Three-down LBs more scarce as pass plays increase

Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett had a simple answer for how often he left the field Mark Barron Authentic Jersey when the opponent had the ball.

A slight exaggeration? Perhaps.

What’s certain is that an NFL linebacker’s role has changed since Tippett’s retirement after the 1993 season ended a 12-year career, all with the New England Patriots, in which he sacked quarterbacks, shadowed receivers, tackled rushers and tried to catch his breath.

In today’s NFL, few linebackers are as busy as Tippett. Rules that encourage passing have led teams to replace a big linebacker with a speedier one, or with a defensive back in nickel packages. Some linebackers are used exclusively to rush the passer. Others are used in running situations. And many linebackers are not as well-rounded coming into the league because they have less practice time in college, and even NCAA coaches are using a platoon system.

”That position has been specialized for several years now,” New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.
Today’s linebackers must tussle with big, fast tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Julius Thomas and Jason Witten all are at least 6-feet-5 and 250 pounds. And who can keep up with super-speedy Vernon Davis?

Through 2008, there was just one season in NFL history, 2005, when at least eight tight ends caught 60 passes or more. That’s been done in each of the last five seasons.
In Tippett’s 12 years, tight ends caught at least 60 passes just 28 times. In the past three years, 31 have done it.

”Everybody seems to have that special guy that, is he a tight end? Is he a wide receiver? Is he both?” Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. ”So you do need special people” to cover them.

Few teams have more than two linebackers who play all of the first three downs.

Last season, only 73 linebackers played more than two-thirds of the league-wide average of running and passing plays. Just 60 of them, less than two per team, were on the field for more than three-quarters of that amount.
”You look at those Super Bowl years (the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons) that we won, we won with the 3-4 defense and most of those guys pretty much stayed on the field,” said Tippett, the Patriots director of community affairs and franchise leader with 100 sacks. ”It’s a badge of honor.”

New England coach Bill Belichick recalls having Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson and Harry Carson in the 1980s when he was linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for the Giants.

”I can’t remember too many times when (they) were standing behind me,” Belichick said, ”but it wasn’t very often.”
Just like the freedom defenders once had to hit quarterbacks and receivers, those days are gone. And this season officials are cracking down on contact with receivers.

The three-down linebacker ”is a dying breed,” said Gunther Cunningham, senior coaching assistant with the Detroit Lions who has spent the past 32 seasons as an NFL head coach or assistant.

One of his linebackers, Stephen Tulloch, rarely comes off the field.

”It takes a lot of work in the offseason, taking care of your body to stop the run and defend the pass,” Tulloch said, ”and a lot of work in season watching film so you can help the team in every situation.”

A run-stopping linebacker usually is replaced by a defensive back on third down, especially with the increase in four-receiver formations.

The days of smashmouth football when Dick Butkus patrolled the middle are long gone.

”The evolution you can trace to certain rule changes that make (it) a little bit more advantageous to throw,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. ”You are still looking for big, strong guys that can defend the run on first and second down and have the versatility to play in coverage.”

Top linebackers Ahmad Brooks of San Francisco, Lavonte David of Tampa Bay, Tamba Hali of Kansas City and Luke Kuechly of Carolina play all three downs.

So do Philadelphia’s four starting linebackers; DeMeco Ryans played 1,189 snaps last season, the most of any NFL defensive player. That’s more than 74 snaps per game.

Now his workload may be reduced.

”I’ve said, ‘Look, I know you want to be out there every down, everybody does. But I’m telling you right now that I’m going to work to get some ways to give you some relief to have you with us in Week 15 and 16,’” Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said, ”and he’s great about it.”

Tippett wouldn’t have liked that at all.

He has worked in the Patriots’ front office since retiring and has teased players in the locker room.

”I say, ‘You know, I never came off the field. You know that, don’t you?’” Tippett said. ”Then they’ll start laughing a little bit.”

Long Davis homer lifts Pirates over Cardinals 3-1

Ike Davis wasn’t able to play meaningful late-season games during his time with the New York Mets. He’s making the most of his chance Lavonte David Authentic Jersey with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
”It’s the first time he’s been involved in games that have this kind of significance this late in the season,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday after Davis’ long home run keyed a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. ”He’s showing up to the ballpark ready contribute any way he can.”

Davis hit a two-run drive off a speaker above the seats in right-center field in the second inning. A day earlier, Davis had a pinch-hit, tiebreaking, three-run homer in the eighth inning of Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win.

Davis arrived in the major leagues with the New York Mets in 2010 and was traded to Pittsburgh in April. The Mets finished with losing records in all of his seasons in New York.

