It keeps getting harder and harder to find linebackers for a modern NFL defense.
Modern offenses are able to stress and attack defenses in such a wide variety of ways that linebackers with the skill set to be impact players on all three downs are just rare.
It’s a good thing that Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma is a rare kind of player. Muma has the size, athleticism, and instincts to affect an offense in any phase of the game and on all three downs.
The New York Giants have long needed an impact linebacker who can be a leader, cover the middle of the field, come down to defend the run, and get after quarterbacks as a blitzer. Could Muma be the guy Giants fans have been waiting for?
Prospect: Chad Muma (48)
Games Watched: vs. Boise State (2020), vs. Fresno State (2021), vs. Boise State (2021)
Red Flags: Torn patellar tendon (high school, junior year)
Games Played: 33
Tackles For a loss: 19.0
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 2
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 8.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 0
Interceptions: 3 (2 returned for a touchdown)
Best: Instincts, intelligence, processing, athleticism, space play, run defense
Worst: Play strength, block shedding, injury history.
Projection: A starting, three-down, MIKE or WILL linebacker with Pro Bowl upside
(Muma is Wyoming linebacker number 48)
Wyoming senior linebacker Chad Muma has a great combination of size, athleticism, and instincts to play the position at the NFL level.
Muma primarily played an off-ball linebacker role, usually lining up as a MIKE or WILL linebacker in Wyoming’s defense. He is an active communicator before the snap, doing a good job of relaying information and helping to line up his teammates.
Muma manages to balance being patient, disciplined, instinctive, and decisive in his play. He works through offensive misdirection quickly and is rarely fooled, but does a good job of letting it play out before triggering on the ball. Likewise, he does a good job of anticipating the offense and putting himself in position to take options away from the quarterback or to prevent check-downs from turning into big plays.
Muma commits fully when he triggers downhill and flies to the football. He generally takes smart – yet aggressive – angles to the ball, trusting his athleticism to make the angles work. His paths to the ball generally ensure a good stop or that the ball carrier will need to find a cutback lane.
He is also a very capable coverage player in space. He quickly gets good depth on zone drops, doing a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield and processing route concepts. Muma is also capable of turning and running with most tight ends and running backs down the field in man coverage.
Finally, Muma has upside as a blitzing linebacker. He generally times his blitzes well and takes smart paths to the quarterback to allow him to avoid blockers. Muma hasn’t produced much as a blitzer, but he is capable of applying pressure off the edge or through an interior gap.
There are few real weaknesses in Muma’s game. He can be lacking in play strength at times, making it difficult for him to stack and shed offensive linemen (or bigger tight ends) in run defense. That problem is somewhat compounded by short arms, which make it difficult for him to deal with linemen’s hands or to gain leverage on them.
Muma’s aggressive angles can also occasionally take him out of position for good form tackles. He occasionally misjudges his – or the ball carrier’s – athleticism and runs himself out of good position, leading to drag-down tackles.
Muma suffered a torn patellar tendon in his junior year of high school. Teams will want to double check his medical reports to ensure there are no long-term concerns.
Overall Grade: 8.2
Chad Muma projects as a starting off-ball linebacker with position and scheme versatility at the NFL level.
Muma is smart, instinctive, and athletic enough to be a true “three-down” linebacker who will never need to come off the field against a modern offense. He communicates well enough that he could be developed as a “MIKE” linebacker, though whether a team decides to go that route will largely depend on what they ask their middle linebackers to do.
Muma might struggle to deal with offensive linemen at the NFL level, and teams who don’t use their defensive line to protect their linebackers might want to keep Muma as a WILL linebacker. That said, he has the upside to be an impact player in run defense, pass coverage, and as a pass rusher.
Teams might be tempted to ask Muma to add muscle mass to improve his play strength, but that comes with the potential risk of compromising his athleticism. That would likely be a net negative for Muma’s game, as his twitchy athleticism allows him to act immediately on his reads and gives him some truly impressive play speed.
Perhaps the biggest question regarding Muma is the long-term health of his knee. He began as a special teamer for Wyoming and has played consistently on defense over the last three seasons, so there don’t seem to be any issues currently. However, teams might want to make sure that his knee won’t interfere with what should be a long and productive career.