season 2016.
- Jerrell Freeman- (Bears): Many fans might not be very familiar with the hard work Freeman has put in last four years while playing for the Colts. All he wanted was to be rewarded for his hard work and this off season Chicago Bears took care of it, stealing a reliable tackler from my favourite team.
Freeman started 57 games out of possible 64 in his career, he grabbed 4 interceptions two of which he returned for a touchdown (funny enough these were his first and last plays as a Colt). He forced 9 fumbles in 4 seasons and his going to be on the mission proving his former and current employers he’s worth the money.
Malcolm Smith- (Raiders): I am not that familiar with Smith’s background as well as with other players but his work speaks for himself, and given the fact he is part of the Raiders team, that is about to explode with awesomeness, Smith should have a huge year.
He’s brought Super Bowl experience to Oakland last year where he started all his 16 games racking up 100 solo tackles, 6 defended passes, 3 forced fumbles and a pick. Great numbers to show to your new boss in your first year.
Bobby Wagner- (Seahawks): Member of the Super Bowl winning team, Wagner has earned plenty of experience points during his four years stint with the Hawks. One can not see it changing anytime soon as Wagner will further develop his skills in well known environment.
His last season might have been his worst statistic wise as he recorded his lowest tackles number but no one can miss two defensive touchdowns that co- led the league or no one can miss his first career forced fumble he recorded twice in 2015. It is going to be business as usual here.
Navarro Bowman- (49ers): If one looked at Bowman statistic lines without paying much attention to the years, then it’d be hard to notice that he missed whole season due to the injury from which he recovered well, returned to team and picked up where he left off.
Bowman recorded over 100 solo tackles third time in his career, with 116 added in 2015. The only dip in his performance could be seen in not many passes defended compared to his previous years. It is easy to see that fourth 100+ tackle season is on his way.
Jamie Collins- (Patriots): It will be Collins’ fourth season in the NFL and it will be an important one as he tries to establish himself as one of the top of the cream among the linebackers breed. Collins will be after all the action he can take as he missed four games last season and it reflected partially on his statistic sheet.
Collins still recorded career high 5 forced fumbles in 2015 and 5.5 sacks plus a defensive touchdown on top of it all. His tackle numbers are sure to go up this season providing he remains healthy.
Brian Cushing- (Texans): Cushing has been on the rise over the last few seasons and he finally took part (and started) in all 16 games, something he narrowly missed the season earlier not to mention his miserable seasons between 2012-2013. Despite the statistic numbers looking average at times, Cushing should be that dark horse in this defense packed with studs.
It’s been two seasons without an interception so there is one or two just hanging around the corner as Cushing patrols middle lanes in 2016. Time will tell if he’ll provide his rookie season numbers in the coming season. He should though.
Luke Kuechly- (Panthers): I don’t think there can be anyone on the top of this list other than Kuechly, a linebacker that does it all, sees it all and is everywhere. Despite first season where he missed some of the playing time, Kuechly still managed to tie his career best in interceptions with four picks in 13 games, he recorded his career best in forced fumbles with two and despite having the lowest tackle numbers in his NFL career, one can easily imagine Kuechly bouncing back up from a little down season, especially that he is only 25 years old. There is no stopping here.
And this way I have managed to kill off another Sunday and if it wasn’t for the recent hear surge I’d finish it with a sentence or two but simple ‘stay well hydrated folks’ will have to do for now. Keep well!
ALL STATISTICAL DATA PER http://www.pro-football-reference.com