Welcome to the Pro Football Focus Page of Fame for 4-3 Outside Linebackers, where only the best one off performances during our time grading are mentioned.
If this is your first visit to a “PFF PoF” then the rules are pretty simple. Each game is its own island, and only the highest grades make it onto the list.
Anything at or over a +6.0 grade for this position will get the recognition it deserves!
Disclaimer: After some thought it was decided that players like Von Miller and Kamerion Wimbley would better fit into an edge rusher (4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB) category given how different their role is to that of the traditional 4-3 outside linebacker and thus how they benefit from the extra pass rushing they do. You can find that article here.
1. Ben Leber, 2007 – WK 3, MIN @ KC: +8.6
Pass Rush: +2.1, Coverage: -0.6, Run Defense: +7.0, Penalties: 0.0
The Chiefs tried their best to get their rushing attack working, but all they could do is turn 31 rushes into a paltry 50 yards. Leber was a huge part of that and it wasn’t just his five defensive stops in the run game. He was blowing up lead blocks like they were going out of fashion.
2. Jamar Williams, 2009 – WK 13, SL @ CHI: +8.5
Pass Rush: -0.3, Coverage: +2.1, Run Defense: +6.6, Penalties: +0.1
Williams would only manage 266 snaps for the entire 2009 season. Yet in the one game he did play the entire lot of Bears defensive snaps, he really delivered. Some superb work in the run game saw him pick up a defensive stop on 23.3% of his run defense snaps. That was good enough for the highest outside linebacker score of 2009.
3. Derrick Johnson, 2007 – WK 10, DEN @ KC: +8.3
Pass Rush: +2.7, Coverage: +0.9, Run Defense: +4.6, Penalties: +0.1
How about this from Johnson? The Chiefs linebacker was on fine form as he picked up three quarterback disruptions and an excellent six defensive stops. The complete nature of his play was highlighted by a pick and just 27 yards allowed on four balls thrown his way. Nice.
4. Leroy Hill, 2007 – WK12, SEA @ SL: +7.6
Pass Rush: +1.2, Coverage: +0.2, Run Defense: +6.1, Penalties: +0.1
Hill was at the top of his game in 2007 and no week more so than his showing against the Rams in Week 12. His sack may have left an impression but it was his consistent work, particularly against the run, that is why he makes this list. Finishing the game with seven defensive stops Hill was near unstoppable on his 73 defensive snaps in what will go down as one his career highlights.
5. Thomas Davis, 2007 – WK16, DAL @ CAR: +7.3
Pass Rush: +0.3, Coverage: +4.7, Run Defense: +2.2, Penalties: +0.1
Thomas Davis might be best known for his miraculous recovery from injury, but even before that he was kind the spectacle. In 2007 he had one of those games that leave a lasting impression as Dallas struggled to account for his range and playmaking in coverage. Not that he was limited to making plays in coverage, with some good work in the run game showing his all round skill.
6. Philip Wheeler, 2012 – WK 3, PIT @ OAK: +7.2
Pass Rush: +0.8, Coverage: +5.9, Run Defense: +0.4, Penalties: +0.1
Rising from mere obscurity to a starring role on his team’s defense. That’s what happened to Wheeler in 2012 as he made a name for himself in Raider Nation. He made a series of big plays in coverage ranging from forcing fumbles, to a pass defense, and some tackles for short gains that eliminated any doubts about his ability to be an every down player.
7. Jamie Collins, 2013 – DP, IND @ NE: +7.0
Pass Rush: +2.3, Coverage: +2.7, Run Defense: +1.3, Penalties: +0.1
A truly complete effort from Collins who looked anything but a rookie with a display for the ages. He bested the Colts backs with his blitzing that saw him pick up a sack, two hits and two hurries, while displaying the kind of close coverage you just don’t expect from men his size. Andrew Luck went after him five times but with just 12 yards and a pick, it wasn’t the best strategy.
=8. Vontaze Burfict, 2013 – WK 11, CLE @ CIN: +6.8
Pass Rush: +0.3, Coverage: +5.0, Run Defense: +2.4, Penalties: -0.9
Burflict picked up another penalty but that was about the only thing he did wrong in an all action display that saw him finish with five defensive stops while returning a fumble for a touchdown. Not many linebackers can make as many plays as the Bengal was able to in just 80 snaps.
=8. Aaron Curry, 2009 – WK 5, JAX @ SEA: +6.8
Pass Rush: +3.8, Coverage: +1.6, Run Defense: +1.3, Penalties: +0.1
When the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry this was the player they hoped they get. Unfortunately performances like this were all too rare but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the good times. With four quarterback disruptions, one pass defense and three defensive stops on 14 running plays, this was the kind of all action effort you want from a fourth overall pick.
10. Brian Cushing, 2010 – WK 12, TEN @ HST: +6.5
Pass Rush: -0.5, Coverage: +3.6, Run Defense: +3.3, Penalties: +0.1
After his breakout rookie year, 2010 didn’t quite go the way Cushing had hoped. A suspension and some up and down form had some questioning him, but there was still evidence he was the player he was in 2009. His play against the Titans earned him the highest grade of any 4-3 outside linebacker in 2010 with six defensive stops and two pass deflections showing his nose for the ball.
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