NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Linebackers

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Linebackers

(Second in a series) Voting for the NFL Pro Bowl has come to an end with official rosters set to be announced on Tuesday, December 20 on an NFL Network Pro Bowl Special. The game itself will be played on Sunday, January 29, 2017 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The flawed nature of the selection process and lack of competitiveness during the game itself has dulled the Pro Bowl’s appeal, but the recognition of talent is a practice that will never go out of style. Over the next few days, we will reveal the NFC North division players who we believe are the most deserving of an all-expense paid trip down to sunny Florida. You can find our defensive linemen here… and now we present the linebackers.  


Leonard Floyd (CHI), Nick Perry (GB), Julius Peppers (GB)

Credit: NFL Game Pass

Leonard Floyd, the No. 9 overall selection out of Georgia, has earned himself the No. 1 spot on our outside linebacker list after stomping on the gas pedal during Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers. While he had totaled just half a sack entering the Bears’ Lambeau Field matchup with Green Bay, the rookie edge-rusher seemingly got a taste of how it feels to steamroll a quarterback into the ground and has been on a warpath ever since.

Over his past six games, the former Bulldog has notched 6.5 sacks to boost his season total to an even 7.0 and grant him ownership of the “rookie sack leader” title — San Diego’s Joey Bosa is on his heels at 6.5, however. Floyd, who entered the league in the same mold as Minnesota’s Anthony Barr, took six weeks to catch his stride, but he has since shown an ability to explode off the edge, bend fluidly around much bigger offensive tackles and combine his relentless motor with his long limbs and closing speed to rack up sacks.

He is joined on this list by a player who he likely hopes to emulate as a pass-rusher, surefire Hall of Famer Julius Peppers. Peppers, who began his career as a 4-3 defensive end with the Carolina Panthers, has found little issue converting his skill set to a 3-4 outside linebacker role in Dom Capers’ defensive scheme on his way to 6.5 sacks this season and a combined 29-game total of 17.0 with Green Bay — at ages 35 and 36.

Peppers is one of three Packers earning a recognized at outside linebacker, as both Nick Perry and honorable mention Clay Matthews have consistently produced strong enough performances to keep Green Bay competitive despite only recently returning its top cover man, second-year cornerback Damarious Randall.

Perry is the true diamond here, as he has made Matthews’ down season (relative to his standards) easier to overcome through forcing constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks and sure-tackling while matching Kerry Hyder’s eight-sack total.

Matthews’ four sacks are certainly welcomed on a Green Bay defense that has experienced its fair share of issues, but he has been a liability more so than ever this season, earning an honorable mention nod due to a weak collective performance by NFC North outside linebackers this season.

Honorable Mention: Clay Matthews (GB)


Eric Kendricks (MIN), Danny Trevathan (CHI), Jerrell Freeman (CHI)

Credit: NFL Game Pass

Minnesota can take solace in the fact that one of its young linebackers showed up this season. 2015 Pro Bowler Anthony Barr seemingly sent in a clumsy, technically-flawed stunt double with earth-shattering downhill speed and power, but his college roommate, Eric Kendricks, returned for his sophomore year with better smarts, betters fundamentals, better closing speed and better hair (how does this dude not have a Head and Shoulders sponsorship yet?)

Kendricks, who set the kindling ablaze for Minnesota’s 5-0 start and five-game streak of defensive ridiculousness via a game-breaking, 77-yard pick-six — which ultimately earned him Defensive Player of the Week — has been about as steady as they come at linebacker. While his performance was noticeably subpar during a couple matchups in the midst of the Vikings’ jaw-dropping 45-day losing streak, the second-year linebacker has been everything Minnesota has asked him to be this year.

His statistical line of 79 combined tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, eight pass breakups, one outstanding head of hair and the previously-mentioned interception returned for points against Tennessee plays the role of “movie trailer” in showing both his versatility and how many different responsibilities he carries out in Minnesota.

Kendricks’ absence during the team’s Week 9 matchup with the Lions due to a concussion was blatant, as the Vikings allowed tight end Eric Ebron to walk all over them — something that may have been prohibited by the 2015 second-round pick’s coverage talent and, in theory, allowed Minnesota to hold on for a victory in regulation.

The Vikings middle linebacker — who honestly lines up at outside linebacker almost exclusively despite his listing — is joined by a trio of 3-4 inside linebackers. Chicago has likely set itself back a couple years with its performance this season, but free-agent signees Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman have been outstanding offseason additions — when on the field, that is.

Freeman, who honestly does not deserve a spot on this list due to a suspension stemming from digging into John Fox’s performance enhancing drugs cabinet, is being recognized strictly due to the fact that he was arguably the best inside linebacker in professional football through 11 weeks. His suspension represents one of the darkest clouds in a Bears locker room that has seen less sunshine than a Russian Gulag this season.

Blake Martinez has earned his place in the NFL during his rookie campaign, but like his linebacker teammate Clay Matthews, his listing as honorable mention is more a result of a weak positional group than a Pro-Bowl worthy year.

Honorable Mention: Blake Martinez (GB)

Did we get it right? Let us know on Twitter @NFCNBarroom or via the comment section below!

Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and film clips are courtesy of NFL Game Pass.


NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks – Defensive Linemen

NFCN Barroom Pro Bowl Picks: Defensive Backs

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