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Thursday, November 6, 2008
Have at it: Best LB corps in the NFC South?

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Linebacker is not a glamour position, but that makes it the perfect symbol for the NFC South.

If you had to pick the strongest position throughout the entire division, it would have to be linebacker. There's not a bad linebacker corps in the division. Even New Orleans, which has plenty of flaws on the rest of its defense, is strong in this area.

I'm often asked about the play of middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma because it's often hard to gauge the play of linebackers simply by looking at stats. I've asked several personnel people around the league about Vilma and they all say he's playing very well and has made a very positive impact on a defense that's been troubled by injuries.

Vilma's got solid veterans in Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle around him and that makes linebacker the strength of the New Orleans defense. It's also a big strength in Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.

The Panthers might have the division's best linebacker in second-year pro Jon Beason. Thomas Davis is prospering after moving from the strong side to the weak side and Na'il Diggs is a solid veteran.

Tampa Bay's got a nice mix of youth and experience with Derrick Brooks still playing an integral role, Barrett Ruud emerging as a force in the middle and Cato June as a nice age balance between the other two.

Atlanta's got a similar mix with Keith Brooking on the downside of his career, rookie Curtis Lofton making a big impact and Michael Boley just hitting his prime.

So how do the division's linebacker groups rank? I'll let you decide.

Hit the comments section below or send your rankings (one through four with your reasoning) to the mailbag. Next week, I'll run some of the highlights of the mailbag and assemble your consensus of how the linebacker groups of the NFC South sort out.

Have at it.