The Packers fourth-round draft pick from 2008, Jeremy Thompson, is continuing his rise up the Packers defensive depth chart, not just taking advantage of the injuries to 2009 first-round pick Clay Matthews, but also taking advantage of a new workout regimen he started after he found out he would have to play linebacker in the 3-4 defense.
Thompson is a big man at 6-4, 270, good size for the outside linebacker position. The only problem for him was that his speed wasn’t up to par with what the position requires. So he changed his workout pattern:
This offseason, Thompson changed his workout regimen to make himself into a pseudo linebacker for the new 3-4 defense. That included changing the pace at which he lifted weights and adding hip work between lifts.
He lifted the same amount of weight for the same repetitions but instead of resting between lifts, he did more situps and abdominal work or active stretching.
“A lot of the stretches I was doing worked on my hip flexibility, swiveling my hips back and forth for flexibility just so I’m a more fluid athlete,” Thompson said.
With that, Thompson has moved into the starting lineup of the defense this offseason. He has seen most or all of the reps opposite Aaron Kampman and the two have developed a rapport that will be vital for the defense to succeed. The combination of size and speed is important for an outside linebacker in the 3-4, as they have to rush, cover, and take on blockers. It seems Thompson can do all three.
If I were a coach, I’d want 11 Jeremy Thompsons on my defense. The Wake Forest product has impressed nearly everyone he has worked with.
“It definitely wasn’t easy, the whole defense being new, plus a new position. It definitely wasn’t easy,” Thompson said. “Whatever we went through during the day I studied that night. So I would study an hour every night.”
Thompson has done so well he has drawn rare praise from coaches on the field for dropping back into coverage. Coach Mike McCarthy also sees potential for Thompson in disrupting the quarterback.
“He’s a natural pass rusher,” McCarthy said. “His experience playing defensive end really will help him this year as it carries over to the outside linebacker position. He’s as natural of an athlete that you’ll see out there at that position as far as dropping and doing all the different things. I know our defensive staff, particularly Kevin Greene and Dom Capers, are very excited.”
One of the best things this does for the Packers defense is create competition and flexibility on the defense. Thompson’s improvement will push Matthews to get better, giving the Packers two outstanding possibilities for the defense. It also gives the Packers choices on which athlete they want in the game in different scenarios, giving the opposing offenses more things to gameplan for and more things to think about in the line. It’ll be a blessing for the defense.
Still, Thompson comes off as a guy you can’t hate, someone that you just want to root for:
“Anytime you work with the ones, it’s an opportunity,” Thompson said. “I’m just trying to be the best I can be. If he comes back and he’s better than me and he can help the team, I mean, I’m not going to be content. But I’m going to have to know my role. But I’m going to do the best I can. If it is being starter, I’m going to try to take off and be the best starter in the league.”
Maybe we’ll see him rolling off of a battered Brett Favre at some point this year.