Talking Packers Linebackers: Present and Future? All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Packers linebackersLet’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.

62 thoughts on “Talking Packers Linebackers: Present and Future?

  1. I agree with most of article. But I do have a few disagreements. I still believe Bishop is the “real deal”. Did he get some sacks that were “easy”. Maybe. Does he lack in coverage? Yup, so does Patrick Willis. He’s still a playmaker and a sure tackler and the Packers missed that sorely this year. They do need to draft a ILB and OLB in this years draft. I am really excited about Terrell Manning. I remember watching his tapes on Youtube after the Packers drafted him and he is very athletic. Hopefully a full healthy offseason will do wonders for him. I too am extremely excited for Nick Perry. I thought he looked pretty good for a rookie switching positions. One name I hope the Packers call on draft day is Vince Williams ILB from Florida State. The guy can move and is a good tackler.

  2. Yeah i like this article but i too completely disagree with your assessment on Bishop. When you talk about him being on the 2011 defense IMO he was the only bright spot outside of Matthews. And for bringing some nasty to this team he definitely brings that too but we do need more players like that and i believe your post about the Trenches holds more true than this one. We must get better in the DL and OL especially in the early rds of the draft.

  3. your opinion on Bishop is going to be out there for a lot of fans, but it is good to talk about it anyway.

    Hawk is a problem for this defense. He is a two down linebacker that is the 5th or 6th highest paid player on the team. If that is the case you better be lights out in the run game. Hawk started the year pretty strong, but he was awful down the stretch. Teams realized that Hawk could be completely neutralized with a lead FB. And not very good ones at that.

    The Packers need more speed at ILB. I thought Manning was a reach when they picked him. I will go on record as saying he is nothing special.

    Depending on the value at that spot, I would seriously look at adding Ogletree (converted safety who has speed and can cover) or Kevin Minter. A more traditional run down hill and smack you in the mouth ILB. I do not like the lineman early in this draft, but you can still get tougher up the middle with ILBs.

    Hawk needs to take a paycut or he can hit the road. Brad Jones is just as good and Bishop will be back starting.

  4. Sometimes finding those big pass rushing lanes is a matter of vision and timing. It does depend on others to do their job, but there is still a level of execution that must be accounted for.

    Other than that, I think you’re spot on about Bishop’s coverage abilities.

  5. From the start, we’ve been told the key to the 3-4 defense was linebacker play. When five of your top six at the position(DJ, Bish,CMIII,Z, Perry) are lost to injuries for multiple games you have to figure the defense will suffer! Hawk takes a lot of abuse, but he is steady and when he does give up a big play its usually not because he was out of position, just beaten by a good play. With stronger cast around him in 2010 he played pretty well and made a couple big plays. Buchanon would be an interesting addition – IL was so terrible, he didn’t get much press but could move up with good coaching.

    1. I agree that a defense will suffer with injuries. However, since this defense improved in it’s ranking, what does that really say about the difference between the starters and their replacements? Could this defense have been even better than it’s shown improvements? Might the back-ups shown an addition by subtraction?

  6. I wouldn’t sleep on Terrell Manning. TT obviously saw something in the guy and I remember hearing Mel Kiper or somebody on ESPN saying how much they liked Manning and what a great pick he was that late in the draft. Manning looks very athletic and he made some good plays on special teams this year. I don’t know I just have a good feeling about his potential. The illness he suffered during training camp certainly didn’t help him either.

    Another name that I would throw out there at ILB is Arthur Brown from Kansas State. Brown is not the biggest guy but he can lay the wood and he is probably the best coverage linebacker in the draft. Brown has great instincts and he sheds blockers very well. Maybe he will be a Packer come April. Keep an eye on him as the draft gets closer.

  7. Yoop, thanks for your insight and giving names in the draft to look at that could upgrade the LB corp.

    I’m no english professor and have my own issues w/ the english language but your delivery of the info is woefully lacking. I bring this up because it got in the way of getting to the info you spent time and effort to present. You use “then” instead of “than”, you use “a” instead of “an” as in…an OLB, an ILB and in one case you use “and” when “an” was the correct word. Some sentence structures are laborious and you have a typo.

    I don’t hold online articles to the same standards as newspaper articles. But I do believe your high school english teacher would cringe and have an active red pen while reading this article.

          1. i hate to pile on, but case in point – *you’re* is what you meant…and they’re right, it can make it a tough read

      1. He’s right. I like reading your stuff. You’ve got some opinions and you make me think. That said, the grammar is cringe inducing.

        1. LOL, Just to save you all the terrible burden of a few grammar mistakes, I will pay closer attention.
          I am just so use to doing quick posts with old friends at TalkinPackers where we don’t care, I do get sloppy.

