Introducing the UK NFL Media All Pro Linebackers

Introducing the UK NFL Media All Pro Linebackers
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Darius Leonard (21 votes), Fred Warner (20), Bobby Wagner (18), Devin White (13), Roquan Smith (9), Lavonte David (7), T.J. Watt (4), Demario Davis (3), Zach Cunningham (3), Denzel Perryman (2), Za’Darius Smith (2), Blake Martinez (2), Eric Kendricks (2), Foye Oluokun (1), Micah Kiser (1) Bradley Chubb (1), KJ Wright (1), Matt Milano (1), Leonard Floyd (1), Patrick Queen (1) & Jaylon Smith (1)

21 players earned the honour of at least a vote at linebacker for the UK NFL Media All Pro team. Ultimately, the three selections made the AP All Pro team in Darius Leonard of the Colts, 49er Fred Warner and veteran Seahawk Bobby Wagner.

Darius Leonard (21 votes)

Leonard topped the linebacker ballot with just over half of the panel voting him onto their team. The Colt ranked ninth in the league in total tackles (132) but added to that with three sacks, seven pass deflections and three fumbles forced and two recoveries. Leonard equalled his performance last year with 6.8 yards/target allowed and missed just 5% of his tackles (7).  The third-year player was a key part of a Colts defence that was in the top 10 in most categories (they were 12th in pass yardage), including sixth in rush yards allowed (96).

Fred Warner (20 votes)

Fred Warner was an ever present linebacker on an extremely depleted 49ers defence. In fact, he is yet to miss a start in his three years in the league. Warner proved the glue for Robert Saleh’s defence, forcing big plays (2 interceptions, a forced fumble and two recoveries), as well as a play buster with 125 total tackles. Warner had a sack but also five tackles for loss and seven QB hits. In pass coverage, Warner allowed just 270 yards on just 38 completions. Warner was a tough man to make miss with 7 missed tackles (5.3% of all tackles).

Despite injuries, Warner was part of a defence that ranked fifth in yards allowed, fourth against the pass and seventh v the run. They did leak points though, with the 17th scoring defence but allowed just two TDs in coverage. One of the few bright spots of a disappointing season in San Francisco.

Bobby Wagner (18 votes)

It’s hardly a surprise to see the six time All Pro Wagner on this list. The Seahawks defence struggled early in the season but tightened up through the year, ending the season fifth against the run – but second last in passing. Wagner started every game and deflected 8 passes, recovered a fumble and earned three sacks, along with 11 QB hits. Wagner was 7th in tackles with 138 combined. The veteran allowed 9.4 yards/completion and just 6 yards/target. It was yet another stellar season for Wagner who earned a spot on this list.

Who missed the cut?

Two players who just missed the cut were Devin White & Roquan Smith. White was all over the field for the Bucs in his sophomore year. White blitzed far more this year and got 9 sacks from 91 blitzes. He also had 15 tackles for loss and 16 QB hits. White had 140 combined tackles, 5th in combined tackles in the league and 3rd in solo tackles.

Meanwhile Roquan Smith was sixth in combined tackles (139) and second in solo tackles (98). Smith added two interceptions, a forced fumble and recovery and 4 sacks. He allowed completions on 62.5% of passes to him, at a meagre 3.6 yards/target. Were it not for the name recognition of Bobby Wagner, Smith may have got the call for the third All Pro slot – his stats in pass coverage were simply stunning.

 Most importantly, both White & Smith were a part of defences that their teams relied on, particularly the Bears, to make the playoffs.

Who didn’t get the recognition they deserved?

Aside from Roquan Smith, one linebacker perhaps shorted slightly by the voters is Zach Cunningham with just 3 votes. Yes he was on a Texans team that went 4-12 but he led the league in tackles by a long way. Cunningham had 164 tackles – more than 10 a game – including 106 solo tackles (another league high). Add to that three sacks, 7 tackles for loss and a fumble forced. Cunningham had a career year and was a rare bright spot on a disappointing Texans team. He deserves the recognition for that and is a tackling machine for the next head coach to build around.

So how do you fancy running on our linebackers? No? How about catching a pass? Thought not. With Darius Leonard, Fred Warner and Bobby Wagner, we have the perfect blend of athleticism, power, cerebral ability and leadership. Congratulations for making the UK NFL Media All Pro team.

Image: Matt Kryger / Indy Star

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