Last year linebackers Elvis Dumervil and David Harris turned into some of the elite players in the league. Many linebackers have emerged due to the fact of many teams moving to a 3-4 where they are used as pass rushers. Here are some linebackers that have the chance to take their games to the next level this upcoming season.
Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati Bengals: Maualuga played well as a rookie in an impressive Bengals defense and should only get better in his second year. With a strong front seven to go along with two shutdown corners, Maualuga should be a force this year and for years to come.
DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions: Levy was one of the few bright spots on a weak Lions defense last season recording 85 tackles in ten starts. Now he is entering his second season where he now has a strong defensive line in front of him and should have many opportunities. Levy should improve this upcoming year and is one of the Lions key building blocks as they continue to rebuild through the draft.
Kaluka Maiava, Cleveland Browns: While Maiava wasn’t as hyped as the three other USC linebackers who came out last year, he showed lots of promise. In three starts, he recorded 45 tackles 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. This year he should have the opportunity to be a starter and build on those numbers.
Jonathan Goff, New York Giants: After the retirement of Antonio Pierce, Goff a 6th round pick out of Vanderbilt now has the chance to be a key player in the Giants linebacker corps. He was impressive in limited playing time last year with 25 tackles, a sack and an interception in four starts. The Giants defense really struggled last year but they should get back to their old ways this season.
Quincy Black, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Black got his first extensive playing time in his third year and he didn’t disappoint. He started 13 games and recorded 84 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception. While they struggled last year, the Buccaneers defense does have its share of young talent and Black should continue to be a big contributor.
Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs: Hali made the switch to outside linebacker last year and had a career high recording 8.5 sacks. Now the Chiefs have Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator who should help improve the unit as a whole. Hali has the ability to be a double digit sack player and it wouldn’t be surprising if he reaches that status this year.
Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins: After putting up huge numbers in the CFL, Wake finally got an NFL opportunity last year and made the most of it. In a part time role he recorded 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Now with the departure of Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, Wake should step in and play a big role. It wouldn’t be surprising if he has a big year and turns out to be a late bloomer as a player like James Harrison was.