NFL: Five Breakout Candidates at Linebacker for 2018
When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, the linebacker is somewhat a forgotten player. The front line gets all the credit for stopping the run and getting to the QB. Then the secondary gets all the credit for being flashy and stopping the air attack. However, the linebacker is probably one of the most important positions on the defense. They are the QBs on that side of the ball. In the NFL there are several young players at the linebacker position. Here we look at five of them who could breakout in 2018.
Darron Lee – New York Jets
Lee is a former first-round selection. He was on a solid pace at the beginning of 2017, racking up 45 tackles. However, he then fell off a bit. Lee fished the season with 67 tackles. Although, he now looks to lead the Jets defense. Especially since the Jets let Demario Davis leave via free agency.
Anthony Hitchens – Kansas City Chiefs
Hitchens is probably the oldest linebacker in this group. He is entering his fifth year as an NFL linebacker. However, he has been overshadowed by some other players in Kansas City. Guys like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson were fitting that bill. Now, with the departure of Johnson, Hitchens is ready to step in and take over. Look for a quality season from Hitchens.
Nick Kwiatkoski – Chicago Bears
Kwiatkoski is a fourth-round selection out of West Virginia in 2016. He was not expected to make an immediate impact on the Bears defense. However, due to injuries to Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, Kwiatkoski saw his playing time increase. 2018, looks to be a season in which Nick Kwiatkoski could become a starter on the Bears defense and make a significant impact.
Raekwon McMillan – Miami Dolphins
McMillan is coming back from a torn ACL in 2017. An injury that is all too common in the NFL these. Coming back from this injury is not as difficult as it used to be. Thus, the reason why the Dolphins are looking at big things from McMillan. In fact, he was set to be the starting middle linebacker for the defense before the injury. Also, by the Dolphins releasing Lawrence Timmons, means that McMillan is recovering nicely and should be on the field for all three downs in 2018.
Zach Cunningham – Houston Texans
I was a strong fan of Cunningham’s in the 2017 NFL Draft. I would have been ecstatic had he went to my favorite team. Nonetheless, he ended up with the Texans. At the time they had Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney. However, Cushing got suspended for PEDs which gave Cunningham a chance at some snaps. He did not disappoint. Cunningham will be the catalyst of the Texans Linebacker Corps in 2018.
These five players at the linebacker position should all have tremendous seasons for their respective teams in 2018. You can bet, that without them on the field, things would look a lot different for these defenses.
How do you feel about these five players? Leave a comment below.
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