Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews signed a giant contract this offseason that ensures that he will be a centerpiece of franchise’s defense for years to come. It would come as a surprise to no one to hear Matthews referred to as one of the greatest linebackers in the game.
What might be a surprise, however, is that I believe that the entire Packer’s linebacker group could be one of best groups we have seen at this position in years.
Prior to the offseason there seemed to be nothing but questions regarding every linebacker not named Matthews. Nobody really expected that Brad Jones would be back as a Packer. No one thought that Ted would pay him. Nobody really doubted that A.J. Hawk could be on the chopping block. No one really expected him to be willing to take a drastic pay cut either.
Even further, if we are being really honest, no one ever would have guessed that Mike Neal would be spending the offseason trying to stand up on the outside. Who knew?
Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk, and a motivated Desmond Bishop seem poised for a battle for two starting inside linebacking spots. Bishop has all the physical tools to be a great player in this league if he can just stay healthy. It is unlikely that the Packers paid Jones to sit the bench. One of the spots should be his to lose.
Terrell Manning should also factor into the competition. It pains me to say that I wonder if Hawk could become a depth and situational player in this deep group.
Matthews is penciled in at one of the outside LB slots, but there have been numerous questions regarding the other side. Will Nick Perry be the pro that the Packers thought he could be when they selected him in last year’s draft? He will certainly get his chance to shine.
Even more intriguing, however, is the depth that is building on the outside. What was once considered a thin position after No. 52, now seems to be filled with potential talent. Dezman Moses showed flashes of promise when filling in for Matthews and could be nipping at the heels of Perry in camp. Nate Palmer, the Packers sixth round pick out of Illinois State should also add another bit of depth and competition during camp. If that is not enough, I already mentioned the fact that Green Bay is toying with the idea of Mike Neal playing some downs at OLB. His conversion will be slow, but will be interesting to watch.
This is my projected depth chart at linebacker:
ROLB: Clay Matthews, Dezman Moses, Nate Palmer
RILB: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk
LILB: Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk
LOLB: Nick Perry, Mike Neal (situational), Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba
I believe that the Packers linebacker unit has the potential to be one of the strongest it has been in a really long time. The position that once had the most question marks now seems to be sporting some of the most depth. It is early, but this unit should be a force to be reckoned with in this coming \ season.
What is your projected depth chart?