Ranking Italian Football League’s Top 5 linebackers

By Matt Bressington

With the Italian Football League speeding through the regular season en route to the Italian Bowl in Ohio, what better time to start ranking some of the best performers at this point of the season? This rendition is focused on the middle of the field at the linebacker position, the premise is simple, let’s get straight into it!

1. Vincent Winey – Ancona Dolphins (#42)

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Ancona Dolphins LB Vincent Winey #42 hauling down a ball carrier

Winey leads the league in tackles by a wide margin and he’s also added two sacks and is top 5 in TFLs. His defense is efficient. He’s 2nd in passing defense and 5th in rushing defense. He moves really well across the field and is fluid in his progressions. He has great vision into the backfield and reads it very successfully, often making an impact at the line of scrimmage. Against Milano, the fumble he caused in the second quarter is a stand-out example. He needs to add more rush/block-shedding weapons, as he relies on speed. This isn’t inherently a bad thing but means he can be washed out of position by a skilled offensive lineman.

2. Alexis Ramos – Parma Panthers (#30)

Alex Ramos #30 Photo: Manuela Pellegrini

Alexis, as an American in the league, has high expectations, especially as his Panthers are on a strong title challenge this season with their top ranked defense. His explosiveness in penetrating through the offensive line has been a key factor in his success. He has good hands to fight the blockers and get to the ball carrier and he saw a lot of disruption against the Warriors and Firenze particularly. As of this writing, he has 5 sacks. He can be overzealous at times with angles which leads him to be put off the balance in tackles or to give up his cushion in pass coverage.

3. Alex Ferrari – Firenze Guelfi (#2)

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Like all the others on this list, Ferrari is one of the leading tacklers in the league. This comes from his football IQ, having spent time with Firenze and Raiders Tirol. He has a good grasp of the European game, and it shows in his pre-snap communication and adjustments mid-play. He’s physical with receivers over the middle and isn’t afraid to get involved in the lines, meaning he has an effect in defending both the run and pass. Critically, his lateral movement could be smoother, at times he will be beaten on angles or negated from blitzes because he stands up from the snap.

4. Tim Russell – Lazio Ducks (#4)

Russell is very unfortunate as he is a great player on a bad defense. They rank last in scoring, passing and total defense and 8th in rushing defense. However, Russell brings length and a balanced skill set to the Ducks. He’s a solid tackler, has active eyes in coverage and is able to take good angles on players coming from the backfield. I think his decisions could be made faster; he plays conservatively but this can result in a lack of big plays being made.

5. Antonio Gianera – Legnano Frogs (#2)

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Legnano Frogs LB Antonio Gianera #2 is the heart of the defense Photo: Legnano Frogs

Another player with a below-average team. Gianera’s Frogs are 9th in rushing defense and 7th in passing defense and scoring defense. He, however, is a solid tackler in the box (6th in league tackles) and against Milano, he showed his ability to cover and create plays with an early-game interception. He definitely has big play ability as evidenced by the forced fumble he had. His movement is springy and long but can lead to his raising his leverage and giving up the advantage to the blocker on run support.

Overall, there are many talented players in the IFL this year. I expect it to remain competitive at the top of the division all the way through to the final. I’m glad to say I was wrong with my opening thoughts of the IFL as I thought it would be a Firenze walk-through, but it’s been very compelling. Let’s hope it continues to follow its high performances

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