By John Turney
Back in the "day", the starting lineups on the play-by-plays were pretty straightforward but in a good-faith effort to inform the media there began to be some changes in the late-1980s and early 1990s and they continue through today.
We will touch on a just a few. Certainly, it isn't a comprehensive treatment of the subject, but we may bore you enough that you think it might be a comprehensive treatment.
The first one is not a new position but an odd listing. It comes from a 1991 game and the Saints have three DEs list, no tackle or nose tackle. Someone had to be the in the middle, no?
Santana Dotson was the 3-tech called an "under tackle" and listed as "UT". In 1995 Warren Sapp took over that spot when Dotson went to Green Bay.
Teams designed the "NT" and "UT" or "DT" to this day.
Junior Seau was there. It was 4-3 defense and Seau was the weakside linebacker, the "Will" but they played a stacked 4-3 so Seau was usually next to the MLB. It gave All-Pro voters a cop out since they could vote for Seah is an ILB rather than an OLBer, which is what he was almost all the time. Seau was certainly a HOF player and deserving of his All-Pro selections but it took a slot from other legitimate inside linebackers and gave in effect an extra slot to some OLBer in that era.
Chris Doleman is listed in the play-by-play. There were players before him and after him that played the position, which was a hybrid OLBer/DE. Fred Dean did that some, Charles Haley did it a lot. After that Tim Harris, Richard Dent, Rickey Jackson, Kevin Greene and then Doleman played "Elephant".
If you want to get technical, the 49ers playbook called their 4-3 scheme "Elephant" and the weak side end was called the "Whip" and that player could stand up and covert the scheme to a 3-4 just like that.
Derrick Thomas began as a 3-4 OLBer but as time went on the Chiefs moved him around, for various reasons, too detailed to get into here. But he'd play linebacker in a 4-3 in base, then play DE in passing downs. In the late 1990s they gave that position a name at it was "Falcon". In the starting lineup below it's "Falc". It's the same concept as the 49er "Elephant" and 3-4 linebacker in 4-3 scheme. At least that's what Thomas once called it.
In the mid-2000s the Dolphins listed Jason Taylor as an "OE" and again, it's the same concept as the Elephant and Falcon. Taylor would go away from the tight end and rush the passer, but, at times drop into coverage—another DE/OLB hybrid.
In the mid-2000s the Cowboys began to play a 3-4 defense and the weak inside linebacker, in this instance it's Scott Shanle, was the "Jack" linebacker. The Jets also had a "Jack" inside linebacker
These ILB players have had various names over the years. We've seen "Ted", "Mo" and others. Below the Cowboy lineup is the Packers and they simply called it the "B" linebacker as did the Falcons but for the Falcons is was an outside linebacker, not and inside linebacker.
More recently, in 2015 to be precise, the Rams listed their Weakside Linebacker as a "WS", The player was Mark Barron, who was a converted safety but when Alex Ogletree was felled due to ti injury Barron took his spot. He played exclusive linebacker, but for weeks and weeks the lineup card given to the official scorers in the press box listed him as a "WS" which stood for "Weak Safety".Deone Bucannon and it as "$LB" or "Dollar/Money Backer". Also, their SAM is a rush 'backer not unlike the Falcon or Elephant
The last couple of years the Houston Texans have the same spot, rush backer and they call it "Jack". Last year Jadeveon Clowney was a defensive end but this year he's the Jack. But both years he played up and down and rushed most of the time, but would cover a bit.
The Colts and Ravens both list their hybrid DE/OLBers as "Rush". Again, and we know it's repetitive, it's the same concept as the Falcon/Elephant/Jack.
Yannick Ngakoue was listed as a "Leo" which was their name for the DE/OLBer position. They called the strong side linebacker (what most coaches called Sam) by the name "Otto". We suspect "Otto" is a name for the "outside to the tight end", which means stong-side OLBer.
Melvin Ingram a DE and Kyle Emanuel an OLB.