NFL’s 10 Best 3-4 Outside Linebackers: Do Ware, Spencer Top the List?
1. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
2. Lamarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers
Woodley was fourth in the NFL in pressures, second in sacks, and he is one of the league’s top run defenders.
3. Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys
Spencer accumulated quarterbacks hits at 1.77 times the rate of Ware in his breakout 2009 season. Not bad for a player who may be the league’s best run defending linebacker.
4. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison had a “down” year after an incredible 2008 season. He still racked up 10 sacks and was third in the NFL with 34 pressures.
5. Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos
Dumervil led the league in sacks in 2009 with 17. The reason he is not higher on this list is because his size makes it difficult for him to be anything more than an average run defender.
6. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
Matthews had a tremendous overall 2009 season and will be a cornerstone of the new Green Bay 3-4 defense.
7. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs
We stated above that Ware led the NFL in quarterback pressures. Hali was second. His run support will have to improve for him to make a move up the list.
8. Shawne Merriman, San Diego Chargers
Since being caught taking steroids, Merriman has been anything but dominant. He’s battled injuries during that time, but either way, everyone now knows made the correct decision in the Ware/Merriman draft debate.
9. Shaun Phillips, San Diego Chargers
Phillips is awfully close to surpassing Merriman as San Diego’s best outside linebacker, and perhaps their best defensive player.
10. Manny Lawson, San Francisco 49ers
Lawson has been an overall solid player for a team without a ton of them. He committed zero penalties in 2009.