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Positional Rankings: Outside Linebackers

Offense · Defense
 
Safeties · Cornerbacks · Inside Linebackers · Outside Linebackers · Tackle · End

 
Pete Prisco ranks his top NFL players at each position, while thethrill009 provided his list of top outside linebackers. Also check out Prisco's Top 50

Outside Linebackers
1. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboysthethrill009's Rankings

Games played: 16 Tackles: 84
Sacks: 20 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: One number says it all: 20. That's his sack total from 2008. He's the best pass-rushing linebacker in football.
1. James Harrison, Steelers
Comment: Well let's see, he was the Defensive MVP last year. Oh yeah, he also had the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history with his 100-yard interception of Kurt Warner with no time on the clock. But the kicker: The guy is freaking ferocious. Welcome to the NFL, Brady Quinn.
2. Shawne Merriman, Chargers

Games played: 1 Tackles: 2
Sacks: 0 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: He missed all but one game last season with a knee injury, but he's on schedule to be back at 100-percent by the open of this coming season. He's a lot like Ware when he's healthy.
2. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
Comment: He can get to the quarterback consistently more than any OLB in football. He brings a new generation of speed OLBs who pack a punch with their hitting ability. Going into his 6th season, he is just hitting his football prime.
3. James Harrison, Steelers

Games played: 15 Tackles: 101
Sacks: 16 Interceptions: 1
Analysis: He's the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He can rush and he showed in the Super Bowl that he could cover with his pick for a score. He plays nasty.
3. Joey Porter, Dolphins
Comment: Some people just refuse to go away. At age 32, he is coming off his best sack total of 17.5. His leadership and aggressiveness was the catalyst for Miami's defensive resurrection from the NFL pits. They lose at least 2 more games without him last year, and until I see otherwise I am not counting him out for a big year.
4. Terrell Suggs, Ravens

Games played: 16 Tackles: 68
Sacks: 8 Interceptions: 2
Analysis: He's in the prime of his career and his rush ability is vital to the Baltimore defense. He can also play in coverage.
4. Shawne Merriman, Chargers
Comment: Health concerns drop him, but the talent is there. We all remember how fast the Chargers defense looked in prior years when he brought his A game, and just how awful they looked when he wasn't there. This drug test is disturbing, but this isn't a Good-Samaritan contest. This is about play-making ability, and he's loaded with it.
5. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers

Games played: 15 Tackles: 60
Sacks: 11.5 Interceptions: 1
Analysis: Entering his third season, he might put up better numbers than Harrison this year. That's how good he is rushing the passer.
5. Lance Briggs, Bears
Comment: Who else would you want in coverage vs. a big tight end or running back? His speed and awareness give his teammates a longer window to get to the quarterback and he is a leader on one of the top defenses in the NFC.
6. Karlos Dansby, Cardinals

Games played: 16 Tackles: 119
Sacks: 4 Interceptions: 2
Analysis: He's a complete linebacker. He can blitz, tackle and cover. He's a mainstay on the Arizona defense.
6. Derrick Brooks
Comment: I don't care whether he is on a team or not. Did you watch him at all last year? Apparently the Bucs management didn't, or else they surely wouldn't have released this surefire HOFer who played with Pro Bowl intensity. I sure hope we see him stalking the QB next year. Again, shame on you Mr. Glazer.
7. Joey Porter, Dolphins

Games played: 16 Tackles: 47
Sacks: 17.5 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: He looked to be done in 2007, but really bounced back strong last season with 17 1/2 sacks. Can he do it again?
7. Julian Peterson, Lions
Comment: Just performs wherever he goes. I say his veteran leadership is the missing cog that makes some of the talented Detroit pieces (yes, some actually are talented) fall into place. A revamped linebacking core will allow Peterson to display his remaining talent. Almost enough to make you forget about Aaron Curry...
8. Aaron Kampman, Packers

Games played: 16 Tackles: 62
Sacks: 9.5 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: He's making the move from defensive end to 3-4 rush linebacker. He plays all-out all the time so it shouldn't be a major adjustment.
8. Terrell Suggs, Ravens
Comment: Has the speed of a DE and is used all over the field to pressure the quarterback and rungame with his impressive speed. No doubt his first defensive touchdowns, both coming in 2009, made Ed Reed quite happy.
9. Keith Bulluck, Titans

Games played: 16 Tackles: 98
Sacks: .5 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: He doesn't put up huge sack numbers, so he doesn't get the attention of some others. But he's a complete linebacker.
9. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers
Comment: He is DeMarcus Ware only, er, younger? This physical specimen racked up 11.5 sacks in his first year on the job starting for the NFL's best defense. He has recorded at least two sacks in EVERY playoff game he played in, including a Super Bowl with two crucial sacks and the game ending forced fumble with 5 seconds left.
10. Chad Greenway, Vikings

Games played: 16 Tackles: 115
Sacks: 5.5 Interceptions: 0
Analysis: Here's another all-round linebacker who can do a little of everything. He's just not reaching his best football-playing days.
10. Adalius Thomas, Patriots
Comment: If healthy he will jump into the top 5. His physical ability and his ball-hawk mentality change the way the Patriots gameplan their opponents. Heck, the guy is cousins with Giants standout DE Justin Tuck; football runs through these guys' veins.
 
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