As I mentioned yesterday Patriots fans have been clamoring for a new “Elephant” since Willie McGinest left. Here’s what Willie himself has to say about what it takes to play the position.
“You have to be talented, you have to be tough, because you have to be able to take on the linemen and fullbacks and tight ends and play in the trenches vs. the run game,” McGinest said. “So you have to be sturdy and strong enough and tough enough to handle that, but you also have to be agile, and smart enough to be able to read coverages and drop back into coverages and understand different receiver sets and motions and be able to read different formations. It’s not easy.”
That would seem obvious since that the Pats haven’t really found anyone that’s had the same impact as McGinest at the position, save for Mike Vrabel.
But let’s backpedal a bit. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, McGinest fit the physical prototype for the elephant, which basically is a linebacker/defensive end hybrid.
“When I came out (of college), I was a ’tweener,” McGinest said. “I was small, as in having the right weight for a defensive end. But I was a big, big linebacker. So you’re kind of an undersized D-end, but a big, big linebacker. Charles Haley (Dallas and San Francisco) was another in that so-called elephant mold where you rush like a D-end, and you also drop into coverage and play linebacker.”
“There’s guys out there who have come out of college and done it in the past, like Shawne Merriman and Mike Vrabel. Vrabel was an example of an end who came off the edge, and then he came to us, and did a lot of different things. It’s just a matter of finding the right guy and having them play the way you want in your system.”