I have been hearing lots of talk recently about Paul Posluszny not living up to expectations. Trying to get a jump before Brian does his list of needs for the defense, I wanted to discuss the notion of Poz as an underachiever. I have been one of Poz's strongest supporters. I am also a huge Poz fan, maybe on name and reputation only.
I am a stats guy as many of you know. First, I want to mention that tackles are not an exact statistic so if you go to FOX Sports or Yahoo Sports, you may get different numbers than I used. I used the nfl.com stats. (BuffaloBills.com gave Poz 129 tackles.)
We have essentially one year of Poz stats and video to watch after his arm break in the third game of his rookie season. In his first year, he averaged about 10 tackles a game which would average out to 160 over a 16 game season.
Poz tied with Lance Briggs of the Bears and ranked 24th in the league (16th among inside or middle linebackers) with 110 tackles. His 87 solo tackles tied him with James Farrior for 18th (11th among interior linebackers). He tied for 15th amongst linebackers in passes defended and had one interception, one forced fumble, and one recovered fumble. These are an above-average to average starter's numbers for team-leading tacklers.
Compared to his draft classmates, Poz is on par with his draft order. He was the third linebacker drafted in 2007 and is ranked third behind other second-year 'backers Jon Beason (Carolina) and Patrick Willis (49ers) in tackles this year. Jerod Mayo, this year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, is the only rookie linebacker to have more tackles than Poz this year with 128.
This year's league tackles leader, D'Qwell Jackson of the Browns, is in his third year and had 154 tackles this year, but 101 tackles in his second year. Fourth overall, Barrett Ruud of the Bucs, had 137 tackles this year, with 114 last year. I make these comparisons to show the leap that Poz is capable of making next year in his second full season starting.
I am a numbers guy mainly because I like having something concrete to base my opinions on. Statistics are the easiest way to prove a point. But I want to speak just from my opinion for a second. When I see the defense flowing to the ball, I see Poz's jersey in and around the pile. He has a nose for the ball carrier. I don't remember seeing him miss an open field tackle or whiff on a sack - not that he gets the opportunity to rush the QB often. He calls the defensive plays, plays virtually every snap, and is the heartbeat of the defense.
To call him an underachiever at this point in his career is premature. He's not a human highlight reel or an outspoken media-hawk. He will never be Ray Lewis with a microphone, but he does give a straight-forward interview, right Brian? He is not going to deliver bone-jarring hits but he gets the job done a lot like the man he replaced, London Fletcher.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't understand where this underachiever talk is coming from. He led the team in tackles by over thirty tackles! His numbers stack up against those drafted near him or ahead of him. What more do you want from the guy?