Max has the size, football intelligence, and instincts along with a good burst
to the play that you need to have in a linebacker who can stop an offense from
making plays. He takes good angles and uses his hands well to keep bigger
players off his body to make tackles. He is big enough and strong enough to take
on offensive linemen all game long to stuff the run. He has enough agility to
quickly drop off into zone coverage on obvious passing downs. Max is a coach on
the field calling plays and making adjustments to the gap responsibilities of
the front four before the snap of the ball. He is in charge of the front seven
on the field, correcting the spacing of the defense and changing linebacker
coverages to address the multiple offenses in passing downs and on running
plays. He understands down and distance and is very aware of the chains on the
field. Max can screw up a quarterbackís pre-snap read because he times his
defensive calls to the rhythm of the offensive snap anticipating when the snap
will be made and waiting to make his final change at the last possible minute.
This is a trick most NFL linebackers donít figure out until they play in the
league a few years, if at all. In the defense in which he played, Maxís main job
was to stop plays from being made against that defense and he was very
successful doing that.
Max was suspended for the Rose Bowl and teams will have to address that issue.
Iím sure from what I see on film that Max will address it himself and this will
not become much of an issue. Max is not the most athletic player, but he does
have good athletic talent. He needs the play in front of him, but if he watches
his weight and makes his drops deeper like he did the year before last, dropping
in zone coverage will not be a big problem because of his football intelligence.
This year it looked like he was heavier; he needs to play at about 245 lbs to
250 lbs to be effective, in my opinion. When he is over that, he struggles with
his quickness and burst to the ball.
Max is a football player and, although he doesnít have the athleticism that
Brian Urlacher had, he plays very much the same way and reminds me a lot of
Urlacher. When he takes the right angles and uses the right techniques, he might
not be able to run players down from behind, but the truth is thatís why you
have safeties. From hash mark to hash mark, Max will be a force to deal with.
From 20 yards off the line of scrimmage on passing downs Max will be there
defending plays and making tackles. If you need him to blitz on stunts, Max is
forceful enough to run over running backs and tight ends and make a quarterback
shiver. Last year in a game I have on film, Max blitzed up the middle and put an
offensive CENTER right on his back and made the QB throw early that caused an
interception. If a linebacker has unique athletic talents like speed or
quickness or the ability to rush the passer from the outside they will be rated
(in most cases) higher than most inside or middle linebackers. I value the
position higher than most because I value the intangibles of a player higher
than most. Linebackers like Max impact because of the scheme they play in, but
the fact that he is a coach on the field makes him more valuable in my eyes.
This is the type of player the Patriots have had a lot of success with over the
years because Belichick values football intelligence higher than athletic
talent. He believes that athletic talent, once established, is a given. Whatís
left for a player to improve is his intelligence and how well he takes what he
learns in practice and meetings on to the field. I happen to agree and although
Max might not be selected early in this draft, the team that selects him will be
getting a very good player who they can use to build their defense around
because of his ability to be a leader and a coach on the field.