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Projecting Outside Linebackers Is An Inexact Science

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Projecting Outside Linebackers Is An Inexact Science

INDIANAPOLIS––There's plenty of NFL Draft prospects who played in a 4-3 defense being projected as playing in a 3-4 defense in the pros.

While the NFL is becoming almost a 50/50 split in the type of defense that teams run, it appears the majority of colleges run a 4-3 making it difficult to project them to a new defensive system.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he's just looking good football players, regardless of the scheme they played in college.

"I think you draft players based on if they're good players or not," said Thompson. "If you're a good player in college, a good defensive player in college, we'll find a spot that you can play.

"There's differences in maybe the physical make-up of them. But if you get a good player, you get a good player. I say it's up to the coaches to figure that part out."

One of the hot names at outside linebacker is Ryan Kerrigan, who played defensive end in a 4-3 defense at Purdue.

"When you're a 4-3 defensive end you drop back in pass coverage occasionally, but not too often," said Kerrigan on the differences between the two defenses. "Whereas with a 3-4 linebacker you drop back quite a bit. I think that will be the biggest adjustment."

Kerrigan very rarely played in a two-point stance in college, but will take part in linebacker drills at the Combine and has been working on them in preparation for the draft.

"I don't have too much experience with it," said Kerrigan. "But in my training for the combine I've been working on a lot of drops from a 3-4 linebacker standpoint and I feel I've made a lot of strides with that."

At the other end of the spectrum is Washington's Mason Foster. Whereas Kerrigan would make the transition from defensive end, Foster played outside linebacker in college, just in a 4-3 as compared to a 3-4.

He's not sure whether teams will be looking at him one way more than another.

"You really never know," said Foster. "I talked to every team so you never know what's going to happen. I think I have the intangibles to play either, outside or inside. I've shown blitzing, I'm shown playing stick-defense, I feel like either way I'll come in and play as hard as I can
to help the team It's always a good thing to be versatile."

While Foster played weak-side linebacker off the line of scrimmage his senior year at Washington, he also said has experience on the line in subpackages and as the starting strong-side linebacker in 2009.

"In my junior year, I started every game at Sam so I started over the tight end," said Foster. "This year, instead of running nickel in third down
situations, we ran a 'Bandit' which is a 3-3-5 and I played the 'Bandit' so I was either down on the line of scrimmage, in a three-point
stance coming off the edge or roaming around and hitting different gaps in the run. I've got some experience on the line."

Whether that's enough for a front office guy like Ted Thompson to take a chance on him or Kerrigan, April will bring the answer.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (4) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jacob's picture

I say go with clays brother casey if he falls into our lap between round 2 or 3

Corwin's picture

he's not an OLB. He's an ILB

BubbaOne's picture

Draft Matthews just not Casey, instead Cliff; a 6'4" 268lb DE from South Carolina who played OLB his freshman year. Reading his profile he has game and he fits the mold of being "Packer People" .
Or maybe D'Aundre Reed from AZ. I think both would last til at least round six, maybe even be UFA's.

tyler21's picture

I like that miller kid from boise he is very quick and has good instincts...

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