Think about what you want in a middle linebacker before making the jump. Intincts, to me, is always number one. And I want a hard-hitter. He needs to have a willingness to leave his feet to make the big hits. He needs to be a leader and a fierce competitor - a non-stop motor and a great work ethic. The guy I want quarterbacking this defense should be a jack of all trades, even if he's a master of none. He doesn't need to be as fast as the outside guys, but he needs to hit harder and show an uncanny ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
At MLB, I want a hard-hitting leader that has a master's degree in thumping running backs behind the LOS - a guy with terrific instincts and a great first step, because those things can't be taught.
I believe this is our guy....
Mystery Man, MLB. 6-1, 240 lbs. Senior.
- Excellent instincts, and play recognition
- Has sideline-to-sideline speed, good range
- Great short area quickness and agility, able to change directions at full speed and avoid blockers
- Love his passion and intensity on the field. Gives 100% on every play
- Hard worker, great leader on and off the field
- Adept in coverage. Fluid hips, and good positioning in zone
- High football IQ, great awareness, able to direct teammates well
- Position Flexability
- Plays the game with a mean-streak
- Awesome instincts
- Needs better tackling technique, tackles high, and tends to drop his head too often
- Straight Line/Time Speed is average
- Would like to see him get stronger
- Needs to bulk up
- Average speed
He plays at 100 MPH, but in full control. His tenacity, leadership, and effort on the field is tremendous. He won't time well in the 40, but he has very good football speed, when combined with his terrific football IQ, allows him to be everywhere on the field making plays on the ball carrier. He is one of those guys who is just a "Football Player" he works so hard, understands the game, and is very productive.
In 2010, the mystery man had 20.5 tackles for loss, which, like sacks, are said to generally translate well to the NFL. That's three more than Von Miller had. It shows he has an incredible knack for thumping running backs in the back field. The mystery man also had seven sacks that year (3.5 less than Von Miller), and was Von MIller's runner-up to the Butkis Award (Nation's best linebacker). The Butkis Award is a big deal. The 2011 winner (Miller) was drafted at #2; the 2010 winner (Rolando McClain) was drafted at #8. This mystery man will cost us nothing, however, because we already have him.
You see, folks often quickly forget about recent draft picks as if they're a puppy given to a little boy, and now the new has simply worn off. The question many struggle with is; why is Nate Irving not starting already and what does that mean for his future potential. To help answer that, I compiled the following list of starting MLBs in 4-3 defenses across the league. The idea here is to find out if Nate Irving is behind the curve and if we're right to worry..
Middle Linebackers currently starting in a 4-3 defense across the league:
Rolando McClain - Oakland Raiders............................ Round 1 (8), 2010 - Rookie Starter
D’Qwell Jackson - Cleveland Browns........................... Round 2 (34), 2006 - Rookie Starter
James Laurinitis - St. Louis Rams............................... Round 2 (35), 2009 - Rookie Starter
Curtis Lofton - Atlanta Flacons.................................... Round 2 (37), 2008 - Rookie Starter
Ray Maualuga - Cincinnati Bengals.............................. Round 2 (38), 2009 - Rookie Starter
Mason Foster - Tampa Bay Bucaneers......................... Round 3 (84), 2011 - Rookie Starter
Greg Jones - New York Giants..................................... Round 5 (165), 2008 - 3rd Year Starter
Jamar Chaney - Philadelphia Eagles............................ Round 7 (220) 2010 - 2nd Year Starter
Gary Bracket - Indianapolis Colts................................. Undrafted, 2003 - 3rd Year Starter
- Three first-rounders, seven second-rounders (all from #34-#40), three miid-round picks (Rounds3-5) and four late-rounders (round six through undrafted).
- Those drafted in the top-40 were 8 of 10 to start in their rookie year (80%).
- Those taken after the top-40 were 1 for 7 to start as a rookie (14%).
- Nate Irving was drafted at #67, and he had no offseason.
Nate Irving is a leader. He's a hard hitter. He's got great instincts. And he's a really, very big time play-maker behind the LOS. The guy has a great motor and a great work ethic. He's effective in all facets of the game but better against the run than against the pass, which is exactly what you want in a MLB - especially when you have three blazing fast OLBs already on the team. Nate has everything on the wish list. Everything.
So why hasn't he started yet?
- It's partially because it's very normal to not start a third-round linebacker as a rookie (only 14% of current starting MLBs taken after #40 in the draft actually started in their first year).
- There was no offseason for Nate to learn how to quarterback an entire NFL defense.
- Not wanting to start two rookie linebackers at the same time probably played at least a small part in who got the attention and reps.
Nate Irving is our guy. He gets a chance. And he still gets my loyalty. There are some great linebackers in this year's draft, but we just drafted three linebackers last year - including the best OLB and the best MLB. We don't need to be looking at LBs early in this draft, we've already got our MIKE of the future. My opinion, of course.
(Link and link and link to full scouting reports used and quoted. Nate had that horrible car accident in 2009, which was mentioned in scouting reports but left out of this due to it running the surprise. His 2010 season was his best, so there are no lingering affects anyway.)