Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Position Review: Inside Linebacker

This looked like a position to watch this preseason, but instead the Green Bay Packers have already made up their mind and recently released Desmond Bishop. With the starters now in place, it's just a matter of figuring out who's going to fill out the backup positions.

Position Reviews-Offense
Position Review-Defensive Line

There are four rookie linebackers currently on the roster, I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two of them move inside, and the Packers have been known to move those guys back and forth from the outside. But at this point, I don't know what the coaches exactly have in mind. I'm going to exclude the rookies at this point.

A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. The two unquestioned starters. While Hawk has never been my favorite player, the coaches spoke highly of him this offseason and he certainly knows the defense. There is an advantage to having a player who rarely misses a game. Jones had a breakout season as an emergency starter and graded out very well by Pro Football Focus. Not a lot of flash, but they're both solid.

Terrell Manning. I was surprised at how limited he looked last preseason, but it was apparently due to the fact that he was really sick. If the Packers had been concerned about their depth, they probably wouldn't have released both Bishop and D.J. Smith. I think Manning's the reason why they let both of them go. He'll be someone to watch this preseason.

Robert Francois. He started some games in 2011, but he was relegated to the special teams last season. He probably won't be given the first chance to start if either Hawk or Jones is injured, but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere either.

Jamari Lattimore. The former undrafted free agent has played inside and outside in his first two seasons, but it looks like his future lies on the inside. I expect he's just a special teams player, but Jones and Bishop hid deep on the depth chart for three seasons before they got their chance to start. He's only 24 years old and maybe his opportunity just hasn't happened yet.

Overall, there's not a lot of intrigue while the backup positions are sorted out, but there's been a lot of changes now that one starter is gone (Bishop) and his likely successor (Smith) has been released too.

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