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|Defenses: Who plays what|
The league's 3-4 and 4-3 defenses:
• 3-4 DEFENSES
Arizona, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, New England, NY Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco,
• 4-3 DEFENSES
Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, New Orleans, NY Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington
A comparison of Pro Bowl rosters shows 4-3 linebackers declined in average weight from roughly 248 pounds to 240 since 2001. The average weights declined slightly every season during that span, except for 2004. While 3-4 defenses have proliferated, taking with them bigger linebackers, the league's 4-3 linebackers are all about speed -- for good reason.
|Listed at 223 pounds, Denver Broncos linebacker Ian Gold takes on 245-pound Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis.|
"If you've got a couple of big defensive tackles who can pick up blocks, you can free up those [small] linebackers," Mora said. "Denver is a great example. They put a premium on speed at linebacker." The Broncos list linebacker Ian Gold at 223 pounds and safety John Lynch at 220.
Coaches still talk about running the ball and stopping the run, as they should, but the smart ones know winning teams are more likely to excel in a range of offensive stats, notably yards per pass attempt. Trotter was long a mainstay of the Eagles' defense. He was a four-time Pro Bowl choice and respected in the locker room. But he was also increasingly a situational run stuffer, and coaches preferred Gaither's potential.
If Trotter fails to resurface as a starter -- he reached a one-year deal with Tampa Bay on Monday -- the league could be down to eight starting 4-3 linebackers listed at 250 or heavier. The projected list includes the Giants' Mathias Kiwanuka (265), the Eagles' Chris Gocong (263), Oakland's Sam Williams (260), Cincinnati's Ahmad Brooks (259), Chicago's Brian Urlacher (258), Kansas City's Napoleon Harris (255), the Giants' Kawika Mitchell (253) and New Orleans' Scott Fujita (250). They are exceptions. More 4-3 linebackers are looking like the running backs they get paid to tackle. Jim Haslett can vouch for that. Mike Sando cover the NFL for ESPN.com.