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Grading The Linebackers

This is likely to be the shortest entry in the series. As I have been droning on and on about throughout my examination of the 2010 season there was very little depth on this team in 2010. At no position is this fact more evident than Linebacker. Here is the complete list of Cincinnati Linebackers that played meaningful snaps* in 2010

* Meaningful snaps defined as snaps played at linebacker while the game was still in doubt. Sepcial teams not included

The list would have just been the starters if Bomar hadn't been injured in the Pitt game. For a team to be successful at this level they have to be able to go two deep at every position. The game is too fast and too physical to just play the same three guys all game long and expect results. Even if it is just giving a starter a blow for a play or two here or there having that option is invaluable for a coaching staff. UC didn't have that this season at all and it really had a devastating effect. Lets take a look at the production of the linebackers this year and see just how much those three starters did for the defense this season.

Tackles TFL Sacks INT Forced Fumbles
Total 284 28.5 8 1 5
Starters 241 25.5 7 1 5
Starers % 85 89 88 100 100

The INT and Forced Fumbles one might be a little bit iffy but the tackles and TFL stats clearly show how little depth there was. I will fully admit that there isn't an arbitrary standard that the unit should be striving for in terms of distribution of tackles. The bottom line here is that the starters played way too many snaps because there was no recourse, there was no back ups so they had to play. Early in the year it wasn't a problem, hell for most of the year it wasn't a problem. UC had a top 20 run defense until November and these guys were all hyper productive. But playing as many snaps as these guys did game after game with very little rest had a cumulative effect. After giving up an average of 106 yards per game on 3.15 yards per carry through the first 7 games of the year the run defense was completely ineffectual in the last five games. The numbers? 176.2 yards per game (222.5 if you toss out the game against the comically inept Rutgers rushing attack) on 3.8 yards per carry (4.4 tossing out the Rutgers game again)

The bottom line is that the Linebackers did about as well as you could expect considering the lack of depth and the time that those three guys spent on the field. I would venture to guess that if you looked at the snaps played for the entire roster that J.K. Schaffer and Maalik Bomar would finish 1-2 and that Walter Stewart would be in the top 5, and that's no way to build and maintain a successful defense.One of the biggest needs of this team in the off season is to build up enough depth to have an actual rotation at linebacker. For that to happen they are going to need Solomon Tentman to rehab his knee injury and guys on the roster like Josh Russ and Antwan Darling to step up and for some of the incoming Freshmen to come in ready to play and provide some depth to the position.

Whats your take on the linebackers and their performance this year? Do you give them the benefit of the doubt for dealing with rough circumstances or not?