Expectations are high on the frays that will ensue once we table the top five linebackers in the AFC North. If your friends describe you as an irascible individual, you might as well read another article on our home page. We're culling the most elite linebackers from a division that boasts the top linebacking corps in the league. Somebody hand me a Kit-Kat bar.
1. It's fourth-and-two and the offense is not in field goal range. Both Marshawn Lynch and Le'Veon Bell are in the backfield thinking "this is slight work." Insert Linebacker's Name knows better.
2. Production outweighs intangibles. Sack totals does not outweigh solo tackles.
3. Per usual, none of the linebackers sustain injuries in 2015 (hypothetically).
Barely Missed the Cut
8. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
Rehabbing from microfracture surgery. Uncertainties denied him a lock on our #Top5eries.
7. Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens
Refer to Rule #2. A byproduct of success on any defense when he's assigned duties as a "role player," Dumervil has never charted more than 42 solo tackles in a season (2009). Doom, however, puts the "king" in "sacking," with 90 in just eight seasons.
6. Karlos Dansby, Cleveland Browns
I've got nothing but respect for Dansby; the journeyman is entering his 12th NFL season. On the back nine of his career, I still believe the vet, although less agile, plays an integral role on the Browns defense in 2015. Barkevious Mingo, like Burfict, is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and therefore, due to obvious setbacks, his #Top5eries candidacy was denied.
From most electrifying ... to most adroit:
5. A.J. Hawk, Cincinnati Bengals
Welcome to the AFC North, champ. In Hawk's best campaign with the Packers, 2010, he defensed 10 passes, and recorded three interceptions, 111 tackles and 1/2 sack. His contributions helped Green Bay take down the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. He brings Super Bowl experience to Cincy ... something even my grandma who doesn't watch football knows they need.
4. Paul Kruger, Cleveland Browns
The former Ravens outside linebacker is still a reliable force to be reckoned with. The Browns linebacking unit relies on Kruger to wreak havoc in the backfield and sack quarterbacks (11 in 2014), and create turnovers (led the Browns defense in forced fumbles with 4). I expect Kruger to do greater things this upcoming season.
3. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh Steelers
Timmons has more room for bloom. Without Jason Worilds and ... James Harrison busy attending his lawn-mowing duties (trying to keep his job), the Steelers secondary and defensive linemen might want to treat Timmons to a fancy dinner every weekend this offseason. There's a lot
of steak at stake for Pittsburgh in 2015, especially with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retiring.
2. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
The Thor of the Raven-gers, Suggs is one of the most respected outside linebackers in the league. Entering his 13th season, the humble yet tenacious leader will size up again and log in double-digit sack totals for the seventh time in his illustrious 13-year career.
1. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens
133 tackles as a 22-year-old rookie. 89 of them: solo. Pro Bowler. Ray Lewis, when he was 22, was a second-year pro making his Pro Bowl debut after registering 156 combined tackles in '97. People fear that Mosley will suffer a case of the sophomore slumps.
That's an ginormous #ChildPlease. Fresh Mosley will flourish in 2015; look for an increase in his production alongside beast-partner Daryl Smith.