Green Bay Packer training camp is less than a week old and there have already been some stellar performances at the padded practices. Defensive lineman B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels have shown well along with newcomer Julius Peppers, to name a few.
It’s great to see the veterans performing well, as the Packers will count on them this season. But with a continuous emphasis on youth, the Packers are always looking for the next young star to emerge. That’s exactly what general manager Ted Thompson said was his biggest goal in his role: To find that next diamond in the rough.
In mid-May and after the draft, the Packers went through their usual process of signing the undrafted free agents they’ll invite to training camp. Besides the true draft gurus among us, many of us looked at those names and said “who?”.
Prior to the start of training camp, most of the attention on that group has gone to former Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who was projected as a mid-round draft pick before a heart condition was discovered and many teams shied away.
I have yet to hear Hubbard’s name from anyone, in terms of plays made or any type of impact that he’s making. One name I have heard on numerous occasions is that of inside linebacker Joe Thomas. Thomas came out of South Carolina State and was the Mideastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) defensive player of the year in 2013. He had 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and an interception.
Thomas isn’t a flashy-type player and there’s obviously a reason why he went undrafted, but he’s catching the eye of the coaching staff in Green Bay and could be this year’s undrafted free agent darling.
Thompson places a heavy emphasis on undrafted free agency and has been successful in finding some gems in the past. There have also been some who faded out as soon as the bright lights of the regular season came on. See Vic So’oto and Dezman Moses as two recent examples.
One reason to keep an eye on Thomas is that the inside linebacker position has been one described as a weaker spot for the Packers. A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones have been serviceable, but aren’t standouts and they are both a big liability in pass coverage. Hawk is entering his ninth season and while he may stick around a few more seasons, the Packers will eventually have to replace him. Jones seems to be starting by default and could likely be unseated by a player with any type of playmaking ability.