Prospect Preview: Russell Martin

What a frustrating aspect of football the media can be. Generating so much hype about popular this, gimmicky that, in vogue this, successful that, won the Super Bowl with this, dominated the league with that. Everyone is changing to this, the evolution of this team, the direction of the defense’s in the league. Every year it’s something different that contributes to a team’s success in the league. Every year the media hypes up the success of a team utilizing a certain scheme, certain set, formation or even personnel.

When the Bears went to the Super Bowl and had dominating defenses the Cover-2 or Tampa-2 was all the rage. Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl and their OLB finished as the league’s defensive player of the year the 3-4 zone read/scheme/blitz is the popular defense that everyone is mimicking or shifting to or implementing. So naturally you have to shift the personnel to meet the requirements of the 3-4. Everyone needs the hybrid outside linebackers who can both drop into coverage and rush the passer. Teams need the DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, Terrell Suggs’ of the world to fortify their defense.

So apparently what is a priority in the draft is Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Larry English, and of course the unanimous selection of best defensive player available, Aaron Curry. So what ever happened to the Hunter Hillenmeyer’s of the world? The Wilbur Marshall, Junior Seau types who played the SAM position so successfully for years in the NFL?

What happened to all the 4-3 strong side LBs?

Well if you believe the hype those types of players aren’t around anymore, well they are but the analysts just choose to attach a label to those players. Truth be told there isn’t much difference in the responsibilities between the SAM and the hybrid 3-4 types. Both need to be solid against the run, need to cover well in space, and rush the passer. Typically though the responsibilities of the SAM LB are less because he doesn’t have to be the primary pass rusher in a 3 man switch to a four man front.

So given the need the Bears have at the SAM ‘backer position which prospects are they targeting? San Diego State’s Russell Allen is one of the player’s the Bears brought in for an official visit/private workout. Allen is the prototypical SAM, arguably MIKE LB. The most important aspect of a SAM LB is that he has to be pretty big and strong to take on runs to the strong-side of the offensive formation. He needs to be big enough to match up well with the TEs in pass coverage. So you’d like to see them at a minimum of 6-foot-2. Allen is 6-foot-3 and goes 235-pounds and his workout number at the San Diego State pro day were well within the respectable range for a SAM ‘backer prospect. He ran the 40-yard dash in the low 4.6 range, posted a 33.5-inch vertical jump, 9-foot, 10-inch broad jump, 4.34 short shuttle, 7.21 three-cone drill and 24 bench press reps.

Furthermore his production for the Aztecs was acceptable as well. Obivously I’m not going to sit here and sell Allen as a high end prospect or even a mid round prospect. He is what he is but at least he has potential and probably a chip on his shoulder given that he’s not getting as much respect as the other guys out there. He led the defense in tackles with 119 … Ranked first in the MWC in tackles per conference outing (10.6) and was 33rd nationally in overall games (9.9) … MWC all-conference honorable mention pick in 2007.

To help Bears fans rest easy there are also 17 other teams that have shown interest in Allen. Even though he is not a glitzy or glamorous prospect. He is the old worn out cliche, lunch pail type of player who also has experience and value as a long snapper.

Perhaps Martin has played his last real game on the football field and may never set foot on Soldier Field in a regular season game. However if a prospect is going to be given a private workout attended by Jerry Angelo, he deserves his respect here and elsewhere in the realm of Chicago Bears fans.

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