Why prospect McClain can be a 4-3 LB, but Weatherspoon can’t be a MLB

rolando mclain

There is an interesting debate happening on one of the last posts. Basically, it is: Why do I think Rolando McClain can switch from a 34 middle linebacker to a 43, and why Sean Weatherspoon can’t be a middle linebacker. It’s an interesting question.

Here’s what I wrote about McClain on that thread:

Here’s why I think McClain will be fine switching to 43 ILB. He can shed blockers quickly, so he doesn’t need to protected, like he would be in a 34. He’s good enough in coverage, so he doesn’t have to be a two down thumper. He can get sideline to sideline. In a 34, if you’re too slow, like Brandon Spikes, you’re kind of protected. McClain isn’t that slow. He’s not the quickest, but he isn’t slow. I think he’ll be okay.

In a 43, your middle linebacker has to be a great tackler. McClain is. You have to be particularly strong against the run. McClain is. You have to hold your own in coverage. McClain can. You have to shed blockers. McClain can.  McClain can also work great in a 34. But, he’ll be fine in a 43.

Let’s move on to Weatherspoon:

As for Spoon, there’s a couple things thing that concern me a bit about being an inside linebacker. He has trouble shedding blockers. He doesn’t always react quickly. He’s better in space. So, as an outside linebacker, he’ll fit perfectly. He’s quick enough to stay with running backs and linebackers, but he’ll be effective as a blitzer on the outside. I think, if needed, he could be fine at the Mike back. But on a consistent basis, he’s better off at the Will (or even the sam, I think he’s flexible enough)

So as a middle backer, Weatherspoon will need to be protected by stud defensive tackles. That doesn’t really fly in a a 43. I actually think Spoon would be a great 34 middle linebacker. But, as a 43 ILB, he’s not great. He doesn’t react quickly. He’s not great at diagnosing plays. As a middle linebacker, especially in a 43, you have to diagnose really quickly, and attack. You can’t hesistate. He’s also overly aggressive. You overrun a play, and there’s a big gain. He tends to run around blocks, and his speed is not enough to do that at the NFL level. He has to be more in space, where he can close in on some one, not fighting through traffic, like a MLB. At his size, (6-1, 240), he’ll be better off at OLB.

As an OLB, Spoon can stay with the receivers, and wall off the deep threats. He can force runners to the outside. He can also be an effective blitzer.

If the Giants were to draft Spoon, that means they see something I don’t, and think he’ll be effective at ILB. Maybe he will. But, there’s one thing: McClain will be a better 43 linebacker than Weatherspoon will be. That’s what you have to go with. Here’s the other thing: Weatherspoon may be able to play ILB, but he’s BETTER at outside linebacker. You want to maximize a guy’s potential. Weatherspoon won’t reach his potential at ILB. Rolando McClain will be the better fit.

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