Let’s talk Linebackers, inside and outside. These positions in the 3-4 are what can make it a dominating defense or just another also ran. The roles of the ILB and OLB really quite different then any other scheme. The OLB’s are more like a right side DE in the 4-3 then the OLB in the 4-3. Playing both on the line and off, playing more of the 7 and or 9 spots along the defensive front. Both need to rush the passer and in the 3-4 coverage is a big part of the OLB’s duties.
Linebackers get a lot of discussion when it comes to the Packers. At the start of the season many comments were that the Packers were in good shape with there ILB’s. The comments on Hawk were from the biggest bust ever to a steady but not flashy starter, Bishop was gone and Smith would fill in just fine.
At OLB Perry needed to develop quickly for the OLB’s to be better then in 2011. Walden was liked by some and not liked so much by others. Moses got a lot of pre season hype, anyone else was a big question mark.
I have a some what radical view on the Packers linebackers, I am not a fan of Walden at all, he has some good games against weaker opponents but lacks so much at a starter he needs to be replaced. He cannot hold point against the run, he is a one trick pony in pass rush, if he can’t get around a OT he is done. He has no bull rush ability, and lacks inside moves or twists.
Moses to me is Walden in the different package. The only thing with Moses is we don’t know how much he can be developed, what will NFL level strength training and coaching do for him, so I put him as Walden’s replacement as a back up and situational player. Zombo has packed his bags and should not see them come back to Green Bay and I am a Zombo fan, I thought he just might develop nicely, but injuries put and end to that.
Perry shows the physical ability to do everything that needs to be done. He can bull rush, he can get around a OT, he holds the point against the run really well. It was a shame he had to have surgery on his wrist , I would have really liked to of watched his development over the season. I think he has the skills to be a LaMarr Woodley type of 3-4 OLB. I look forward to seeing what Kevin Greene does with him over the off season.
For me the Packers need to draft a OLB in the mid rounds. I lean more to a prospect that played OLB in college and there are a few I like in this draft, Chase Thomas OLB Sanford 6-3 241#, Jamie Collins OLB Southern Mississippi, 6-3 245# , Keith Pough OLB Howard 6-2 241#. For the conversion prospects I like Corey Lemoneer DE Auburn 6-3 242#, Micheal Buchanan DE Illinios 6-5 252# and a name that came out of the Senior Bowl this week Sio Moore 6-1 240# who I like as a ILB also.
ILB to me is the area that needs to be addressed even more then the OLB’s. Here is where my radical view of the Packers ILB’s really comes out. I am not a Hawk hater, I think he is what I stated earlier in this piece a steady starting ILB. That does not mean his spot cannot be upgraded or that he should be paid what he is going to be.
I am not a big fan of Bishop or Smith. Smith is a back up nothing more, a above average back up, but not what is needed to make the defense better. Bishop was the starting ILB on the worst defense in the NFL in 2011, he could not cut it as a MLB in the 4-3 and to me is just a better fit in his role as a ILB in the 3-4. Bishop lacks range and agility to cover well, he is better in the 3-4 because he has less area to cover compared to the 4-3. He cannot take on a OG and shed them or have the agility to just elude them. Bishop has had some sacks from the ILB spot, but when you look at each and everyone one of them he had WIDE OPEN field to get there.
Bishop can and does make plays, some big plays, as long as it is all in front of him. If he has to turn and run and slide laterally he is not going to make the play, this is where his limitations as a 4-3 MLB show up. I am not saying he is a bad ILB, I am saying he is a limited best option they had. Some think he is the “Real Deal” or one of the best Linebackers in the NFL and that him playing this year would have made some big difference. When you look at his body of work and his production that is just not true. Now the good part of that there are options on the team being developed and some interesting prospects in the draft.
I liked what I saw from Jones this year, he improved over the season, he is better in coverage then either Bishop or Smith and can make plays that Bishop and Smith are just not physically able too. He has more range and quickness then either Bishop and Smith. This is not to say that Jones does not need a full off season at ILB, with that experience he got this year and a full off season at just ILB I tyhink he will be a big part of improving the defense.
Ted Thompson moved up in the draft last year to take Terrell Manning as a ILB in the 3-4. Manning was a OLB at North Carolina State. He brings good size at 6-2 237# for a 3-4 ILB, but is so much more athletic then both Bishop and Smith. Jamari Lattimore is another college DE that made the move first to OLB now ILB that has promise as a ILB for the Packers. I like college OLB’s as ILB’s in the 3-4, they usually have some pass rush ability, better in coverage and are use to taking on a more athletic OT. A couple of those college OLB prospects I like are the before mentioned Sio Moore, Lerentee McCray Florida 6-2 249#, Trevardo Williams OLB Connecticut 6-1 235#. College ILB prospects I like are Kiko Alonso 6-3 242# Oregon, A.J Klein Iowa State 6-1 246#, Nico Johnson 6-2 249# Alabama.
The Packer have a lot of work to do with there entire Linebacker group. The group needs to get some nasty and more athletic. Who stays, who goes and who will be paid what, are all going to be tough questions that Ted Thompson will have to decide on. I do know this, the group as a whole needs to be upgraded, Starters and Backups. The good thing is the Packers have options in house and can add to the mix late in April.
Thanks for this post to draft-season contributor Don Christensen, known as “Yoop” on the TalkinPackers forum.