Typically speaking, sports fans tend to worry about two things – the past and the future. They’ll debate who was the greatest player of all-time, while also spending hours discussing whether or not a rookie is going to be develop into an All-Pro.
Both are fun exercises, things that keep fans engaged and the beer flowing at the local tavern. But they miss out on what is most important – the present.
Forget about yesterday. Never mind tomorrow. Let’s talk about today.
Who are the best players in the NFL right now? Who can help a team win the Super Bowl this season? Who is writing a legacy with each passing week?
Those are the questions the editors at cover32 seek to answer in this series, “Top 10 in 2014.” In the coming weeks, every position – as well as head coach, general manager and other off-field areas – will be graded, evaluated and ranked.
The series continues with a position that has become less important today than it was 15 or 20 years ago – inside linebacker. At one point in NFL history, when stopping the run was the No. 1 objective of every defense, the men who played this position were stars. Names like Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Jack Lambert were synonymous with toughness on the football field. But now, they’ve been overshadowed by pass rushers and cornerbacks. But as the “quarterback of the defense,” they still play a role in the game. Having a good one certainly doesn’t hurt.
Let the debate begin!
10. A.J. Hawk
In his eight seasons since coming out of Ohio State, Hawk has been steady – but not great – in the middle of the Packers defense. Never earning a trip to the Pro Bowl, let alone garnering All-NFL honors, certainly isn’t what anyone had in mind for the No. 5 overall pick in 2006. But what Hawk lacks in sizzle, he makes up for in consistency; he’s on the field game in and game out in Green Bay.
9. Karlos Dansby
There’s a reason why the Cardinals hated to see Dansby leave during the offseason via free agency, as he’s been a central figure in their success in recent years. When he left for a three-year stint in Miami, Arizona’s fortunes took a nosedive; and when he returned in 2013, they suddenly were a team on the rise. But ultimately, the Cards couldn’t keep this playmaking middle linebacker in town, losing him to Cleveland.