Football is a game that requires a great deal of athleticism, strategy, and teamwork. One of the most intriguing aspects of football is the various positions that players can occupy. Each position has a specific role and set of responsibilities that are essential to the team's success.
One of the positions that have gained prominence in recent years is the SAM linebacker.
The SAM linebacker position, also known as the "Sam backer", is a strong-side linebacker who typically lines up on the same side as the tight end - depending which side of the offense they are.
The SAM linebacker is considered the third linebacker in the 4-3 defensive alignment, alongside the middle linebacker (often called Mike linebacker) and weak-side linebacker. The alignment of the SAM backer will vary depending on the offensive formation, but they most often align themselves in accordance with the defensive lines position, the MLB and the strong safety behind them.
What are their responsibilities?
The responsibilities of a SAM linebacker can vary depending on the defensive scheme being used by the team, but generally, their role is to:
Set the edge: The SAM backer is responsible for setting the edge of the defense, which means keeping the play from getting outside and forcing the ball carrier to cut back inside.
Cover tight ends: The SAM backer often has to cover the tight end, who lines up on the strong side of the formation. This requires the SAM backer to be physical at the line of scrimmage and able to cover the tight end down the field. They may be asked to cover the TE in man to man coverage, or to drop into zone coverage depending on the play call.
Blitz the quarterback: The SAM backer is also responsible for blitzing the quarterback in certain situations. They need to be able to read the offense and know when to sit in coverage and play the ball, or run and rush the passer.
Stop the run: The SAM backer is an important player against the run, and they need to be able to fill gaps and make tackles on running plays.
Drop into coverage: In some defensive schemes, the SAM backer may be asked to drop into coverage and cover receivers or running backs coming out of the backfield.
What makes a great SAM linebacker?
A great SAM linebacker is a versatile defender who can excel in multiple aspects of the game, including stopping the run, dropping back in coverage, and rushing the passer. Here are some key characteristics and skills that make a great SAM backer:
Size and Strength: The SAM is typically the biggest and strongest linebacker on the field. A great SAM linebacker should have the size and strength to take on offensive linemen, shed blocks, and stuff the run.
Speed and Agility: While size and strength are important, a great SAM LB also needs to be agile and quick enough to cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game.
Football IQ: The SAM backer is often responsible for setting the edge in the run game, as well as covering the flat in pass coverage. A great SAM linebacker needs to be able to diagnose plays quickly, read the offense, and make smart decisions.
Physicality: The SAM is a physical player who needs to be able to deliver punishing hits to running backs and receivers. A great SAM linebacker needs to be fearless and willing to sacrifice their body to make a play.
Pass Rush Ability: In certain defensive schemes, the SAM LB may be asked to rush the passer. A great SAM backer should have the speed and technique to get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game.
Famous NFL SAM backers
Lawrence Taylor - Lawrence Taylor is widely regarded as one of the greatest linebackers of all time. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Ray Lewis - Ray Lewis played for the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2012 and is considered one of the greatest middle and SAM linebackers in NFL history. Lewis helped lead the Ravens to two Super Bowl victories and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV.
Jack Ham - Jack Ham played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971 to 1982 and was part of the "Steel Curtain" defense that won four Super Bowls in six years. He was a 6-time Pro Bowler and 6-time first-team All-Pro.
Derrick Brooks - Derrick Brooks played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1995 to 2008 and was a key part of the team's Super Bowl championship in 2002. He was a 11-time Pro Bowler and 9-time first-team All-Pro.
Sam Mills - Sam Mills played for the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers from 1986 to 1997. He was a 5-time Pro Bowler and 3-time first-team All-Pro.