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  1. #1
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    It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    By Howard Balzer
    Friday, March 20, 2009



    Who will be the Rams’ middle linebacker when the 2009 season begins in September? There are numerous questions still to be answered with this team, but how the linebackers shake out is one of the biggest.


    Will Witherspoon has been told he is a middle linebacker, indicating come hell or high water, a new man in the middle will be found, with certainly the possibility it could be Chris Draft.


    Another question is how Witherspoon’s status will affect Pisa Tinoisamoa. Neither he or Witherspoon are classic strong-side linebackers, so this could be a sign that Tinoisamoa might be competing for a roster spot.


    The shift of Witherspoon doesn’t necessarily mean the Rams will select Aaron Curry with the second pick in the draft. Curry can play in the middle, but so can Witherspoon. The question is whether that will be the position where Curry will be at his best. The answer to that is undeniably no.


    There will be a group of middle linebackers worth second- through fourth-round picks that could arrive in April. It’s not out of the question Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis could be available in the second round.


    When new coach Steve Spagnuolo was with the Giants, his defense succeeded with an excellent middle linebacker (Anthony Pierce) and decent players on the outside. In 2007, the Giants went to the Super Bowl with Kawika Mitchell on the outside playing with a one-year contract. After he left for Buffalo as a free agent in 2008, the Giants signed Danny Clark, and the defense didn’t miss a beat.


    The key, though, for any linebacking corps in defending the run is the play of the defensive tackles in keeping blockers away from the second level. Currently, the Rams have little depth behind tackles Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan. But, keep in mind, the Giants got the job done under Spagnuolo with tackles like Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins.


    It will be up general manager Billy Devaney to find Spagnuolo the depth necessary to make their tackles productive as a group.


  2. #2
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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Hmmmm.....is Av's BJ Raji rising with a bullet?

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    I think that if we don't draft Curry, we will move back into the end of the first round first round using Pisa as trade Bait to get Lauranaitis. We just have to get ahead of Detroit really.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Will Witherspoon has been told he is a middle linebacker, indicating come hell or high water,
    Spoon will be or will not be a MLB for the Rams?

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Not a very good breakdown by Balzer IMO. Sounded scattered.


    We need two LB's a SLB and MLB. Draft is 33 years old and is not a MLB. We have no true MLB on the staff and Culberson is the closest we have to a SLB. Curry would be a great SLB and a very good MLB. He would more then fill either hole. If we went with him and went MLB or SLB later in the draft like round 4 (Bunkley) or later then we would have two good LB's in Spoon and Curry and a guy that can compete for the other starting spot. The other LB would compete with Draft and Culberson for the final spot. He would either wind up at MLB or SLB. I really don't see Pisa making it because he is a WLB and not nearly big enough for SLB. We need to start playing players at a position that they succeed at not just a position of need.
    Last edited by RamsSB99; -03-21-2009 at 12:31 PM.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    One thing stuck out for me.....curry isn't a MLB.

  7. #7
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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    The question is whether that will be the position where Curry will be at his best. The answer to that is undeniably no.
    That's not really the question. If we need a top middle linebacker to make the system work, then you look at who the best middle linebacker is going to be--even if he might be "at his best" at a less important position.

    Suppose Leonard Little could have been an even better outside linebacker in a 3-4, would that mean we shouldn't have drafted him to play defensive end? Frankly, the question for the Rams isn't what is best for the player, but what is best for the team.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Spoon will be or will not be a MLB for the Rams?
    Rambos: it's throwing you off cuz that's a mis-print. It's been reported that Witherspoon was told he would be an outside lb this coming season. hence, the gaping hole at mlb and even more talk about Curry as a possible Rams selection in the first round, etc.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Go back and look at Urlacher's bio. He came in the league as an outside LB. Granted, he's unique, and his history is indicative of nothing, but isn't the skillset what's important?

    What EXACTLY makes Curry a better OLB then MLB? What (in 25 words or less), prohibits one from playing the other position, and vice versa.

    I like Raji as well, and in their own ways, they both contribute to defending both the running AND passing game.

    There's just something about a stud MLB, heart and soul of the D, that's just cool.

    And he's the real deal.

    And I want him.
    "the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".

