The All-Star team is shaping up nicely, and now we move to the defensive side of the ball. The middle linebacker position is one of the strongest in the division, mainly because the best player at the position in football resides in the West. Here is the list, and remember to vote fo who you think is the most deserving candidate.
St. Louis Rams-James Laurinaitis
2009 Stats: Laurinaitis took the starting job for the Rams as a rookie, and he ran with it. He compiled 120 tackles (107 solo) with 2 sacks and two interceptions. He defended five passes, and he also forced a fumble. Laurinaitis is a rising star in the league, but he will have to prove his rookie season wasn’t a fluke.
My Take: I think Laurinaitis is a star in the making, and he established himself as a solid NFL middle backer as a rookie. I really want to see if he takes a step forward in his sophomore campaign, but all signs point to another big year. He might not be All-Star worthy yet, but I have a feeling he will be one day soon.
San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Willis
2009 Stats: Willis has been a machine since entering the league as a rookie in 2007, and his 2009 season was no different. He finished with 152 tackles, and he hasn’t totaled less than 141 tackles in his three seasons. He also recorded four sacks, and he picked off three passes, one of which went for a touchdown. He forced three fumbles on the season, and he pretty much terrorized every opposing offense that took the field against him.
My Take: Willis is probably the best MLB in the league, so it stands to reason that he is the best in his own division. I loved this guy coming out of college, and he has only gotten better as an NFL player. Having him man the middle of our All-Star defense will certainly improve our chances in the competition.
Seattle Seahawks-Lofa Tatupu
2009 Stats: Tatupu was injured for much of the 2009 season, as he played in just 5 games. He managed to record 32 tackles and one sack in his limited play, but injuries killed much of his production. Tatupu has enjoyed a nice career with the Hawks, as he has gone over 100 tackles in three of his five years. His best season was in 2007, when he totaled 109 tackles and intercepted 4 passes.
My Take: Tatupu needs to get healthy to prove he still has it, but his body of work has been fairly impressive. Still, with Willis and Laurinaitis in the division, he really isn’t in the conversation for the team.
Arizona Cardinals-Gerald Hayes
2009 Stats: Hayes played in 14 games in 2009, with 13 of those coming as a starter. He made 62 tackles, with 49 of those coming solo. He didn’t record any sacks, but he did total four in 16 starts in 2007. Hayes made 98 tackles in that 2007 season, which was his best as a pro.
My Take: It’s pretty obvious that Hayes is at the bottom of the pack in this group, and there really isn’t much more to say about it. He has been decent when given the chance in his career, but he is not in the class of the other players at the position.
Verdict: This is one of the easiest picks, as Willis is one of the top defensive players in the league. Laurinaitis is well on his way to joining the top echelon of MLBs in the league, but not even he is on the same level as Willis.