Mike Neal 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card
1) Introduction: Eyebrows were raised during training camp when it was revealed that the Green Bay Packers were giving Mike Neal, formerly a defensive end in their 3-4 defense, a shot to perform at outside linebacker. Â After years of showing potential only to be derailed by some sort of an injury, Neal was a man on a mission in training camp and was determined to prove what everyone thought about him (when healthy) was justified. Â Moving Neal to outside linebacker seemed like a crazy move but given how badly the Packers needed a pass rush, they were willing to try anything
2) Profile: Mike Neal
- Age: 26
- Born: 06/26/1987 in Gary, IN
- Height: 6â€™3â€³
- Weight: 285
- College: Purdue
- Rookie Year: 2010
- NFL Experience: 4 years
- Career Stats and more
3) Expectations coming into the season: Even before the news about moving Neal to outside linebacker, this was shaping up to be a make-or-break year for him. Â He missed all but nine games his first two years in the league and was considered by many to be an injury risk. Â 2012 was much better as Neal saw action in 11 of the 16 games but he still missed time but this time because of a substance abuse suspension. Â If he could just stay healthy, he could be the missing piece in the Packers finally establishing a consistent pass rush. Â However, as he adjusts to his new role as an OLB, it was unclear how successful the move might be and what growing pains Neal might encounter. Â The initial plan was to have Neal split time between linebacker and subpackage lineman.
4) Playerâ€™s highlights/low-lights: Neal notched his first career interception in Week 2 against the Redskins and forced a critical fumble in the Packers’ come from behind 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14. Â Neal struggled against the Vikings in the 26-26 tie in Week 12 and not stopping Adrian Peterson was a big reason the Packers couldn’t get the win against the lowly Vikings.
5) Playerâ€™s contribution to the overall team success: Like with most of the other linebackers, the plan with Neal got blown up thanks to the widespread injuries at the position. Â That however turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Â Neal Â stayed healthy for a full season for the first time in his career and started 10 games. He set a career high with five sacks and did a better job in his first season at linebacker than many thought he would. Â The fact that he remained healthy and entire season exceeded many people’s expectations. Â Neal had a team-high 46 rushes in 2013 but still has work to do as a pass rusher. Â As mentioned above, he also struggled in coverage and against the run.
6) Playerâ€™s contributions in the playoffs:Â Neal had only one tackle against the San Francisco 49ers in the wild card loss and the linebackers struggled as a whole to contain Colin Kaepernick. Â Neal also showed some liability again in pass coverage.
Season Report Card:
(B+) Level of expectations met during the season
(B) Contributions to teamâ€™s overall success.
(C-) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: Bâ€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke