Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Easy to defend this group
Young linebackers provide big boost
By Mike Reiss
August 11, 2008
When compared to the rest of the NFL over the last eight years, the Patriots have done well in identifying college talent and integrating those players into their system.
And any mention of young linebackers must also include Pierre Woods, a rookie free agent from 2006, who although now in his third season has not seen extensive playing time in the regular defense at outside 'backer. But Woods (6-5, 250 pounds) essentially went wire to wire Thursday night and might have been the most impressive linebacker of all with three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
As a former linebacker, longtime Patriot Steve Nelson naturally was keeping an eye on the team's new talent at the position.
Then there was Woods, who began building positive momentum on the second play of the game by taking on fullback Le'Ron McLain, shedding his block, and dropping Rice after a 1-yard gain. It was the type of no-frills power-based play that outside linebackers must make to earn playing time in the Patriots' defense. Woods then capped his night in the fourth quarter by sacking quarterback Joe Flacco and forcing a fumble, which he recovered.
"I thought he played the best out of all of them," Nelson said. "He was around the ball all night. You can see him improving, and that's going to be important for the Patriots because through the course of the year you need seven, eight linebackers to play."