Training camp is right around the corner, and as always, there are several key storylines to keep an eye on at this point in the offseason.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of the more noteworthy ones set to play out at Jack Hammett Sports Complex as well as during the preseason.
What’s the Revamped Linebacker Rotation?
One of the very first things General Manager Tom Telesco expressed during his end-of-year press conference in January was to bolster the linebacker position.
The group was decimated by injuries a year ago, so much so that the Bolts resorted to playing primarily seven defensive backs during their playoff run.
Well, true to his word, Telesco made several moves to reload the position. He began by bringing back Denzel Perryman before adding one of the best at the position over the past decade in Thomas Davis.
“Thomas Davis, I'm getting to know him each and every day that we're together,” Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Just his professionalism, you hear what he brings to the table as a player and his demeanor and his work ethic. Then, to experience it (is another thing). It's hard when you're learning a defense to create a standard of what's acceptable. He's done that from day one. He's great in that room, awesome. I think as he has a better understanding — and that's what we're seeing. That's what I think with minicamp for him now, where he is starting to have a really good understanding and hold all of the other guys accountable, it just comes naturally for him. He's been a big get for us.”
The Bolts also devoted two picks in the draft to linebacker, selecting Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquil in the fourth round and Houston’s Emeke Egbule in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Bolts get back Kyzir White, the impressive youngster who appeared in only three games his rookie season after earning the starting job. They also return Jatavis Brown, who emerged as one of the team’s top tacklers but was felled by an injury in the regular season finale. Meanwhile, Uchenna Nwosu is set to play a bigger role in year two, primarily at OTTO in the team’s base package.
There are obviously several playmakers at linebacker, and now it’s Bradley’s job to figure out roles for each one of them. What that rotation looks like specifically should come into focus during training camp and exhibition play.
“That's the group that I think, specifically, that we're looking at and moving some guys around just to see how it fits,” Bradley noted during last month’s minicamp. “Kyzir, to see where he is playing. He's playing multiple positions for us. Denzel Perryman is still limited, but we're seeing him come back. [Same with] Jatavis Brown. I think the big thing is the competition within that group. I think if you look from top to bottom that it's a stronger group and there's a lot more competition. That's a good thing. Now, it's compete and stay healthy…. (Linebackers) Coach (Richard) Smith has done a great job having these guys play multiple positions, just attacks them to see what they can handle.”
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