1. Brian Urlacher – Bears
As a Viking fan I’m probably biased toward 4-3 linebackers. That whole 3-4 thing is strange and scary to me. So that’s probably why I rank Urlacher and Briggs automatically above that guy from the Packers who I’ll talk about later. And when it comes to deciding between Briggs and Urlacher, two guys who are arguably dead-even at this point in their careers…I guess I’m just biased toward the guy in the middle, the hub around whom the whole wheel revolves. Also, having watched various Viking MLBs struggle in drop-back coverage for years, I guess I just admire a guy like Urlacher who does that particular job so well. The dude’s just a smart, really good football player. He’s a Bear and I don’t even hate him. He gets a slight demerit for dating that wacko Jenny McCarthy.
2. Lance Briggs – Bears
It’s a coin flip between Briggs and Urlacher, the Tango & Cash of linebackers. Actually, statistically, it’s probably not a coin flip. Right now Briggs probably has the edge on Urlacher. The geek sites like Pro Football Focus rank him as one of the very best defensive playmakers in the game, right up there with your Patrick Willis and your D’Qwell Jackson and your Brian Cushing. 4-3 linebackers are sort of overlooked these days though, so Briggs maybe doesn’t get the pub. Thing that makes Briggs special is, he covers almost as well as he tracks down ball carriers. He’s sort of what you might call the perfect Cover-2 weak-side backer.
3. Clay Matthews – Packers
He may look like a girl but he plays like a man. True, the Packer defense is a steaming pile of horse poop, but that’s not Claymaker’s fault. It’s not his fault the secondary can’t tackle or that B.J. Raji is basically a useless turd. Claymaker’s still out there making clays, er, plays. When’s he gonna get that new contract by the way? $800,000? That’s a slap in the face. I know cause Percy Harvin told me.
4. Stephen Tulloch – Lions
The Lions finally caved and gave Stephen Tulloch the long-term deal they didn’t want to give him in 2011. Smart move since you could argue he’s the best 4-3 MLB in the league right now, with Urlacher on the downslope. The Lions have possibly the best front-seven in the league and Tulloch is a huge reason why. He’s also one of the few Lions who doesn’t tend to get arrested every other week, so that’s a plus.5. Chad Greenway – Vikings
Chad Greenway just makes tackles. He doesn’t make that many in the backfield but let’s not nit-pick. You get in Greenway’s vicinity and he’ll probably bring you down. He’s a solid workmanlike defensive player. Not a lot of interceptions or big plays but, let’s not be negative. Oh, and he’s a nice guy too.
Other Guys to Watch: Desmond Bishop (Packers), Nick Perry (Packers), Erin Henderson (Vikings)