According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Inside Linebackers All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Inside Linebackers: Here’s the eighth of a series of articles, looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (Read here for the rationale for this serieshere for quarterbackshere for running backs, here for wide receivershere for tight endshere for offensive tackleshere for offensive interior linemen, here for defensive ends and here for outside linebackers).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what inside linebackers are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.

Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt.  But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion.  Also listed below are also two inside linebackers in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.

Statistics of inside linebackers linemen drafted by the Packers:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
A.J. Hawk 6’1” 245.00 4.59 6.82 3.96 40.00 115.00 24.00
Abdul Hodge 6’0” 235.00 4.76 7.11 4.35 31.00 108.00 25.00
Desmond Bishop 6’2” 241.00 4.81 7.14 4.65 32.50 112.00 33.00
Average 6’1” 240.33 4.72 7.02 4.32 34.50 111.67 27.33
StDev 1.00 5.03 0.12 0.18 0.35 4.82 3.51 4.93


What the Packers are looking for: If its possible to have too much talent at a position in the NFL, the Packers epitomize it with their inside linebackers.  Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop are all starting caliber inside linebackers and their contracts live up to it.  The Packers have invested over $110 million into the inside linebackers with about $30 million of that guaranteed.  Needless to say, that’s quite an investment for one position.

The conundrum facing the Packers at the moment is that they like all four of their opening day inside linebackers, but they can’t afford to pay them all; of the four, AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop received big contracts after playing in the Super Bowl and are the designated starters; this leaves Brandon Chillar and Nick Barnett, who both ended up on IR, looking in from the outside.  Will Barnett and/or Chillar still be with the team in 2011?  Economically the answer is probably no.

This in my opinion is one of the unheralded positions that will likely be addressed during the draft; one or two inside linebackers might be gone to clear up some cap space and Thompson’s MO is to find talent in the draft or after in free agency.  However, the biggest question that everyone wants to know is, will we nab Casey Matthews, Clay’s little brother? (Or at least the Clay Matthews’ fanboy in me wants to know) Well, let’s find out.

The drills that inside linebackers have the lowest relative standard deviation (thus implying highest importance) are height, weight and 3-cone.  The Packers like their inside linebackers to be a little smaller than their outside linebackers (ironically making AJ Hawk fit better as a inside rather than an outside linebacker, and many have claimed that Hawk has performed better as a inside linebacker); this could possibly be because they must have the range to cover and also because inside linebackers have to be even more versatile than outside linebackers; often outside linebackers threaten to go into coverage, while inside linebackers actually do it.  3-cone also makes a lot of sense, as it measures a player’s flexibility and ability to change direction at high speeds, all important factors for players who need to sift through traffic to get to the ball carrier.

As for specific skills, leadership is perhaps the most important characteristic for an inside linebacker, if there is a quarterback on the defense it usually is an inside linebacker; Nick Barnett took that responsibility (and the radio) before he went on IR and AJ Hawk did a brilliant job replacing him as a signal caller; there were many occasions where calls didn’t come down fast enough from Dom Capers and Hawk was forced to make his own calls based on the situation.  You can see Hawk often facing the wrong way at the beginning of plays as he’s still relaying information to the secondary, but still manages to turn around, analyze the play and make a stop.

So how does Casey Matthews stack up? Actually pretty favorably; he’s a bit lighter than the Packers like (but that is easily remedied), and his height actually buts him on par with AJ Hawk and his 3-cone drill is right in line with the rest of the inside linebackers.  Could the Packers have 2 C. Matthews (or even 3 C. Matthews) on the defense at some point?  I doubt it, but it sure would be a funny to see how broadcasters handled it.

Comparable inside linebackers in the 2011 draft (analysis taken from

Casey Matthews Oregon/6’1”/231 lbs/4.79 40-yard dash/ 7.10 3-cone:

  • Impressive Instincts
  • Non-stop motor
  • Good in coverage


  • Lacks size and strength for the NFL
  • Not a sideline to sideline player
  • Isn’t a pass rusher

Colin McCarthy Miami/6’1”/238 lbs/4.59 40-yard dash/6.39 3-cone:


  • Ideal bulk and size for a inside linebacker
  • Good awareness
  • Good tackler


  • Coming from a serious injury in 2008
  • Can play undisciplined at times
  • Lacks coverage skills


Note*: I should mention that I have no idea why a player listed at 6’1”/231 pounds is considered too small for a position while 6’1”/238 pounds is ideal.  Your skin alone weighs 7 pounds.  Is someone top or bottom heavy or something?

Conclusion:  My feeling is that while an outside linebackers has a good chance of being picked early, there’s also a very good chance that a middle linebacker will be chosen late.  I don’t think its financially possible for the Packers to retain all four of their big contract inside linebackers and either someone gets traded or someone will get cut, its just a matter of when and who.  Regardless, young talent would make sense to fill in the gap; obviously you have two quality starters and a likely quality backup so the next inside linebacker can go the Desmond Bishop route and develop slowly.  Players like Matthews and McCarthy are mid to low round talents who could provide value and depth for the future.


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


  • Taryn

    Being honest,ILB is/was/still the position that doesn’t enter my thoughts.

    Perhaps it’s because looking at the LB squad as a whole,it looks like a taxi stand in the Las Vegas airport,with players milling about waiting for their turn or an old Woody Allen movie with robots bumping into each other.

    I think we have more than enough talent at the ILB than too even consider instigating some form of Nepotism in those ranks,although the broadcasters may sound foolish at times.

