Friday, July 26, 2013

Position Review: Outside Linebacker

I was hoping to get through my review of every position before training camp practices began (Today! July 26th!) but it was not meant to be. It looks like training camp is starting out muggy and with a chance of thunderstorms, but not blazingly hot.

Position Reviews (Defense): Inside Linebacker, Defensive Line
Position Reviews: Offense

Clay Matthews. The Claymaker is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, but even a die-hard Packer fan like myself has to admit he's probably a step behind J.J. Watt's unbelievable 2012 season.

Nick Perry. Though he played last preseason and six regular season games, it felt like a lost season. The transition from college defensive end to NFL linebacker was going to have some rough patches, but coach Kevin Greene likes what he sees in Perry and thought he had figured out pass coverage by Week 5 (right before he was out for the year after wrist surgery). His pass rush ability has been always been there, he opened the 2012 preseason with a sack against the Chargers, and he could become a major factor because he won't command many double-teams. The return of Perry (replacing the little that Erik Walden did), plus the addition of first round pick DE Datone Jones, could transform their pass rush next season.

Dezman Moses. An outstanding training camp brought him to the forefront last preseason, but by the end of the regular season, he wasn't offering much more than Walden. Still, he recorded four sacks as a part-time player. He's got the potential, but he's got to show improvement.

6th round pick Nate Palmer. He's the highest profile college DE converting to NFL OLB in camp. He seems like a bit of a project, drafted more based on his pro day results than his play at Illinois State, but I expect he'll make the roster because they need someone to replace Walden and Frank Zombo.

7th round pick Sam Barrington. Back in April, I wrote that he looked like an inside linebacker prospect. But there are at least five inside backers ahead of him on the depth chart. So while I expect him to make the roster, his short-term future might be outside. We'll have to wait for the preseason to begin and see where he lines up.

If the Packers keep all the guys who were on the team last year, plus their two new draft picks, that's ten linebackers for the 53-man roster. They won't keep more linebackers than ten. The last three guys are either in case of injury or fighting for the practice squad spot.

Andy Mulumba, Donte Savage, Jarvis Reed. This year's group of undrafted college DEs who will get a chance at OLB. It looks like Reed, the player formerly known as Jarvis Wilson, did play some linebacker in college too. Not much separates them at this point and they'll have to prove themselves on the field starting August 9th against the Cardinals.

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