A 2021 Linebacker Review and an Early Look at 2022

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Last year was an interesting year for Linebackers, and 2022 doesn’t seem like it’s going to be any different. Let’s see how things were in a 2021 Linebacker Review.

With over half of the top 20 LBs about to hit the open market, or going into a new system via coaching changes, 2022 should be full of surprises. Let’s take a look at the 2021 Linebacker Review and then the 2022 Linebacker Outlook.

2021 Linebacker Review

The 2021 season ended with a couple of surprises at the top of this loaded position group. The linebacker position is very difficult to get a handle on from year to year, but there are ways to try and get ahead of the game. The first thing to take a look at is player usage. The more your linebacker is on the field the more opportunity he has to score.

The second aspect is scheme. When your player is being used to their strength, or just comfortable in their system it most likely leads to impact plays and more points.

There were a number of breakouts, busts, and consistent contributors this season. While at the same time we saw some historically strong contributors to the position fall off a cliff.

2021 Breakouts

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Micah Parsons, 22 years old

In his rookie season, Parsons absolutely exploded onto the scene, though he finished the season with only 84 combined tackles. Going back to scheme and usage, he was able to compile 13 sacks, good enough to earn him the honor of Defensive Rookie Of The Year.

Parsons was used as a Swiss army knife type of a player at times, as he played on both the defensive line as a pass rusher and as a traditional linebacker.

Parsons’ 2022 outlook looks just as bright. Going into the season as the reigning DROY, he will be drafted highly in start-ups and come with a hefty price tag for trades. His sack totals may decline depending on how the Cowboys choose to deploy him moving forward, but his tackle numbers should increase north of 100 as he continues to develop at the position.

Foyesade Oluokun, 26 years old

In his fourth year, Oluokun went from a middle-of-the-road LB2 to the overall highest scoring linebacker in most formats. He finished with an electrifying 192 combined tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions.

Oluokun made a giant leap in the tackle column, where he jumped from 117 tackles to the previously mentioned 192. His impact plays stayed almost identical, but increasing his tackle numbers by 75 was just what his game needed to make the leap to elite performance.

Oluokun is a pending unrestricted free agent, and that will greatly affect his value and production for the upcoming 2022 season. At this time, it’s not looking good for the Falcons to have the cap space to re-sign him this offseason.

There has been a mixed bag over the years when it comes to linebackers changing teams and schemes, so Oluokun’s future outlook is very much up in the air for 2022.

Kyzir White, 26 years old

White was another breakout linebacker who impressed in 2021. He nearly doubled his tackle totals from 2020, increasing from just 77 tackles to 144. White has traditionally been thought of as a “cover linebacker,” normally used on passing downs. He did more than prove the doubters wrong this season.

White not only took over as a three-down ‘backer, but he unseated the former first-round selection Kenneth Murray in the process. White also added one sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions during his impressive campaign.

Like Oluokun, White is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Unlike Oluokun, he has a very good chance to remain with his current team in the Chargers. Brandon Staley seemed to really lean on him, and clearly the system Staley brought in benefits White. Both the team and player would stand to continue to gain from White staying in Los Angeles.

Jordyn Brooks, 24 years old

Brooks may be the epitome of breakout linebacker. He exploded in 2021 with 183 combined tackles compared to just 57 in 2020. He did all of that while playing next to one of the absolute best tacklers over the past decade, Bobby Wagner, who himself managed to set a career-high of 170 tackles.

The sky is the limit for Brooks in 2022 and beyond. Wagner is most likely gone to free agency, so that leaves Brooks with an even bigger role. Whoever Seattle decides to bring in will undoubtedly take a back seat, this is Jordyn Brooks’ defense now.

2021 Busts

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Zach Cunningham, 27 years old

Cunningham previously finished as a top 15 linebacker in 2019 and 2020, so his 2021 stretch was a very underwhelming campaign. He not only underperformed but he was also cut by the Texans mid-season. Cunningham was claimed off of waivers by the Titans and had an uptick in production while there.

Cunningham finished the season with 91 combined tackles and a forced fumble, which is down from the 163 combined tackles he achieved in 2020 while finishing in the top five for linebacker scoring. He is very intriguing moving into 2022. Cunningham was claimed off of waivers, so his contract is still valid through the 2024 season.

Tennessee is losing Rashon Evans and Jayon Browns this off-season, so Cunningham could easily find himself on the field plenty in 2022 for the Titans.

Kenneth Murray, 23 years old

Murray was one of the biggest busts of 2021. Coming off an impressive rookie season, where he tallied 107 combined tackles hopes were high. Those hopes were shattered with a follow-up season of a meager 31 tackles and zero impact plays.

As previously mentioned, Murray lost his role to Kyzir White and never recovered. Even when he was able to see a significant snap count he didn’t produce. Drue Tranquill even doubled his production throughout the year.

For 2022, Murray’s outlook is bleak. His best chance to see the fields is for the Chargers to either let Kyzir White walk or release Murray to hopefully find a team that better fits his skill set. Until that happens, there isn’t much to look forward to when it comes to his future, but he is still young enough to bounce back.

Jaylon Smith, 26 years old

Smith came into 2021 as a top 10 option as an LB. That is not the way it ended. Smith finished the season with a putrid 38 tackles and one sack. He was released by both the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers before rounding out the season with the New York Giants. Smith came into the league with injury concerns and they could be contributing to his decline.

Smith is a Free Agent this off-season. His landing spot and the way his new team values him will have a lot to say about his long-term outlook. Smith has shown he can be a high-end IDP asset, and if he can find the right situation, he has the potential to re-emerge as an option in deeper formats.

2022 Linebacker Outlook

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Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, 22 years old

JOK had a pretty impressive rookie year, especially when you look at his sporadic playtime and two games missed to an ankle injury. He finished 2021 with 74 combined tackles.

Moving forward JOK should take over as the top guy in the Browns’ linebacker room. He showed enough instincts and promise his rookie year and, with little competition for snaps, he should rarely leave the field in 2022.

Pete Werner, 22 years old

Werner had an encouraging rookie season with 54 combine tackles. while his playing time was sporadic, he definitely produced when given the chance. 39 of his 54 tackles came in the four games Werner saw an increased role.

The Saints are in cap space hell, which could lead to Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander being released. If that is the case, Werner will immediately slide into the full-time role that he nearly averaged 10 tackles a game in 2021 when filling.

Zaven Collins, 22 years old

Collins did not have a good rookie season in 2021. He took a back seat to Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Hicks in 2021. Collins didn’t see the field very often and struggled while he was out. He was only able to muster 24 tackles over 15 games.

With all of that being said, Simmons showed similar struggles in his rookie campaign. With an increased role and a year of experience, Simmons saw his tackle totals climb north of 100. Hicks should move on this offseason, paving the way for Collins to see an expanded role for himself leading to more production.

Thank you for taking the time to read my 2021 Linebacker Review article. You can read more of my work on my IDP Guys author page. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @FFshep9 and @IDPGuys (we have offense too) and please check out our website at

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