New York Giants
The Giants signed a bunch of free agents this offseason, most of which were on the defensive side of the ball. Guys like Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Damon Harrison will help the defense improve, but the linebacker to target on the New York defense is Devon Kennard.
*Devon Kennard – Is a 25 year-old, former USC stud, who has played well in his two-year career as a Giant. The 2014 5th round pick averaged 6.4 tackles per game and showed excellent playmaking ability last year. However, Kennard’s first two NFL seasons have both been cut short by injury, so there is risk to Kennard’s upside if injuries continue to plague him. Injuries aside, Kennard is a projected starter in New York and will be a vital part of the defense in 2016.
The Cowboys linebackers are mess heading into the 2016 season. Since last year, their MLB Rolando McClain was suspended, their 2016 2nd round linebacker Jaylon Smith sustained a knee injury at Notre Dame which will likely cost him the season, and their recent free agent signing (Justin Durant) is 30 years old with injury concerns. If you’re looking for a guy who will have plenty of opportunity to thrive, look at Anthony Hitchens.
*Anthony Hitchens – Was selected in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Iowa. In his two seasons as a Cowboy, Hitchens has been ok, averaging around 70 total tackles per season. This year should change all of that! Hitchens is penciled in as the starting MLB at the moment, and has little competition for snaps, so he’ll be on the field making a bunch of plays in 2016.
The Eagles let go of DeMeco Ryans and traded away Kiko Alonso in the wake of the Chip Kelly dismissal. These moves have made way for a few new faces to fly high in the Eagles defense. This offseason, Philadelphia signed former Buffalo Bill Nigel Bradham to play SLB, but the guy to have on the Eagles defense is Jordan Hicks.
*Jordan Hicks – was selected in the 3rd round out of Texas in 2015. Hicks is now the every-down MIKE linebacker in Jim Schwartz’s wide-nine, which will translate to plenty of opportunity for the ex-Longhorn. Hicks is coming off of a torn pectoral muscle, but at 24, he is expected to have multiple years of strong productivity ahead.
It’s very difficult to get a read on the Redskins linebackers for this upcoming season. They have Mason Foster and Ryan Kerrigan all set to go, but with guys like Preston Smith, Trent Murphy, and Su’a Cravens in the fold, it’s tough to know who will come out and perform in 2016. One guy who is leading the pack for snaps is Will Compton, who should be on your LB radar.
*Will Compton – is a fourth year man out of the University of Nebraska. Last year, Compton racked up 94 total tackles as a relatively unknown player. Now, as a projected starting ILB for the Redskins, I expect Compton to add 20% more production in 2016, and solidify himself as a solid LB2-LB3 in IDP formats.