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Ranking the Units: The Linebackers

Here I will reveal where I rank the Bucs’ projected 2011 personnel versus that of the rest of the NFL. Bear in mind, coaching is not being factored in and Raheem Morris is a supreme defensive mind.

Projected linebackers:  Barrett Ruud (FA), Geno Hayes, Quincy Black (FA), Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson. Ruud and Black will be back with Tampa Bay. It’s a good position to be in when your top linebacker is also your oldest and he’s only going to be 28 this season.

Ranked 12th.

2010 rankings: 318 points allowed (19.9 PPG; 9th), 4.7 ypc allowed (31st), 307 first downs allowed (17th), 43% 3rd down percentage (28th). This is a defense that had a lot of injuries last year. The linebackers need to force more turnovers this year (only 9 fumble recoveries; Black, Hayes and Ruud each had a single pick).

Ranked ahead of the Bucs (in no particular order): Minnesota, Miami, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New York Jets, Houston, New England, Baltimore, New Orleans, Chicago, Carolina. I like to look at the over/under as starting with the points allowed. Elite d-lines will flash in the rushing yards allowed and also in sacks. Elite secondaries will flash in INT’s, passes defensed and yards-per-completion. With linebackers, it’s harder to quantify but these guys execute the Cover 2 pretty well and have a pretty high ceiling. When their defense came up with big stops, it was often because the linebackers had good coverage on 3rd and 4th down.

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