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On a morning when the Seahawks news is dominated by Walter Jones and Marcus Trufant injury status, I thought I’d take a look at the guy who has a more minor injury, Aaron Curry (groin strain, questionable for Saturday’s exhibition). As I wrote in my game notes, Curry was less than impressive in his debut. Not only did he not fill up the stat sheet, but he did not stand out on the field except when he made a mistake. You can never judge a player by how he looks after only attending a handful of practices, but the stakes are extremely high in this case. Let’s take a look at how some of the LB greats of the past did in their rookie campaigns to gauge how high the bar is for our $34M man.
RECENT LB STANDOUTS Jerod Mayo Mayo was named 2008 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year last season for NE Patriots after being drafted 10th. He totaled 128 tackles, 100 solo, 0 sacks, 1 FF. As a comparison, Lofa led the Hawks with 94 tackles last season, and has a career high of 123 tackles.
Patrick Willis Willis was named 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl starter, and 1st Team All Pro in his rookie season after being drafted 11th by the 49ers. He was the only rookie in the NFL to make the AP All-Pro squad and the first Defensive Rookie from the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981. He totaled 174 tackles, 135 solo, 4 sacks, 2 FF.
Jon Beason Beason finished second in the 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted 25th by the Panthers. He totaled 140 tackles, 106 solo, 0 sacks, 0 FF.
DeMeco Ryans Ryans was named 2006 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted 33rd overall, 1st pick of the 2nd round, by the Texans (after we took Kelly Jennings). He totaled 156 tackles, 126 solo, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF.
AJ Hawk Hawk was third in the 2006 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted with the fifth pick by the Packers. He totaled 120 tackles, 83 solo, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF.
Shawne Merriman Merriman was named 2005 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted with the 12th pick by the Chargers. He totaled 57 tackles, 43 solo, 10 sacks, 2 FF.
Lofa Tatupu Tatupu finished second in the 2005 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted with the 45th pick by the Seahawks. He played a key role in leading a defense that should have won the Super Bowl. He totaled 104 tackles, 85 solo, 4 sacks, 1 FF.
A FEW ALL-TIME GREATS Lawrence Taylor Taylor was named 1981 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year AND NFL Defensive Player of the Year after being drafted with the second pick by the Giants. I couldn’t find tackle numbers, but he unofficially had 9.5 sacks. Sacks did not become an official stat until 1982. Oh, and he changed the linebacker position forever.
Ray Lewis Lewis was named to the 1996 All-Rookie team after being drafted with the 26th pick by the Ravens. He totaled 110 tackles, 95 solo, 2.5 sacks, and led the NFL with 15 tackles for loss.
Mike Singletary Singletary was named to the 1981 AP All Rookie Team after being drafted with the 38th pick by the Bears. His stats in 1981 are not available, but he did not start until the seventh game.
It seems that making the All Rookie Team is a minimum qualification for LB greats. The last six, and 8 of the past 9 Defensive Rookies of the Year were linebackers. That’s the territory Aaron Curry is attempting to enter. Those players had instant, undeniable impact. Injuries were also not an issue for these guys. While many fans will be giving Curry every chance to ascend, history shows what we see early is a good indication of what we will get. Greatness is not developed at the LB position. It just is.