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The Patriots have been blessed with strong linebacker corps since the Super Bowl run started in 2001. In the last two years the questions have been mounting as injuries and age have crept up to a once formidable unit. The Pats had some old and new faces in 2008 to mixed results. Here are the grades for the 2008 Patriots linebackers:
Tedy Bruschi: B
Thoughts: Many were surprised that Tedy Bruschi came back this season after it was hinted he may retire after the Super Bowl (though I’m 90% sure if the Pats had won he would have) but he signed a two year deal before the season and provided the Pats with more quality service. He is no longer an every down player but still finished the season second on the team with 73 tackles – four of which were for losses. He still has a year left on his contract but don’t be surprised if you see him used even less in 2009 as he had no sacks, forced fumbles or interceptions in 2008.
Mike Vrabel: B+
Thoughts: Another player whose value on and off the field must be considered, Vrabel didn’t have the sack total we are used to (just four in 2008) but the team as a whole was down in that category. He’s not as fast as he used to be but still has the instinct which makes him valuable to the defense. He’s another guy who may see less action as the Pats have stockpiled young OLB talent over the past few drafts. Still a guy who can get you 50 tackles and a handful of sacks over the course of a season.
Jerod Mayo: A+
Thoughts: There is nobody who thought Mayo would start from day 1 and play more snaps then anyone on the team. Mayo is as good as advertised as the No. 10 pick, showing speed, power and improving instinct as the season went along. He has a ton of raw talent and will only get better as he has more time in the defense scheme. Mayo is already becoming a backbone of this defense and is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL already. Who said we needed Vernon Ghloston anyways?
Adalius Thomas: C
Thoughts: Thomas missed seven games in 2008 because of injury, but the nine games he did play in didn’t give a whole lot of hope for Patriots fans who thought he would flourish when signing with the team before the 2007 season. After the ’07 year where he settled into the system with 78 tackles and 6.5 sacks, Thomas had 34 tackles and 5 sacks before going down hurt. It seems that Thomas is invisible for a lot of the time but once in a while pops up to make a play we remember – the INT return against the Chargers in ’07, the monster chase/sack against Brett Favre in ’08. He has a lot to prove in 2009 to back up that big free agent contract he signed.
Pierre Woods: B
Thoughts: Woods provided some strong backup with Thomas went down and others needed a spell on the sideline. His 35 tackles and one sack may not look great but he’s a solid contributor, though not a long term solution at linebacker.
Gary Guyton, Junior Seau, Roosevelt Colvin, Shawn Crable: INC
Thoughts: Seau and Colvin came on late in the season and while they provided some quality backup, they probably won’t be back in 2009. Guyton showed some great moves and speed during his limited action and though Crable didn’t play a down because of injury, he is a big boy who could break through this season.
Overall Linebacker Grade: B