    I rather wait until after the CBA and UDFA and camp allows us to create more elbow room to sort it out, as the only LB item needed if at all is the OLB spot.Which I now feel compelled to spurt the name of Cliff Matthews,who as we see gives the announcers a possible gaff still.

    IMO,drafting,signing or bringing Casey Matthews to the Packers has all the makings of deep damage of a mental state for another if it were to fail.

    The argument of their being PROFESSIONALS first and BROTHERS second won’t fly for me in the least.

    I know this article didn’t condone the pick of Casey Matthews but even if his talent was higher,I would still pass even at the expense of some great impending gaffes on the air.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I agree, but on the converse, letting the fact that he’s clay’s younger brother adversely affect the drafting process leads you to the same problem as having it favorably affect the drafting process. My feeling is, if his name was Casey Mitthews, would he be a good fit for the Packers? His combine numbers say yes, so that’s why I put him in.

      • FireMMNow

        i would say the odds of casey matthews getting cut by the packers is just as likely as him being on the team as long as Clay. Never jeopardize the commitment of your best defensive player to draft a player that has plenty of question marks and is not a position of need.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I take it you don’t like the idea of the Palmer brothers being on the same team?

          • FireMMNow

            you would be correct.

  • FireMMNow

    I am really hoping the Packers can move Barnett. He seems to be pretty well respected around the league still. I would take a mid round pick for Barnett in a second. He is not going to be a guy that is willing to fill a back up role and I think Hawk and Bishop play better together. Barnett can not cover like he needs to in this defense. Maybe he will have better lateral quickness now that he is two years removed from his knee surgery, but he was not cutting it in space before he got hurt last year.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well that all depends on when the CBA ends and if Barnett is really willing to restructure his deal; if he does, Barnett does have a lot more versatility than Chillar, and Barnett is a leader so maybe Chillar is the one to go. But hey, who knows.

      • FireMMNow

        Yeah, I was thinking about moving him after the draft for 2012 picks not 2011 picks…whenever the CBA gets done.

        I actually think that Chillar is the more flexible player in the Packers Scheme. He covers better than Barnett, is a better blitzer and can play OLB if absolutely necessary.

        Also, just because someone wants be a leader does not mean they are a leader. I never heard of the team latching on to his leadership abilities like they did with Wood and Rodgers. If he is not starting he will be a pain in the ass, unless he has changed his personality. And the picture fiasco where he is spouting off during the week before the Super Bowl tells me that he has not changed.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I would think that the Packers consider Barnett the more versatile player just by the way the they used both Chillar and Barnett. At the start of the season, Barnett was always on the field, while AJ Hawk subbed out for Chillar when in the nickel package (when supposedly Hawk’s lack of coverage skills made Chillar a better option). Note that Barnett never got off the field; for one he was the one with the mic so obviously that factors to it, but my feeling is that the Packers liked Barnett more than Chillar

          • FireMMNow

            yeah, and Bishop never got on the field. That is why Winston Moss should be let go. No idea why he is such a respected guy around the league. Barnett was on the field a lot, but man he looked AWFUL in space. He was just not ready to come back in my opinion.

            • Thomas Hobbes

              I should mention that Moss is assistant head coach as well, probably because so many teams were trying to hire him off the Packers staff (supposedly for head coaching positions). I really can’t say if Moss is a good or bad coach, but the league seems to think very highly of him


      I’d like to see Barnett traded to Buffalo for Lee Evans straight up. Bills have too many receivers and could really use LB help. This deal seems to work for both teams.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        I guess the question becomes, do you like Lee Evans or Jordy Nelson/James Jones better? Personally I think I would pick Nelson over the other two, but I don’t think there is much chance of a straight trade. 1)Evans is 30, which is considered the point where most players (and even more so for wide receivers) tend to start declining rapidly. 2)Evans is due $4.8 million this year, which is money that the Packers are probably going to have to spend on either keeping Jones this year or keeping Nelson next year. 3)There can be no player trades during the draft or during the offseason until a CBA is reached (at least that’s what I think is the case. If that’s the case, then most teams are going to be unlikely to trade for players since there is no offseason for them to get familiar with the team.

  • PackersRS

    Didn’t Hawk post a 4.39 40?
    And, even if not, that’s quite the combine performance. Why that didn’t translate to the field? Maybe PEDs?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      NFLdraftscout says he ran a 4.59 at the combine and a 4.47 at his pro day, I should mention that 4.39 is getting up there with cornerbacks and wide receivers, so I highly doubt he could run that at his weight

  • Taryn

    What good is a forty time on defense if your opponent is breaking your ankles?

    Combine numbers produced in a controlled environment loses a lot of the muster on the field of chaos.

    Running around a cone is not like running around or through another player.The cone mandates a single mind determination to succeed,where a live player dictates a multiple process of reactions which slows down any controlled speed time.

    When the coach holds the ball and moves it in multiple directions is the test I like.Time the re-action of the feet to the ball representing a players motion(juke)than wonder about his forty.

    If you can’t juke me…you can’t out run me.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      On the flip side, if you can’t run around a cone, what chance to you have running around a blocker/tackler? That’s the inherent difficulty about testing football; its not like baseball where you can get a pitching machine out there and then plot a 100 bats for each player. By the time you make a football test non-subjective, you run into the problem of relevancy, but obviously it is relevant or you wouldn’t have all the teams show up for work out drills.

    • FireMMNow

      for me the 40 times just tells me if a guy has the ability to play in the league. if a WR runs a 4.75 it is unlikely he is going to play in the league even if he caught 70 passes in a college system that force fed him the ball. I just look at it as a way to eliminate guys who just do not have the speed necessary.