          And for the price you get what you get.

  8. Navaro Bowman aside (definition of the exception, not the rule), what MLB’s can run with this new breed of TE (Graham, Hernandez, Gronk, V. Davis) AND play the run? Bishop is fine.

    GBP 4 LIFE

    1. Daryl Washington, AZ Cards is faster than Bowman. By about the same amount as Bowman is faster than Manning.

  9. I think it is a stretch to say Bishop will fully recover from his injury and be a play maker, his days are over unfortunately. Hawk needs a kick in the ballsack from Brian Noble.

    1. I look at Ogletree as a hybrid Safety that can play LineBacker … That’s what kind of an upgrade I think the Packers need. Someone that can cover the field in a hurry and defend against the Pass.
      My only concern with him, is when I watch his play he seems to be blocked out of the play way too often by Offensive Linemen. I don’t know if it’s because he is relativity new to the position, but it’s kind of pointless to have a fast defender that is easily taken away from making a play close to the line of scrimmage.

  10. I Wouldn’t mind an upgrade from Hawk at ILB, but I don’t think there are any ILB in this draft, other than Ogletree that are 1st round value. Minter is just another Hawk and is a 2 down ILB. So drafting him would cause the same problems as Hawk. Ogletree I like alot, think he has Daryl Washington ability as an ILB, but he would have to be in Bishops position. I’m also a big fan of Mannings. He is along the same lines as Washington and Navarro Bowman, just not quite as fast. But Manning runs well enought to be a playmakers. Personally, I would restructure Hawk or maybe move on, but I’m afraid of losing the steady decision making and leadership in the huddle.

    Other than drafting Ogletree the ILB group isn’t going to get a big upgrade from this draft. He is the one clear playmaker at Weak ILB that could make a difference. But then I think Manning could make plays at ILB too. Ogletree is > than Manning, but is it worth using a 1st round pick on him if you’ve got a guy already that can make a similar if not as big an impact? Reduce Hawks salary and he stays. I Would like Bishop in Hawks position if we don’t have Hawk, w/ Manning as the other starter. Jones and Smith are Good (Jone) to decent (Smith) backups. Jones is supposed to be good in coverage, but he gave up alot of 20 yd plays in coverage, more than Hawk IIRC. If he gets his coverage straightend out he has a role, but I think he is too soft as an ILB to be a starter. Smith is limited athletically and his height is always gonna be an issue.

    Walden and Moses are good backups at OLB, they are better if they aren’t on the field full time as a starter. If Perry is healthy they go to the roles they are suited for. Not that an upgrade wouldn’t hurt.

    I think the articles is way off on the LB corp. I don’t see a big overhaul needed, just some development by the young guys and guys being in the roles that suits their ability. The pieces are available for the Packers LB to be a real strength!

    1. From what I watched of Manning before and after the draft I was just not impressed. He lets blocker get to his legs way too easily, and is not a knock you backwards type of tackler. He reminded me a lot of Nick Barnett. Not the annoying celebrations and stupid fang mouth guard, but just a guy that is more of a grab and drag tackler.

      If TT has a weakness drafting and evaluating talent it as at the LB position. He has given awful contracts to numerous LBs (Poppinga, Chillar, Hawk) and he has missed more than he has hit in the draft.

      Just going off of my little bit of “film study” on Manning, I was not a big fan of the pick when they made it and I am not expecting much from him besided being a backup and special teamer.

      1. I’m assuming a lot of the film study is of his college play. Hopefully, an offseason and OTAs will help his talent to be employed.
        Evaluating him in the 2012 season may be misleading with his recovery efforts, lack of weight/energy, etc.

      2. I didn’t think Manning looked great on film either, but you know what? a TON of NFL scouts LOVE Terrell Manning.. There’s gotta be something to it.

      3. I thought Manning looked like a good physical player from what I saw. He shows good speed is a very willing run defender, (perfect fit at ILB) and while not great in coverage probably as good or better than any ILB we currently have.

        From NFL combine page. “He excels as a run defender where he has the strength hold his ground at the point of attack and keep plays inside of him, or re-work back out to run down ball carriers. He takes on blocks well and shows obvious strength when shedding them. He is aware of his size and keeps himself clean of blocks consistently, and is a physical player”. Sounds like a very good tackler who plays w/ physicality to me.

        Paraphrasing NFLdraftscout… 34 ILB who has alot to like about his playmaking abilities in a 34 D.

        JSO, “Manning, 6 foot 2 and 237 pounds, is a physical player.”

        Just a sample of what others say about Manning…

        1. Stroh

          First I have to ask if the nic name is from Beer?