”It’s hard when you’re mathematically eliminated,’ Davis said. ”You hit a home run and it’s a great feeling still, but it’s kind of like it didn’t really matter. If you’re still in it, it definitely feels a little sweeter.”

Davis hit his 10th homer after Adam Wainwright (15-9) plunked Russell Martin on the left elbow with a pitch that Martin barely tried to avoid. Davis sent an 88 mph cutter clanking off a speaker raised on a pole, about 15 feet above the seats, a drive estimated at about 433 feet.
”I just got the barrel on it,” Davis said. ”It just carried out today.”

Wainwright knew he made a mistake when he saw where his pitch was headed.

”I threw it right into Ike’s swing path, and he made a good swing on it,” Wainwright said. ”I wanted to get the pitch higher, but I got it and down and in, and that’s a left-handed hitter’s honey spot right there.”

Davis also had an inning-ending lineout that left the bases loaded in the fifth.
Pittsburgh took two of three from the defending NL champions and has won five of seven overall. St. Louis (71-61) leads the NL wild-card race, with San Francisco (69-62) trailing by 1 1/2 games and the Pirates (69-64) one game back of the Giants for the second wild-card berth.
Jeff Locke (6-3) allowed one run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings, giving up Matt Holliday’s third-inning homer. Locke also singled in the third and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly, just the 11th hit for the pitcher in 98 career at-bats.

Mark Melancon pitched a one-hit ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.

Locke escaped trouble in the third, stranding Daniel Descalso on third when Josh Harrison made a diving stop on Randal Grichuk’s two-out grounder down the line and threw to first

Wainwright allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. He gave up five runs to Philadelphia on Aug. 22 and has gone winless in consecutive starts for just the second time this season.

”Yo’ure not going to be at your best all time,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”Right now, he’s not at his best, but he showed some good signs today.”


C Yadier Molina was to begin an injury rehab assignment and catch five innings for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday and could return to the Cardinals on Friday. He has been on the 15-day DL since July 10 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. … RHP Michael Wacha was to throw a batting practice session before Springfield’s game Wednesday. A right shoulder stress reaction landed Wacha on the DL on June 18.

3B Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game due to left foot discomfort. Alvarez left PNC Park with a walking boot on his foot after Tuesday’s game and was seen wearing the boot in the clubhouse Wednesday.


St. Louis opens a three-game series at home Friday against the Chicago Cubs. RHP Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.26 ERA) is slated to start against Chicago LHP Felix Doubront (2-4, 6.07 ERA).


Pittsburgh is off Thursday before the Pirates continue their six-game homestand against the Cincinnati Reds. RHP Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.56 ERA) starts the opener against Lavonte David Elite Jersey his former team and RHP Mike Leake (10-11, 3.51 ERA).


Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was in the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game because of discomfort in the same area of his ribs that caused him to go on the 15-day DL earlier this month. McCutchen finished 1 for 3 with a RBI. ”We’re always going to be a better team with him in the lineup,” Hurdle said.

The Eagle gathered

The Eagle gathered infront of a small training camp for two weeks, but it sounds like a rookie receiver Qiao Danma Hughes may be from one day mid-season.

Since last month’s leave from the online travel agency, has called the work of bending Matthews Performance Institute and Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson and AJ Green’s training facility in Atlanta. By Tom bending machine operation, the device has seen the door to the best in the league.

Tim McManus bird talk 24/7, Bender said Hawks rookie has been impressive, their limited time together.

“They like him, they love his work.” Del. “He approached AJ maybe the next day he is here, began to ask the key question of which one of the biggest things that you have to re-translate the season to take care of your body how your product will keep your body and you As for Calvin, a lot of people, but he was not, then he helped [Matthews] to correct some of his route running. ”

To the people around him are no new Matthews for his teammates praised Matthews online travel agency in the last month.

“I think he is a great addition to our quarterback,” Nick Foles said. “I think he’s doing a great job, what to buy chips (Kelly) want us to do here.”

From teammates and media acclaim, Matthews has led to high expectations, he was still running second team last month.

While this may be only temporary, and that is the fact that Matthews is a rookie, and according bender, there are a lot he can improve.

“It’s just a way for him to move better,” Bender, “clean up his route, just clean up all aspects of his game.”

Where Matthews’ ultimately ends up on the Eagles’ depth chart will be interesting. There is no denying he needs to prove he can play in the NFL, but he seems to have the highest ceiling of any receiver on the Eagles given his combination of size and speed.

Especially if he played a level, Johnson and Green apparently thinks he can.