Linebackers will be able to prove themselves in a variety of ways at the 2013 NFL Combine. The 40-yard dash, the bench press, the verticals and broad jumps, and the three-cone drill have become staples of the event because of how well they test speed, strength, explosiveness and agility. Every position has its unique drills, however, and one the most important to linebackers will be the pass-drop and hip rotation drill.
In a league that is becoming more pass-oriented, linebackers are being given greater and greater responsibility in coverage. The pass-drop and hip rotation drill is designed to determine whether or not a linebacker will be a liability in third-and-long situations, as Mike Mayock explains in his video series for NFL.com.
Players start in a back pedal. After five yards, the coach signals a direction, right or left. The player must break for the corresponding sideline, all while maintaining eye contact with the quarterback. The coach will give three more signals to change direction, usually to indicate another back pedal, a break back towards the middle of the field, and a back pedal again. All the while, eye contact is never broken.
At the last signal, the linebacker breaks towards the quarterback and has to make a play on a ball thrown at him. Ideally he makes the interception and bolts for the opponent's end zone. After so much running, he may only have stamina to knock the ball down.
A lot of players may be great pass rushers or run specialists, but if they can't play in space then NFL teams won't be as willing to hand out a big money contract. Teams want to get as many snaps as they can out of their players. The pass-drop and hip rotation drill is one of the truest tests of whether or not a linebacker can play every down.
All linebackers are in Group 9, which means they check into the Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium on day three, which is friday, along with Group 7 and Group 8, which are composed of defensive linemen.
On Friday, the linebackers will check in for registration, a hospital pre-exam and x-rays as well as orientation and interviews. On Saturday, the linebackers will be measured, have medical examinations and be interviewed by teams and the media. On Sunday, they'll have an NFLPA meeting, go trough psychological testing, as well as show their strength in the bench press and go through more interviews. Finally, on Monday, they'll go through on-field workouts, consisting of timing, stations and skill drills, and then they'll depart from Indianapolis.
Players to watch:
Considered a first-round pick, Georgia's Alec Ogletree might be the biggest name to watch. LSU's Kevin Minter, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and Georgia's Jarvis Jones are also worth keeping an eye on. All of these linebackers could easily be first-round picks in the upcoming draft, as talented linebackers aren't easy to come by in the NFL and each team is looking for the next .
Some others to keep an eye on are:
- Nico Johnson (Alabama)
- Jonathan Bostic (Florida)
- Chase Thomas (Stanford)
- Gerald Hodges (Penn State)
- Keith Pough (Howard University)
- Kiko Alonso (Oregon)
Linebackers are asked to plug holes like defensive linemen and to cover receivers like defensive backs. They are also the captains of the defense and need to know how to read opposing offenses and know how to lead a defense as well as a team. There's a reason that some of the most widely respected defensive players in the history of the NFL are linebackers, and there's a reason so many teams look to select linebackers in the first round of the draft.
This year's class is deep with big-name players as well as some that are not nearly as well known. There are plenty of potential first-round picks and potential NFL greats packing their bags for Indianapolis.