#Packers have activated DE @mneal96 and released DE Phillip Merling, the club announced. Neal now eligible to play vs. #Colts Sunday.After he was a complete zero last season, and then suspensed four games to open 2012, I was on the fence whether the Packers would release DE Mike Neal. He hadn't been able to stay healthy in either of his first two seasons and he hadn't done anything memorable on the field. His only hope was that his status as a former 2nd round pick would give him another chance and then he'd have to stay healthy for an entire season.
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) October 6, 2012
The last defensive lineman in this situation was former first round pick DE Justin Harrell, and the Packers gave him four seasons to turn it around. So it seemed unlikely they would give up on Neal after only two. But the selection of DE Jerel Worthy and DE Mike Daniels, and the free agent signings of DE Anthony Hargrove, Merling, and NT Daniel Muir, gave Neal a lot of competition. However, Neal showed just enough during the preseason to stick ahead of Hargrove and Muir. He's now been kept ahead of Merling too.
Something that's really helped him is that none of the other players the Packers have added this year have made much of an impact. Worthy is often on the field, but he's more notable for jumping offsides. Daniels has shown hustle, but he's played little and only recorded 1 sack and 1 tackle on the season. Merling only recorded 2 tackles in his first four games. So if Neal is improved a year after knee surgery, and he can rush better than Worthy or Daniels (neither of them have shown much so far), then he could be a welcomed addition. I expect he'll still be behind Worthy on the depth chart, but Neal should get a chance or two against the Colts to prove that he can do more. We'll have to wait and see whether he can take advantage of it.