Top 100 NFL Players by Position: 3-4 Inside Linebackers

Movie Quote of the Day:

“We got us a German who wants to die for country. Oblige him!”

– Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds (2009)

NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.

I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.

Today involves 3-4 inside linebackers. Some people may ask, is there a difference between an inside linebacker and middle linebacker? The answer is yes. An inside linebacker is found in a 3-4 defense, and there’s always two of them. As opposed to a 4-3 middle linebacker where there’s just one. They pretty much have the same responsibilities. Their main job is to stop the run, they’re supposed to have a nose for the football, and be tackling machines. They’re not expected to add a pass rush. Although, many teams want more of these guys to add pressure to the quarterback since the NFL has become a passing league. Here’s my list:

Rising Star: Jon Bostic, Chicago Bears

2014 stats: 84 total tackles and three passes deflected

Bostic was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, expecting to be the replacement to Brian Urlacher. He took a back seat to D. J. Williams in his rookie season, but he started to show that he could be the guy last season. After hiring John Fox as the new head coach, Chicago will be switching to a 3-4 defense. Bostic is expected to be one of the starting inside linebackers after having a great second year. Watch out for him.

Honorable Mention: Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

2014 stats: 72 total tackles, one sack, and two passes deflected

There used to be a time when Cushing was probably the best 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL. In Cushing’s first three seasons in the NFL, he had 323 total tackles and 9.5 sacks. However, he’s been plagued with gruesome injuries the last three years. In 2012, he tore his ACL, and in 2013 he broke his fibula. Missing over half the season both years. Cushing’s playing time was limited last season despite starting 14 games, considering that, he still had a pretty good season. I’m not ready to give up on Cushing just yet, I know he’s had his issues with injuries, but he’s only 28 years old. He’s still got something in the tank. He was Pro Bowler, Second-team All-Pro, and Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009.

Top 5 3-4 Inside Linebackers:

5. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh Steelers

2014 stats: 132 total tackles and two sacks

Timmons is a great run stopper and had one of his best seasons in 2014. Timmons finally got his first Pro Bowl last season, along with a Second-team All-Pro honor. He’s started every game for Pittsburgh the last four seasons. Timmons has 748 total tackles, 28 sacks, nine interceptions, and 11 forced fumbles in his career. He’s only 29 years old, so he should still has a few more good years left.

4. Karlos Dansby, Cleveland Browns

2014 stats: 92 total tackles, three sacks, and one interception

Dansby is the oldest player on this list, he’s about to turn 34 in November. Despite his age, it’s not slowing him down. He missed four games last season and still put up great numbers. Dansby has started over 100 games in the last seven years. He’s also had over 100 total tackles in five of his last seven seasons. Dansby has 1,100 total tackles, 41 sacks, 16 interceptions, and 16 forced fumbled in his career. He was also Second-team All-Pro in 2008.

3. Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia Eagles

2014 stats: 83 total tackles, four sacks, and three forced fumbles

Kendricks is a quiet storm for Philadelphia’s defense. He hasn’t had much recognition in the NFL, but he’s only been in the NFL for three years. Kendricks missed four games last season due to injury. Had he been healthy, he probably would have had over 100 total tackles for the second consecutive year. So far, Kendricks has 264 total tackles, nine sacks, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles in his career. I found it hard to believe that Philadelphia was apparently considering trading him during the offseason. He should have a long career ahead of him.

2. C. J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens

2014 stats: 133 total tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble

Mosley was just a rookie last season and made an instant impact for Baltimore. Many will probably consider him the best 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL. Like I’ve done for most rookies on my rankings, I have to see more before I give them the top ranking at their position. It won’t be long before he has that top spot though. Mosley made the Pro Bowl and was Second-Team All-Pro last season. The Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) named on the All-AFC team. Lastly, the PFWA and Pro Football Focus put him on the All-Rookie team.

1. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs

2014 stats: 4 total tackles

This will be a surprise to some people for a few reasons. First, Johnson tore his Achilles in the first game last season and missed the rest of the year. Second, because Johnson is about to turn 33 in November. That’s a tough injury to come back from at his age. However, prior to last season, Johnson had over 100 total tackles in every season from 2010 to 2013.

Johnson is a 3x Pro Bowler (2011-2013) and was First-team All-Pro in 2011. The Pro Football Writers Association named him All-AFC in 2012. Johnson has 874 total tackles, 22.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, and 20 forced fumbles in his career. I know he had the bad injury last season, but he’s still the best 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL. I hope he has a great bounce back season.

All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Monday: 4-3 Defensive Ends

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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