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Top 10 Linebackers Entering the 2018 NFL Season

by Glenn Kaplan
by Glenn Kaplan

Linebacker is one of the trickiest positions to play in the NFL. They have move horizontally and vertically at a very fast pace. Some players outside linebacker and some player play inside linebacker. It also depends if a player plays in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. No matter what, linebackers have to the IQ to stop the run, pressure the quarterback, and play in coverage. Who are the top 10 ten linebackers entering the 2018 NFL Season?

10. Jordan Hicks, Middle Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles: When Hicks is healthy, he is a monster on the defensive side of the ball. Hicks has very good senses. He only played in seven games last season because Hicks ruptured his Achilles in a Monday Night game against the Washington Redskins. A lot of people thought this was going to hurt the Eagles defense and it some what did, but it didn't matter at the end because they won the Super Bowl. Philadelphia's defense might be even better in 2018 if he is healthy for an entire season. Jordan Hicks had 28 tackles and one fumble recovery last season.

9. Thomas Davis, Outside Linebacker, Carolina Panthers: Davis is one of the heart and souls on this Panthers defense. Carolina's linebacking core is the strength of this defense and it was one of the reasons why they made it to the playoffs last season. He is 35 years old and Davis is probably close to retiring but, he continues to play at a high level week in and week out. Thomas Davis is very good at stop the running. He had 76 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery last season.

8. Dont'a Hightower, Outside Linebacker, New England Patriots: Hightower is one of those players who does more than what it just says on the stat sheet. His presence alone makes the New England Patriots defense better. The Patriots defense was horrendous last season. Hightower only played in seven games and he missed the rest of the 2017 season with a pectoral injury. Dont'a Hightower recorded 14 tackles and had two sacks last season.

7. Bruce Irvin, Outside Linebacker, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders don't have a very good defense other than Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Irvin is physical at the point of attack. He is a headache to deal with at times and Irvin was a part of the 2014 Seattle Seahawks championship squad. He had 58 tackles, forced four fumbles, and recorded eight sacks last season with the Oakland Raiders.

6. Sean Lee, Inside Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys defense is a lot more vulnerable when Sean Lee is out of the lineup compared to when he is not. Lee is one of the smartest linebackers in the game. He knows when to change a defensive play and it allows the defense to disguise it better and force opponents into bad plays. Sean Lee was relatively healthy for the 2017 season. He recorded 101 tackles and had one interception.

5. Telvin Smith, Outside Linebacker, Jacksonville Jaguars: Smith was one of the anchors of the Jacksonville defense last season, whom nick named themselves Sacksonsville. Telvin Smith was very good at stopping the run and he was tremendous in pass coverage. Smith recorded 102 tackles and had one sack. He forced one fumble and recovered two of them. Telvin Smith picked off three passes and one of them was returned for a 28-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in Week 5. Smith also had a fumble recovery in the AFC Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road and it was returned 50 yards for a touchdown.

4. C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens: Mosley is starting to emerge as Baltimore's leader in the middle of the football field since the days of Ray Lewis. The Ravens defense pitched a couple of shutouts last season because of C.J. Mosley being the anchor of this defense. They'd be in a lot of trouble without him. Mosley is one of the best linebackers in the game. He recorded 132 tackles, recorded one sack, forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles, and picked off two passes last season. C.J. Mosley had a pick-six in a Week 8 game at home against the Miami Dolphins.

3. Bobby Wagner, Inside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks: Wagner seems to be the only member of the Seattle defense that is left from the 2014 Super Bowl team. He is still the anchor of that defense but it lost its swagger. Bobby Wagner gives it all week in and week out. He recorded 133 tackles and 1.5 sacks and recovered one fumble. Wagner also picked off two passes.

2. Luke Kuechley, Inside Linebacker, Carolina Panthers: Kuechley is very good moving from side-to-side and he sniffs out very well whatever is coming his way. Luke Kuechley is amazing at making sure running backs don't get pass him and he is tremendous in coverage. Kuechley had 125 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season. He forced one fumble and recovered two of them. Luke Kuechley picked off three passes.

1. Von Miller, Outside Linebacker, Denver Broncos: Miller is a freakish athlete and he can change the game in one play. Von Miller was Super Bowl L MVP for a reason. He can pressure the quarterback from any angle and his speed is elusive. Miller goes all out on every play and he plays every snap like it's his last. Miller's enthusiasm is so high that he has been apparently ruining practice. Von Miller recorded 57 tackles and 10 sacks last season. He forced two fumbles and recovered one of them.

This article was originally published on @gk18