Category Archives: Linebackers

Dobre Shunka Awards 1943-2017

Meaning Good Ham, and named in honor of the tight end erasing phenom Jack Ham, the Dobre Shunka Award is reserved for the league’s top outside linebacker in a given season. Outside linebacker is an especially tricky position to evaluate for an award, because of the huge difference in responsibilities for off-ball linebackers and those who play at the line of scrimmage. When major publications hand out postseason awards, and when fans vote for the Pro Bowl, they seem to overwhelmingly favor 3-4 pass rushers…

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Enforcer Awards 1943-2017

The Enforcer, vicious middle linebacker Dick Butkus, inspires the title of this award, which goes to the best inside linebacker in a given season. In general, I prefer linebackers who are strong in coverage, but I do love a classic thumper who blows up blockers and devastates ball carriers at the point of attack. It is also important for the man in the middle to be able to call the shots for the defense, but that can be hard to tell on tape and doesn’t…

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GrideFe Hall of Fame Outside Linebackers

Even among contemporaries, outside linebackers are difficult to compare with one another. Those who excel in coverage tend to be overlooked for postseason honors in favor of pass rushers, and both (perhaps rightfully) overshadow the pure run pluggers. This problem is exacerbated when trying to assess the relative accomplishments of outside linebackers across different eras. How do you evaluate Dave Wilcox, a run stopping maven from the 1960s, against Seth Joyner, a hypertalented cover backer from the 1980s? And how do you measure either against…

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GridFe Hall of Fame Middle Linebackers

For a large portion of NFL history, middle linebackers have been referred to as quarterbacks of the defense, and they are expected to possess the football intelligence to match the title. Mike backers must have the ability to do a little bit of everything: make tackles sideline to sideline, stop runs up the gut, maintain coverage (usually on backs and tight ends), run and pass blitz, and get personnel into position and make necessary adjustments.1 With the wide array of skills needed to play at…

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