PoF: Best Single Games – Inside Linebackers
Few positions demand more of a defender than the inside linebacker spot - here's the best single games we've ever seen from the men in the middle.
PoF: Best Single Games – Inside Linebackers
Welcome to the Pro Football Focus Page of Fame for inside linebackers, where only the best one-off performances during our time grading (2007 – Present) are mentioned.
If this is your first visit to a “PFF PoF” then the rules are pretty simple. Each game is it’s own island, and only the highest grades make it onto the list.
Anything at or over a +6.5 grade for this position will get the recognition it deserves!
1. Patrick Willis, 2007 – WK16, TB @ SF: +8.4
Pass Rush: +1.7, Coverage: +3.1, Run Defense: +3.5, Penalties: +0.1
Even as a rookie it was clear there was something special about Willis. He was largely impressive in his debut season but took his game to another level with an out of this world effort against the Buccaneers that involved a couple of sacks, 11 defensive stops and a pass break up for good measure. A star in the making became a star made.
2. Nick Barnett, 2007 – WK15, GB @ SL: +8.1
Pass Rush: +1.6, Coverage: +2.2, Run Defense: +4.2, Penalties: +0.1
He would follow this up with a stinker a week later, but for seven days Barnett was riding a high after a quite sublime display. He made an impression in coverage breaking up one pass and allowing just 2-of-6 to be completed into his coverage for 8 yards, while also adding two sacks rushing the passer. Still he did his best work in the run game, with that proving the highlight of a tremendous effort.
3. Desmond Bishop, 2010 – WK5, GB @ WAS: +7.4
Pass Rush: +3.6, Coverage: +0.3, Run Defense: +3.4, Penalties: +0.1
When Nick Barnett went down there were a lot of worried Packer fans out there. Then, in his first game as a starter, Bishop went and did this. Blitzing 17 times he picked up a sack, a hit and five hurries while also finding time to pick up eight tackles and deflect a pass. A star was born.
4. Luke Kuechly, 2012 – WK16, OAK @ CAR: +7.2
Pass Rush: -0.1, Coverage: +1.7, Run Defense: +5.5, Penalties: +0.1
The rookie year of Kuechly seemed to get better and better, culminating with a breathtaking performance against the Raiders in Week 16. Flowing to the ball seamlessly, shedding blocks as if they weren’t there, Kuechly turned his 22 run defense snaps into five defensive stops.
=5. Daryl Washington, 2012 – WK5, ARZ @ SL: +7.1
Pass Rush: +5.1, Coverage: -0.2, Run Defense: +2.1, Penalties: +0.1
After flashing talent in his first two years, Washington took the league by storm in 2012, with his ability to shoot gaps and attack quarterbacks getting him notoriety all around the NFL. The high point was his Thursday Night Football hammering of the Rams, finishing with a sack, two hits and three hurries on just 11 blitzes.
=5. C.J. Mosley, 2014 – WK4, CAR @ BAL: +7.1
Pass Rush: +1.3, Coverage: +1.1, Run Defense: +4.6, Penalties: +0.1
Quite the effort from the rookie Mosley who immediately captured our attention with this effort. His work in the run game was the starred, supported by positive efforts in coverage and rushing the passer, as he ended the day with an excellent seven defensive stops.
=7. Desmond Bishop, 2011 – DP, NYG @ GB: +6.9
Pass Rush: +2.8, Coverage: +1.0, Run Defense: +3.0, Penalties: +0.1
It was a disappointing finale to the season for the Packers as the Giants ended their chances of repeating. That said, Bishop came out of the game with plenty of credit to his name, impressing on the front foot. He ended with two quarterback hits and three hurries, as well as four defensive stops in the run game.
=7. Sean Lee, 2011 – WK13, DAL @ ARZ: +6.9
Pass Rush: +1.3, Coverage: +1.5, Run Defense: +4.0, Penalties: +0.1
The Cowboys’ Lee had himself a fine outing as they traveled to Arizona. His three quarterback hurries were useful, but it was his work in the run game that earned him the second-highest grade of any inside linebacker in 2011. Here he picked up a defensive stop on an impressive 20.8% of the run plays he was on the field for.
=7. DeMeco Ryans, 2007 – WK9, HST @ OAK: +6.9
Pass Rush: +1.0, Coverage: +2.7, Run Defense: +3.1, Penalties: +0.1
Way back when the Texans ran a 4-3, Ryans was the leader of an emerging defense. In Week 9 of the 2007 season he took his game to another level with a fine performance that showed what a complete player he was. His play saw him pick up seven tackles, two quarterback hits, a pass deflection and a pick. Nice.
10. Gary Brackett, 2007 – WK3, IND @ HST: +6.6
Pass Rush: +0.0, Coverage: +4.2, Run Defense: +2.3, Penalties: +0.1
Gary Brackett wasn’t always the most physical linebacker in the league, but at the heart of the Colts’ Tampa-2 defense his coverage skills really shined. The Texans found this out, picking up only 6 yards into his coverage, with an interception and pass defense thrown in for good measure.
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