It’s practically become a tradition every training camp and preseason for the Green Bay Packers: some player, either a late round draft pick or even an undrafted free agent makes some plays in camp and the preseason and becomes an instant sensation amongst fans and the media.
First, it was Matt Hasselbeck (sixth round pick in 1998) and he went on to have a very long and productive playing career after he became a July and August sensation in preseason games backing up Brett Favre.
Then came linebacker Desmond Bishop (sixth round pick in 2007) who lit up offensive players in the preseason before finally cracking the staring lineup in 2010 after Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending wrist injury. Bishop was a key contributor to the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV title and led to Barnett’s departure that offseason
This year, the Packers may have another such player on their hands this year in undrafted free agent defensive end-turned-outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott.
Elliott made a name for himself in Green Bay’s second preseason game when he had three sacks against the St. Louis Rams in four snaps. Immediately Packers fans began asking themselves one question.
“Who is this guy?”
Well, Elliott was born on November 11, 1991 in Cleveland, Ohio. That he was born on 11-11 (which has some special meaning to numerologists who think it signifies some spiritual presence) perhaps was some foreshadowing of his rise to fame with the Packers.
Elliott attended Toledo where he played defensive end and led the team with six sacks in 2012 before collecting 14 sacks in 2013 and being named First Team All-MAC. Even though he was a dominant force in the conference last season, the fact that he attended a smaller school undoubetdly affected his draft stock and led to him not being selected in the seven round NFL Draft in May.
Enter Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Thompson doesn’t mind rolling the dice on players from small schools and sees them as potential diamonds in the rough. Therefore, the Packers signed Elliott as an undrafted free agent and brought him into training camp.
Elliott got his chance and he has seized the opportunity with both hands. He followed up his performance against the Rams with a sack and a tipped pass again as the Oakland Raiders last Friday. After that game, Elliott must be considered pretty close to being a lock for making the team.
Before anyone anoints him as another weapon the Packers need to use, keep in mind Elliott looked simply “ok” against the Raiders starters. Once their backups came in however, Elliott flashed his skills. This doesn’t condemn him to being a backup, but rather it serves as a reminder that he is still a rookie and has plenty to learn.
The good news though is that, as of right now, Elliott has a pretty high ceiling. Given that the Packers still aren’t sure what they have in Nick Perry, Elliott is definitely worth keeping around to continue developing. One can never have enough pass rushers right?
With the final roster cutdown fast approaching, all eyes will be on Elliott in the final preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Mike McCarthy has already gone on record saying Elliott will get the most playing time he has seen all preseason against the Chiefs so if he wants to lock up a roster spot beyond a reasonable doubt, now is the time.
For a team that has struggled with a pass rush in recent seasons, the Packers suddenly have an abundance of players who can get to the quarterback. Adding Elliott to the bunch just gives defensive coordinator Dom Capers one more weapon in his arsenal.
Who knows? Maybe Elliott could be one spark that helps propel the Packers to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona in February.
Now that would be a storybook ending.——————
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