Top 10 LBs in the NFL – Best Linebackers in the NFL in 2012

Last Updated: September 3rd, 2012 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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Linebackers are always some of the most crucial players on the field, as they have to anchor their defenses, rush the passer, and figure out how to stop the run. No two linebackers are exactly the same, but here at Bankroll Sports, we are going to be making our complete list of the Top 10 linebackers in the NFL for the 2012 season.

1: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys: You would figure that DC Rob Ryan would be able to take advantage of the fact that Ware is probably the best linebacker that the league has to offer. No one is able to get off of the line of scrimmage like Ware can, and he is just all over the place in this 3-4. Again, this is a very difficult linebacker from what we’re used to see, as Ware isn’t the best in coverage; nor is he a traditional run stopper. That being said, he had 19.5 sacks last year, and there is no denying just how special that really is.

2: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers: Build a prototype linebacker on Madden 2012 and you have Patrick Willis.  Willis has amassed a whopping 692 tackles over the course of his career already, and he is just 27 years old.  Nobody has a nose for the football like Willis does and he is constantly all over the field with his sub 4.4 speed. The difference as of late, is that he has a heck of a lot of playmakers on the field with him and his group should continue giving running backs and offensive coordinators fits.  Regardless, the 49ers wouldn’t be the same without Willis, and many football fans think that he is the best linebacker in the game.

3: D’Qwell Jackson, Cleveland Browns: Normally speaking, the man that leads the league in tackles is on a bad team, and that’s no exception for Jackson. That being said, over the course of the last three years, Jackson has had at least 150 tackles twice, and he is one of the pieces to the puzzle that the Browns are building around for the future. He will once again be one of the rising stars at the linebacker position in this league this year.

4: Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Yes, we might be overrating the second-year Miller just a bit; as the 4th best linebacker in the league.  But, we really think that he is in for an even better season this year than he had in his rookie campaign; where he racked up 11.5 sacks and 64 tackles. Miller was truly the difference last year for this team (not QB Tim Tebow).  We expect to see that remain the case again this year now that QB Peyton Manning is in charge of the offense.

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5: James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers: Perhaps we are being a bit hard on Harrison putting him down here on this list. However, we just aren’t so sure that he hasn’t lost a step, especially after dealing with a knee injury that nearly had him on the PUP list at the start of the campaign. When he comes back, he’ll likely be the high motor, physical beast that he has always been.  At the same time, he still has to prove to us that he is still one of the Top 5 linebackers in the game.

6: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens: Ray Ray obviously isn’t the linebacker that he once was, but he is still the emotional leader for one of the best defenses in the league. But, he can still fly all over the field, and there still isn’t a running back that wants to see this man coming right at him when he has the football.  With the injury to Suggs, Lewis will have to step up one again to anchor this Raven defense.

7: Brian Cushing, Houston Texans: There was a time that DeMeco Ryans was the highlighted linebacker for the Texans, but after switching to the 3-4, Cushing really became the middle linebacker to watch. He led the team in tackles last year and he has made just a ton of tackles in the backfield. Houston’s growth on defense is the reason that this team was able to get into the playoffs last year, and no question, the highly animated Cushing was the star of the show.

8: Rolando McClain, Oakland Raiders: McClain is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league in our eyes. He was drafted to the Raiders to be the anchor of the middle of this defense.  He has done just that. Yes, it hasn’t always been the best for the Oakland defense, but McClain feels like he is in the heart of every single big play that the team makes. He had 99 tackles, five sacks, and a whopping 13 pass deflections last year.  Expect the Raiders to improve on defense with McClain leading the charge.

9: Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs: As one of the fastest linebackers in the league, Johnson has a major positive on his side. There just isn’t a back or a quarterback in the NFL that can outrun Johnson, and there’s a good reason that he’s routinely one of the league leaders in tackles, just as he was in 2011 when he had 104 solo tackles and a total of 131 stops.

10: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers: This is yet another one of these second year linebackers that really made a huge difference in his rookie year. 49ers fans may prefer to see Navarro Bowman in this spot (as Patrick Willis’s sidekick), but the Niners wouldn’t have been in the NFC Championship game last year if not for Smith’s 14 sacks and 2 forced fumbles as a situational pass rusher.  He came right in and became one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.  The 49ers are very likely to use Smith as an every down player this year, which will likely inflate his numbers even more.

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Posted in NFL Football - Last Updated on Monday, September 3rd, 2012 @ 10:55 pm (EST)
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