Linebacker breakdown

Patriots are dangerously thin at the position

September 16, 2009, 8:14 PM

By: Mike Reiss

Wednesday's injury report highlights one of the top early-season issues for the Patriots -- their thin linebacker corps.

With Jerod Mayo (did not practice, right knee), Adalius Thomas (limited participation, foot) and Rob Ninkovich (limited participation, calf) all on the injury report, the Patriots are dangerously thin in terms of having enough linebacker bodies to practice effectively.

It would not be surprising if the team was considering free-agent options at the position.

Here is the breakdown at linebacker:

Eric Alexander (fifth year) -- Primarily a core special teams player, he is an emergency option at inside linebacker.

Tully Banta-Cain (seventh year) -- Started in the season opener at outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment and also rushes from a three-point stance at times. Has become a key member of the defense.

Gary Guyton (second year) -- Started at inside linebacker in the 3-4 and becomes a key player with Jerod Mayo's injury. Projects to start at middle linebacker in the 4-3, or inside linebacker in the 3-4.

Jerod Mayo (second year) -- Leader of the defense, he is currently sidelined with a right knee injury.

Rob Ninkovich (fourth year) -- Played one series in the season opener. Fits at outside linebacker in the 3-4 but also could project at an inside linebacker spot as an emergency option.

Adalius Thomas (10th year) -- The team's most versatile linebacker, he could fit anywhere (inside, outside) and seldom, if ever, leaves the field.

Pierre Woods (fourth year) -- A projected starter at outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment, he was bumped by Tully Banta-Cain in the opener. Doesn't seem to be a great fit in the 4-3.

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