We have talked about the Inside Linebackers, so now is the time to delve just a little deeper into the position. The Inside Linebackers as you recall align off the ball at 4-5 yards. They are the second level of defense.
In a 4-3 defense, there are three linebackers off the ball and the ones in the middle are the Middle Linebackers (duh!). In a 3-4 defensive alignment it is not quite as obvious since there are only two Inside Linebackers. In this alignment, the Middle Linebackers are normally the Linebackers to the TE side of the offensive formation.
Why would you even care what the Middle Linebacker is as opposed to the general label of Inside Linebacker? The traits for Middle Linebackers are somewhat different than the other linebackers.
As most of you already know, the Middle Linebacker is the signal caller. He is also the Quarterback of the defense and often the emotional leader as well. In the past, the Middle Linebacker was the thumper, hitter, enforcer, and was the most feared of all the defenders. That was in the days of ground and power football.
In this day and age of spreading out the defense and throwing the ball all over the field, the Middle Linebacker’s role is a little different. They are still the Quarterback and leader. Today’s game has required Middle Linebackers to be more mobile and proficient at coverage responsibility. It is important they have a real presence in stopping the opponent’s run game. They must be big enough to take on blockers and quickly shed to the ball. They must cover backs and TE’s.
The Middle Linebacker in today’s game may not be the most feared defender, but must be the most consistent, cerebral, and contact hungry.