Continuing on our series based off of the CBS list of the top free agents, we will be taking another look at an inside linebacker. As previously noted, Paris Lenon is not a suitable starter at his age and we should not expect the outstanding season he had last year to repeat. Also, Lenon's playing style resembles that of Daryl Washington, as both are very agile linebackers that play well as the weak inside linebacker, but neither are great against the run. This is where a "thumper" would come in handy.
So far we have looked at Paul Posluszny and Kevin Burnett, who both come from a 3-4 defense. Enter Stephen Tulloch, who comes in at number 18 on the list. He may be coming from a 4-3 defense that the Tennessee Titans run, but a young player with his versatility may be able to make the transition. Hit the jump for more.
Playing as the middle linebacker in the Titans' defense, Tulloch recorded 160 tackles, a sack and an interception last season. Also, he played in all 16 games on a team that is known for their defense. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2006 and has shown that he can be a force against the run due to his downhill aggressiveness.
Here is what Scouts, Inc. has to say:
After being chosen in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, Tulloch spent his first two years as a mix-in backup before taking over the starting inside linebacker job in his third year. He is a bit on the short side but is put together well and packs a lot of pop and power in his tackles. In 2009 he played in 16 games, starting 13, and finished with 121 tackles and two QB sacks. He has the explosion and pop to step up and neutralize blockers in the hole, but will struggle when trying to control and shed blocks. He shows good agility and quickness when playing between the tackles but lacks the lateral speed to make many plays on the perimeter. He is a little stiff in the hips and struggles to get great depth in his pass drops.
One of the things to take note of from this excerpt is the size of Tulloch. He is not an overly massive guy, as he stands at about 5'11" and weighs approximately 240 pounds. This allows him to have a speed advantage over a lot of blockers, but when faced off with a very large offensive lineman he may get swallowed and essentially disabled.
Whether he could make the transition to the 3-4 defense that the Cardinals run is to be seen, but I believe that with his youth and speed, he should be able to convert. He would potentially fit well next to Daryl Washington as the strong side inside linebacker and could be another tool against stopping the likes of Frank Gore and Steven Jackson.
Should the Cardinals target a guy like Stephen Tulloch? Personally, I say it all depends on the price. The are no guarantees that he would be effective in our defense, but he has shown to be a solid player overall. It would be a risk, but it could yield high rewards.
Unfortunately, I have no videos of Tulloch for you, but if any of you find anything feel free to post the link in the comments section below.