  10. #10
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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Quote Originally Posted by VegasRam View Post
    Go back and look at Urlacher's bio. He came in the league as an outside LB. Granted, he's unique, and his history is indicative of nothing, but isn't the skillset what's important?

    What EXACTLY makes Curry a better OLB then MLB? What (in 25 words or less), prohibits one from playing the other position, and vice versa.

    I like Raji as well, and in their own ways, they both contribute to defending both the running AND passing game.

    There's just something about a stud MLB, heart and soul of the D, that's just cool.

    And he's the real deal.

    And I want him.
    the reasons that they believe Curry will be better on the outside is due to his freakish speed(for his size) you just dont get 250plus lb players with the speed of a weakside linebacker..well not until now...so theres the.."ooh,he`s quick,must play on the outside" theory kicking in....yes Spoon moving from the outside in didnt work out,but Curry cant be compared to anyone who has gone before really...certainly not from what weve had on our own team anyway.
    he is such a complete player i just cant see him not being elite whatever LB position he ends up playing...i may be inclined to go Lauritisis in the second or perhaps McKillop,Beckwith,Brinkley in the 3rd or 4th range..and have them play the middle as we need an extra starter wherever we fit Curry into the team...but whatever,just Draft Curry!!!

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    ...Frankly, the question for the Rams isn't what is best for the player, but what is best for the team...
    I agree, The same could also be said for Will Witherspoon when he first arrived to St. Louis. Coming from playing OLB, Will was asked to play MLB here. Was it best for the player? No, however it did improve the team overall. So, If Curry indeed becomes the selection, plenty around the league may say he would be playing out of position, yet it wouldn't matter because he still improves our defense greatly.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    One thing stuck out for me.....curry isn't a MLB.
    Re-read the article, tx. That's not what Balzer said. He actually said just the opposite.
    Curry can play in the middle
    The question that Balzer had was...
    whether that will be the position where Curry will be at his best. The answer to that is undeniably no.
    Let's assume for a minute that Balzer's "undeniably" adverb is accurate (I disagree, but whatever). Even so, Balzer is simply saying Curry is a better OLB than MLB. Well, ok. Does that mean he won't be an outstanding MIKE? No, it doesn't.

    Gun to my head, right now, who do I want? Yea, I want Curry.

    However, I'll be excited to hear any of 4 names......Curry, Monroe, J. Smith, or Raji. Anyone of those will improve the team immediately, and hopefully for years to come.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Ok, maybe I did misread the article but it still brings up a big question for me.....why pick someone at #2 that really hasn't played the position you want him for? He's going to be an outstanding OLB if that's where he's drafted no one is questioning that. However, is he a MLB and is it worth to you, with the enormity of the #2 pick in the draft to the future of this team, to take a risk on a project?

    To me, no. I'd rather go with whichever OT is available at that time. That being said, what a freaking talent. Since he doesn't have the best pass rushing skills is why he's projected at MLB. Never takes a down off. Would bring heart to this defense that's been missing. To me, that's salivating interesting. I just don't know and I am glad it's not my decision
    Last edited by txramsfan; -03-24-2009 at 11:09 AM.

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Here's my question, why is everyone OK with the Chiefs drafting Curry to play OLB, but he HAS to be a MLB for us, just one position higher? Why can't he play SAM? I mean just because he has that title doesn't mean he can't play all over the field. He is a 3 down linebacker and will make our defense better wherever he plays. Do you guys think DeMarcus Ware or Shawn Merriman play every single snap on the outside? No, they move around and cause mismatches. (Granted they are 3-4 olbs, but I think the same theory can be applied to Curry's usage)

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    Re: It Helps to Be Strong up the Middle

    Quote Originally Posted by tx
    However, is he a MLB and is it worth to you, with the enormity of the #2 pick in the draft to the future of this team, to take a risk on a project?
    And a fine question, tx. However, we must define the magnitude of our terms. How much of a "risk" is he? To you and I, who couldn't right a single iota in the NFL Winning Team-building Bible, he may appear to be a huge risk to ask to play MIKE. However, that risk is relative. To guys like Devaney & Spags and their staff, who probably have a decent handle on what makes winning football teams, his projection to MIKE may not be that much of a risk.

    I don't know how they feel about him, but his "risk" may simply be our perspective.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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