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News » NFL is suddenly a tweener's world


NFL is suddenly a tweener's world


NFL is suddenly a tweener's world
They are the support group of this year's draft, a cast of players clumped together on scouting reports around the league, positioned somewhere between really big and really fast.


Tweeners, they are. And most years they hope; hope the hope of college defensive ends who suddenly find themselves a little too small for the NFL's liking to rush the passer. Hope the hope of finding a team, just one team, with a spot on the roster.

Most years. Just not this one because they've arrived at the right time and to the right place, because the 2009 draft is all about tweeners, as in between supply and growing demand.

"I've said I'm going into all of this with the approach that I'm an athlete, that I can adapt to what they need me to do," said Penn State's Aaron Maybin. "But it seems like every team I've talked to is talking about the 3-4 so maybe there's more of that than there used to be."

Oh, there's more all right. Call it the result of the Steelers and Patriots playing 3-4 defenses on the way to four Super Bowl trophies since the close of the 2001 season.

Call it Bill Belichick's coaching disciples — like Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, Browns coach Eric Mangini — now running their own shows and putting their pet defenses in their new playbooks. Or just pin it on the search for defensive variety in an era when more people are throwing more passes and the rulebook is built to let it continue.

Draft-day candidates

Missouri's Stryker Sulak, a 251-pounder, has linebacker coaches across the league taking a second look as well. His performance on special teams as well as his 16 career forced fumbles — he led Division I with six in '08 — make many believe he could make the move easily.

But the learning curve awaits and one of the defense's old guard, the one who had the league's Defensive Player of the Year in James Harrison at outside linebacker, says patience has to be in the mix if many of the draft hopefuls are to succeed in the move.

"It depends what (other teams) already have on their roster, changing from a 4-3 to 3-4," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "There are certain players who can make the change, certain players don't have the physical characteristics. The hardest transition is for the tweener defensive end who is 260, 265 pounds. ... It's always a challenge for us, but we're used to it now. When we look at 260- or 255-pound guy, (we ask) can they make the transition to do the things they need to do from a coverage standpoint? That's always our challenge.

"It limits your pool to a certain extent, and it also reminds you you're going to have to have a lot of patience with these guys as they develop. Everyone who has been in our system as outside linebackers, it usually took them a minimum of two years and usually three-to-four years before they were ready to contribute, and a lot of those guys contributed a heck of a lot as they turned into starters."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 16, 2009

Kevin Bentley Name: Kevin Bentley
#57
Position: LB
Age: 28
Experience: 7 years
College: Northwestern
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