Punch Drunk Wonderland

Linebackers who could benefit from injury/suspension circumstance in 2014

We all know who the elite linebacker IDPs are, but let’s take a look at some of the players that have potential to sneak into a larger role in 2014. Circumstance happens for NFL players. Things like injuries and suspensions can open all kinds of doors of opportunity. Below is a look at some players that stand to move up the depth chart in 2014 as a result of unfortunate circumstance befallen teammates.

Michael Wilhoite (ILB, San Francisco)

Wilhoite and Borland (see below) will be competing for the starting role filling in for injured Navorro Bowman. Currently, Wilhoite has been practicing with the first team in OTAs, but he will need to hold off the rookie. In all likelihood there will be a good deal of rotation at ILB during Bowman’s absence.  Still, the opportunity to produce is there.

Chris Borland (ILB, San Francisco)

Borland is undersized for an NFL ILB, but that isn’t going to matter in 2014. He should get every opportunity to find a role filling in for Navorro Bowman. He has to beat out Michael Wilhoite for a starting spot, but the opportunity is there.  As mentioned above, there will likely be a rotation at the position so he’s going to get some time. If he can shine, his chances will increase. At least until Bowman comes back.

Kevin Minter (ILB, Arizona)

After losing Karlos Dansby to free agency and Daryl Washington to suspension Arizona’s linebacker situation is in shambles. Circumstance is so bad that there’s speculation that the team could move safeties to play linebacker. Second year LB Kevin Minter stands to benefit the most from the unfortunate situation as he’s going to be thrust into the role of defensive signal caller. He has great breakout IDP potential for 2014.

Devonte Holloman (MLB, Dallas)

The injury of Sean Lee creates a void in the middle for Dallas.  The competition will be between Holloman, Anthony Hitchens (see below), and Justin Durant. I like Holloman quite a bit and all indications are pointing to him having the inside track.

Anthony Hitchens (MLB, Dallas)

Similar to the Borland situation with the Niners, Hitchens is getting the best opportunity he could ask for coming in as a rookie. He’ll have the chance to battle for the starting middle linebacker position in the absence of Sean Lee.

Joplo Bartu (OLB, Atlanta)

The injury to Sean Weatherspoon comes heavy for the Falcons, but it’s going to mean big opportunity for second year player Bartu. Bartu was a two-down player much of 2013, but he could very likely see an expanded role.

Bjoern Werner (OLB, Indianapolis)

The four game suspension of star Robert Mathis leaves the Colts hurting for an outside rush. Second year player Werner is in line to land the starting spot, and early indications are promising. He had a disappointing rookie season in 2013, but he has potential to rise to the occasion this year.  Werner will get the opportunities to succeed in the Colts rush heavy 3-4 defense, and his production in the absence of Mathis early will give indications on where he will fall on the depth chart for the rest of the season.

Jameel McClain (MLB, New York Giants)

Jon Beason isn’t expected to be healthy for the start of the season, and all indications are pointing to McClain getting the nod a middle linebacker. He came in as insurance after the Beason injury and while his primary experience has been on the strong side, he is the best candidate for the MLB spot at this point. Spencer Paysinger and rookie Devon Kennard will be battling it out for the strong side spot.



K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...