Two weeks of work (check out the entire 2011′s Best Performances series) has led us to this final installment of our series looking at the top one-off performances in 2011, the 4-3 outside linebackers.
In order to contend with the different types of players lining up in these spots, we’ve created two categories. We’ll be looking at those who split their linebacker time with pass rushing duties in nickel packages, and those who play as more conventional linebackers.
For each type we’ll be looking at their overall game, though it’s important to note different things are expected from them–like when comparing Von Miller’s role to Daryl Smith’s.
Anyway, let’s look at the Top 5 at each spot.
Top 5: 4-3 OLB (with pass rushing responsibilities in sub-packages)
5. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Week 10 Kansas City (+7.4)
This is a game Matt Cassel won’t forget anytime soon. That’s in large part due to the performance of Miller here. The Bronco rookie sacked Cassel once and pick up four more knockdowns as the Chief QB was forced to leave the game early. He didn’t do an awful lot in the run game (a tackle for a loss and one for a short gain summed it up) but his pass rushing was so destructive it pushed him onto this list.
4. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Week 12 at San Diego (+8.0)
Another virtuoso display from Miller who ended the day with eight combined sacks, hits, and hurries. Despite those numbers, his unquestioned play of the game came in overtime when he breezed past Randy McMichael to pick up a big tackle for a loss on third down that made a game-winning field goal attempt that little bit harder. Naturally, the kick was missed, Denver secured the win, and it was a testament to Miller (who had a season-high six defensive stops) that they were able to.
3. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders: Week 1 at Denver (+8.3)
With a rookie lining up opposite him for most of the game, it was no surprise to see Wimbley constantly pressuring Kyle Orton. He didn’t end up with a sack or hit, but eight pressures from 33 pass rushes is a great return (especially when you look at how quickly they were happening). Wimbley, who was practically flawless in this game, also made some plays in the run game; highlighted by some excellent work with 12:35 to go in the first. Tremendous day.
2. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Week 11 vs. New York Jets (+8.7)
The high point of an excellent rookie season saw Miller spend most of the second week of Thursday Night Football destroying Wayne Hunter. The 2011 PFF Rookie of the Year walked away with two sacks, two hits, and three hurries along with a batted pass at the line of scrimmage in a dominant display. Some strong work in the run game helped him pick up three tackles for less than 2 yards, in his most complete and impressive display.
1. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders: Week 10 at San Diego (+10.6)
Topping this Wimbley-Miller list, the we’re about to name won’t surprise anyone who watched it. With Wimbley making mincemeat out of Brandyn Dombrowski so regularly, it stood out more when he wasn’t pressuring Philip Rivers. When all was said and done, he’d picked up four sacks, three more QB hits, and seven pressures. An astounding total that had to be seen to be believed. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Top 5: 4-3 Outside Linebacker Performances
4t. Daryl Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars: Week 5 vs. Cincinnati (+4.7)
4t. Daryl Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars: Week 17 vs. Indianapolis (+4.7)
Two performances from Smith make it into the Top 5; the first occurring in Week 5 with one of his trademark complete performances. Smith picked up seven defensive stops and broke up a pass attempt, making Nate Livings look particularly poor when he tried to get his hands on him at the second level. Then the Jaguar ended the season with an impactful display against the Colts where he showed off what he could do as a pass rusher with a hit and pressure to go with two defended passes and five defensive stops. These games highlighted why Smith finished second in our 4-3 OLB rankings.
2t. Michael Boley, New York Giants: Week 15 vs. Washington (+5.1)
The one constant in the Giants’ linebacker group, Boley put forth his best performance in an ultimately disappointing result for the G-Men. Picking up four tackles for less than 2 yards and doing a good job getting off blocks to make plays, he was one Giant who could go home happy with his efforts.
2t. Will Witherspoon, Tennessee Titans: Week 4 at Cleveland (+5.1)
What made this display from the Titan outside linebacker stand out was his play in coverage. With the Browns going pass-happy, Colt McCoy seemed to go after Witherspoon, throwing into his coverage 11 times. The end result saw only 47 yards picked up and two first downs. The former Ram broke up two passes in addition to getting a hit and hurry on McCoy. Just what the doctor ordered for Tennessee.
1. DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions: Week 5 vs. Chicago (+5.3)
The Lions’ former third-round pick saved his best performance for when the eyes of the nation were on him on Monday Night Football. With an energetic display that saw him record 12 tackles, it’s easy to look past the work Levy did in helping those around him. He had a lot of joy not just getting off blocks, but also standing up blockers and re-directing runners to allow others to make plays. A tease of what he is capable of.
Top 5 Run Defense games by 4-3 OLBs:
1. Lance Briggs (CHI), Week 3 vs. Green Bay (+4.4)
2. DeAndre Levy (DET), Week 5 vs. Chicago (+4.3)
3. Daryl Smith (JAX), Week 17 vs. Indianapolis (+4.0)
4. Clint Session (JAX), Week 5 vs. Cincinnati (+3.9)
5t. Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG), Week 9 at New England (+3.6)
5t. Mario Haggan (DEN), Week 13 at Minnesota (+3.6)
Top 5 Coverage games by 4-3 OLBs:
1. Will Witherspoon (TEN), Week 4 at Cleveland (+3.7)
2. Chris Gocong (CLV), Week 10 vs. St Louis (+3.2)
3. Jarret Johnson (BLT), Week 4 vs. New York Jets (+3.1)
4t. Sean Weatherspoon (ATL), Week 9 at Indianapolis (+2.9)
4t. Aaron Curry (OAK), Week 12 vs. Chicago (+2.9)
Top 5 Pass Rushing games by 4-3 OLBs:
1. Kamerion Wimbley (OAK), Week 10 at San Diego (+11.1)
2. Von Miller (DEN), Week 11 vs. New York Jets (+6.0)
3. Von Miller (DEN), Week 10 at Kansas City (+5.6)
4t. Von Miller (DEN), Week 12 at San Diego (+5.3)
4t. Von Miller (DEN), Week 9 at Oakland (+5.3)