GREEN BAY - The rebuilding of the Packers defensive line, talked about in yesterday’s blog, extends into the linebacking corps as well.
Of the eight linebackers on the roster for Super Bowl XLV, only four remain less than three seasons later.
Everyone I see asks me, “Why did the Packers released inside linebacker Desmond Bishop?”
I don’t have any insider information but I have to believe the front office, coaching staff and trainers know more about his hamstring injury and his ability to come back from said injury than anyone on the outside knows.
I do know this: Brad Jones did a nice job at inside linebacker when D. J. Smith went down last year.
Jones finished as the Packers' 3rd leading tackler with 101 total tackles, 71 solos, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and 6 pass breakups, and the Packers rewarded him with starter’s money this past off-season.
Behind Jones, the club feels very strong about the ability of two young linebackers: Terrell Manning, a fifth round pick a season ago out of North Carolina State, and Jamari Lattimore, a former defensive end at Middle Tennessee St. who enters his 3rd season.
Manning was a raw prospect last year, who was slowed by an illness in training camp, but was a tackling machine at North Carolina St. and should make that big jump in performance level from first to second year in the league.
Lattimore converted to outside linebacker in 2011 and then to inside backer this past season. He is a linear athlete who brings intriguing pass rush ability and potential to the inside position. Jamari finished second all time at Middle Tennessee St with 20 and a half sacks, and was the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was one of three non -drafted rookies (along with M. D. Jennings and Vic So’oto) to make the Packers defending Super Bowl Championship roster in 2011.
The Packers feel good about the depth of their inside line backing corps and the upside of the young players who make up that depth. So keep an eye on Lattimore (#57 )and Manning (#56) when camp opens in late July.
Obviously ,the mainstays of this unit are All-Pro Clay Matthews who made 16 sacks in 14 games (including playoffs) and inside linebacker A J Hawk who led this unit with 142 tackles. Hawk is the on field coordinator of the group, Matthews – its star!
I believe a key to this season’s success is not who plays inside alongside Hawk, but the development of last year’s first round draft pick Nick Perry at the outside position opposite Matthews. When they drafted the USC defensive end in April of 2012, I envisioned the Steelers’ LaMarr Woodley. He was a defensive end at Michigan who emerged at outside linebacker in the same defense the Packers run. Perry looked to me to be more like a linebacker this spring in the OTAs and mini camp. Last year, you could tell he was struggling with the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. I think his development as a pass rusher and especially as a run defender who can set the edge for the Green Bay defense will give the Packers the complement they have been looking for opposite the “Claymaker.”
Tomorrow: the secondary is not a secondary consideration in Green Bay.