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Why Rolando McClain Can Be a 4-3 Linebacker, But Sean Weatherspoon Can’t Be a Middle Linebacker

There is an interesting debate happening on one of the last posts. Basically, it is: Why do I think McClain can switch from a 34 middle linebacker to a 43, and why Sean Weatherspoon can’t be a middle linebacker. It’s an interesting question.

Here’s what I wrote about McClain on that thread:

Here’s why I think McClain will be fine switching to 43 ILB. He can shed blockers quickly, so he doesn’t need to protected, like he would be in a 34. He’s good enough in coverage, so he doesn’t have to be a two down thumper. He can get sideline to sideline. In a 34, if you’re too slow, like Brandon Spikes, you’re kind of protected. McClain isn’t that slow. He’s not the quickest, but he isn’t slow. I think he’ll be okay.

In a 43, your middle linebacker has to be a great tackler. McClain is. You have to be particularly strong against the run. McClain is. You have to hold your own in coverage. McClain can. You have to shed blockers. McClain can.  McClain can also work great in a 34. But, he’ll be fine in a 43.

Let’s move on to Weatherspoon:

As for Spoon, there’s a couple things thing that concern me a bit about being an inside linebacker. He has trouble shedding blockers. He doesn’t always react quickly. He’s better in space. So, as an outside linebacker, he’ll fit perfectly. He’s quick enough to stay with running backs and linebackers, but he’ll be effective as a blitzer on the outside. I think, if needed, he could be fine at the Mike back. But on a consistent basis, he’s better off at the Will (or even the sam, I think he’s flexible enough)

So as a middle backer, Weatherspoon will need to be protected by stud defensive tackles. That doesn’t really fly in a a 43. I actually think Spoon would be a great 34 middle linebacker. But, as a 43 ILB, he’s not great. He doesn’t react quickly. He’s not great at diagnosing plays. As a middle linebacker, especially in a 43, you have to diagnose really quickly, and attack. You can’t hesistate. He’s also overly aggressive. You overrun a play, and there’s a big gain. He tends to run around blocks, and his speed is not enough to do that at the NFL level. He has to be more in space, where he can close in on some one, not fighting through traffic, like a MLB. At his size, (6-1, 240), he’ll be better off at OLB.

As an OLB, Spoon can stay with the receivers, and wall off the deep threats. He can force runners to the outside. He can also be an effective blitzer.

If the Giants were to draft Spoon, that means they see something I don’t, and think he’ll be effective at ILB. Maybe he will. But, there’s one thing: McClain will be a better 43 linebacker than Weatherspoon will be. That’s what you have to go with. Here’s the other thing: Weatherspoon may be able to play ILB, but he’s BETTER at outside linebacker. You want to maximize a guy’s potential. Weatherspoon won’t reach his potential at ILB. Rolando McClain will be the better fit.


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10 Responses to “Why Rolando McClain Can Be a 4-3 Linebacker, But Sean Weatherspoon Can’t Be a Middle Linebacker”

  1. Rene says:

    McClain is not a good tackler,IMO he will have alot of miss tackles in the pros with his style of tackling,Spoon is a thumper which McClain is not,Spoon can play the middle until we draft Lee in the second LOL

    • kvnbntly says:

      i thought the same thing in his highlight/lowlight clip. he likes to ragdoll the defenders, most tackles included grabbing the defernder and atleast 180 degree spin throwning him to the ground. at :54 seconds of this clip i can see more of this happening to him in the pro’s. its not something that can’t be fixed though
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miJwMCgaxKo

  2. Giants says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It seems most of Giants land only wants a “LB” and don’t really care what LB he is, when that’s just flat out the wrong way to go.

    McClain is a Mike, Spoon is a Will. We don’t need a Will.

    I can’t stand whenever I see Sergio Kindle mocked to the Giants as it makes no sense with Clint Sintim being the same player, and already here.

    I also can’t stand to see Spoon, as Michael Boley is the same player and already on the roster.

  3. Jeremy says:

    There is one major flaw in your assessment Fuchs. Our first round pick doesn’t have to start right away. and if the Giants believe that Spoon will be a better LB from year 2+ then I’m okay with him being drafted. Mclain will probably be better in Year one, but that’s not why you draft a player. A player is drafted for the long haul. But I digress, I’ve made it perfectly clear I want a lineman drafted in the first round, but I doubt that will happen. So let the LB debate continue.

  4. Andrew says:

    speaking of assessments — how about what the Giants went ahead and did after theirs.

    They said any one of 5 guys they already have should step up and fill that void in the middle… and should they draft a LB so much the better.

    And when they could have dropped some coin on Dansby who could come in an hit the ground running, they thought much better of solution to sign Rolle… because Safety was THE BIGGEST need of the entire season.

    While it would be great to sign a future Ray Lewis — odds are not in the Giants favor. Optimizing the defense around the guys in the middle they’ve already invested in might be the better scenario here.

  5. twoo says:

    Two other things about McClain that I think are important. 1) He’s a smart player and is like a coach on the field. Having a guy out there who is smart enough to make the right adjustments and playcalls makes the whole defense better. 2) He’s a fiery guy and he inspires people. He was without question the leader of the Bama defense. To really understand why McClain is such a valuable player I think you need to look not just at his skills in isolation, but what he brings to the entire defense.

    I think of him as being similar to Pierce in terms of his on-field smarts and leadership abilities. While there are some questions about his speed, I’m pretty sure he’s a few steps faster than Pierce, who was fast enough for us to win a Super Bowl.

    • Steve B. says:

      I think the same as you. He is a faster, stronger, bigger version of Pierce. I love the fact that he is a film junkie, and it shows by how quickly he diagnoses plays. I like Weatherspoon, think he can play the middle, but I think his real potential is at OLB, that where he can really shine. McClain to be is ILB all the way.

      Plus, I’ve found this out awhile ago, that McClain played in the 4-3 in High School, and he was good enough in that system to be recruited to Alabama, so Nuff said.

      • Dan says:

        Interesting argument, but I have a couple problems with it. One- your argument is based on the Will and Mike in a 43 being very different spots. No coach would ever say that, they are quite similar, and usually their reads are taught together.
        As for the argument about McClain, I agree he will be great, but not against the pass. His film doesn’t show that, and he definitely does not have sideline to sideline agility. He is certainly a better run stopper than Spoon, but he’s not near as good in coverage. In a 34 McClain will be a pro bowler, but with the added responsibilities of a 43, I’m doubtful.
        We already know Spoon can play Will, we’ve seen him play some Mike, and like you said he could probably play Sam.
        There’s a lot more to this argument, but I think on the scheme part of it, there’s a lot of guess-work without real knowledge of alignments and what they entail.
        Anyway, good article, glad to hear your opinions, keep up the good work guys.

  6. Guess says:

    FreeBradshaw runs this site. You all know who.

  7. sam says:

    I want the Giants to think Dan Williams then Rolando McClain or trade back if possible. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH, I think Im going to go crazy! I dont know anymore! I like Dan Williams alot and I think he can be the next Pat Williams but we DONT HAVE A LEADER IN THE MIDDLE!! I think Im going to freeze myself until next Thursday!!!!

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