Outside Linebackers are very different depending on the defensive scheme. If the scheme is based out of the four-man front, the Outside Linebackers are normally aligned off the ball like the Inside Linebackers we have discussed previously.
The Outside Linebackers in a three-man front (3-4 defense) are the most important pieces of the puzzle to be successful. The two Outside Linebackers and three for the defense are the primary pass rushers. That must be their best attribute. They align on the line of scrimmage on the left and right side of the defect. They align in a two-point stance.
Most often one of the Outside Linebackers will be up pass rusher and the other drops in coverage. Obviously, there are times when they will both either rush or drop into coverage. This versatility makes it more difficult for the offense to determine who the fourth rusher will be.
The ideal size parameters for Outside Linebackers is 6’ 3” to 6’5” and 255 to 270 pounds. Ideally, their 40-yard dash should be 4.65 seconds or faster.
In order for the 3-4 scheme to be effective these two players must be able to continually pressure the quarterback. They must be able to win in their pass rush versus offense tackles and should not be blocked by the offensive back.
They must also have enough strength and power to defeat run blocks by offensive tackles or tight ends. Outside Linebackers must have explosive get off, shocking power, speed, flexibility, quick hands, and agility in the open. They must cover Tight Ends and Backs when they are not rushing the Quarterback.
These are the two key components of a 3-4 defense. Without two stellar Outside Linebackers, most 3-4 defenses are doomed to be average at best.
Get more insight and information on football for new fans in my book.