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Position Preview: Linebackers

An infusion of youth and versatility should help give the Pats linebackers a boost heading into 2008.

Last offseason, New England made a big splash in free agency by signing LB Adalius Thomas.

This offseason, the consensus seemed to be that linebacker was the area that needed the most attention. And while former NY Jet Victor Hobsonmay not have brought the same mystique that Thomas did, he may prove to be equally as valuable to the Pats defense as Thomas has become.

Though predominantly an outside 'backer in New York's version of the 3-4 defense, the 6-0, 252-pound Hobson is now making the switch to the inside, where his services are most needed here in New England.

It could only be a matter of time before we see Hobson lining up beside New England's top pick in this year's NFL Draft: the University of Tennessee's Jerod Mayo(6-1, 242), who, like Hobson, is another young, fast player with a football mind and experience both on the inside and outside.

Throughout passing camp and minicamp this past spring, both Hobson and Mayo were seen almost exclusively on the inside of the Pats 3-4 alignment, with veteran Tedy Bruschiin that mix as well.

How well and how quickly Hobson and Mayo can handle their inside responsibilities will be one of the more interesting subplots to watch this training camp. If they can perform at the level that's no doubt expected of them, that will allow the Patriots to employ Thomas on the outside, where he has proven more than capable of making big plays.

With the combination of Bruschi, Hobson and Mayo on the inside, along with Thomas and Mike Vrabel(who had perhaps his best season a year ago) on the outside, New England's linebacking corps should be a solid group, at the very least.

In terms of numbers, there's a lot of depth at this position. In terms of talent, well, that remains to be seen. Fighting for spots on the active roster will be veterans Eric Alexander(inside) and Pierre Woods(outside), who will face competition from several fresh-faced rookies. And there's always the possibility that 19-year vet Junior Seau will return to help boost the linebacker corps.

LBs – At a glance

Key Additions:
Victor Hobson (free agent), Jerod Mayo (first round), Shawn Crable (third round), Bo Ruud (sixth round)

Rosevelt Colvin (released)

No. Player (Pos., Year)
52 Eric Alexander (ILB, 4th year)
54 Tedy Bruschi (ILB, 13th year)
98 Shawn Crable (OLB, rookie)
48 Gary Guyton (LB, rookie)
59 Victor Hobson (ILB, 6th year)
53 Larry Izzo (ILB, 13th year)
51 Jerod Mayo (ILB, rookie)
47 Vince Redd (OLB, rookie)
91 Bo Ruud (OLB, rookie)
96 Adalius Thomas (LB, 9th year)
50 Mike Vrabel (LB, 12th year)
58 Pierre Woods (OLB, 3rd year)

Training camp storyline:
Can Hobson and Mayo solidify the middle?

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