Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Ongoing Musical Chairs At Linebacker

The linebacker core is the one unit that always seems to be undergoing some sort of shuffle. While Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews have excelled this season, it's been terrible times for Brad Jones, Mike Neal and A.J. Hawk.
In my recap of the win over the Vikings, I wrote that it was a quiet game for Matthews, who seemed a step slow as he played and practices through a groin injury. It looks like he's feeling better now, but in case his groin injury remains a problem, they'll need DE Mike Daniels and Peppers to make plays against the Patriots.

According to the ESPN playing time breakdown, rookie Jayrone Elliott was given some meaningful snaps for only the second time this season, without making much of an impact one way or another. Unfortunately he was only taking away snaps from Matthews outside, as Neal played as many snaps (59) as he's played in any game this season and received his worst game grade of the season from Pro Football Focus. Hopefully Nick Perry feels better this week and can take away snaps from Neal.

It was interesting that Brad Jones played his first meaningful snaps (13) on defense since a terrible performance against the Dolphins a few weeks ago. Against the Vikings, he received a slight positive grade from Pro Football Focus, which is a massive improvement for him. I'm not expecting too much from Hawk, but he's looking slow in coverage against the tight end, and it's forced them to reconsider Jones, who has the potential to be their best linebacker in coverage though he's been awful this season. The Patriots rely heavily on their tight ends and the Vikings game might be a prelude to a bigger role for Jones next week.

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