          I like Manning or should I say what I think he can be in the 3-4 as ILB.

          With some of your comments in the Line piece, you talked about the type of DE you would like to see.
          Very good point about having some pass rush DE’s but need a stump to move at DE maybe with some pass rush.

          They rank Williams from Alabama at 16. I think he is going to be good, like that he can play all the spots for the defensive front.
          In those rankings they have Jenkins at #25, Hankins #27, Floyd #31 and Short #49.
          Jenkins seems to be a good fit for what you talked about.
          Can also play all three spots.
          HUGE at 6-4 359#, but is pretty athletic for a BIG man.

          A very interesting group, all in that same ranking range.

          1. Its a nickname I’ve had since childhood actually. Came partially from the way a friend mispronounced my last name by adding the r, and might have had a part from the beer. Its been so long I really don’t remember specifics anymore.

            CBS shows Williams at #22 now but I saw him at 16 too. Jenkins seems like strictly a NT so I didn’t include him for that reason. Hankins and Floyd might be good choices. Was just listing the guys I had researched and liked. Hankins I hadn’t gotten too yet. Floyd might be good, I worry about his ability to really hold against a double team. He seems to have the most athletic ability of the group, but not sure if he takes on double teams as well. Kinda got the impression that he would used his athleticism to avoid double teams when he needed to take them on according to the scheme.

      4. It’s weird that TT cannot spot good talent at LineBacker, cause he was once one himself. He certainly got CM3 right.

    2. Waldon is terrible. He doesn’t even make a good back-up on the practice squad. Get rid of him and while the Packers are at upgrading, throw Zombo out with him.
      I think your correct about Moses…He would also be a good combo if the Pack could get ogletree, and have both of them in the middle on pass plays. Opposing teams would have a tough time with fast hard hitting players roaming the middle of the field that covers sideline to sideline quickly.

  11. I think this group can’t help but be better next year by just getting Perry and Bishop back. I’m not saying that they’ll be lights-out, but they’ll be improved over the second and third-stringers we watched for long stretches this year. Really, can they be any worse? In all, the only irreplaceable players in the LB corps are CMIII and Perry (due to the high pick invested in him).

    Surgical techniques and rehab on injuries is light-years ahead of where it was even 5 years ago. I wouldn’t count Bishop out.

    I like Dezmon Moses’s energy. I hope he develops more than you seem to think he will.

    1. I agree that it will be a better with the return of those players and further development of players all ready on the team.
      But the fact remains Bishop was a 6th round pick that can be upgraded. Walden was a 6th round draft pick that was on three other teams in three years before coming to the Packers.
      Zombo was a UDFA, Smith is another 6th round draft choice. Lattimore another UDFA.
      Jones a 7th round draft choice. Manning TT traded up to get in the 5th.

      The linebacker group can be upgraded and should be at both ILB and OLB.

      1. I don’t think you can say draft position is a deciding factor for if a player can be “upgraded” or not. Should Tauscher have been upgraded because he was a late round pick? How about Sitton? Or Driver (in his prime). I’m not saying some of your arguments aren’t true, but saying so because of the round they were drafted in is not a good reason.

        1. Well when you look at say the 49er’s and where were there Linebackers drafted.
          If I remember correctly two first round picks and two 3rd round picks.

          Someone like Tauscher is the exception not the general rule of how these things area.
          But there are far more highly drafted players in the Pro Bowl and or the Hall of fame.
          Ted Thompson and his staff have done an amazing job in all rounds of drafting and signing UDFA’s. And coaching staff has done an excellent job of developing players.
          Only so many spots can be addressed in every draft.
          But if the Packers want to be one of the top defense’s in the NFL upgrades have to be made to the front seven of the defense.

  12. outside of CMIII are any of starting LB’s better than the 49ers back ups? let alone their dominant fast hard hitting starters? both SB teams this year have very very good linebacking, even with Ray Lewis a member of AARP and Suggs playing with a replacement leg.

  13. Moses was a undersized college DE making the change to 3-4 OLB.
    I did not say he would not develop, I hope everyone one of this type player ends up going to the Pro Bowl.
    I think he shows promise, He has good feet and Lateral agility, looks good in coverage.
    He can bend and lean in pass rush. He lacks strength to bull rush and needs to develop a good inside counter move.
    Mose’s needs NFL strength training and coaching to improve his run stopping and holding point.
    I put him as another Walden right now, that is good thing for undrafted free agent rookie making the change to OLB.

    1. Curious to read your opinion on this: Which should be the higher priority for the Packers, especially with regard to current players and scheme… d-line or linebacker?

      1. D-line. The scheme asks for 2-gapping so the backers can make “plays”. The idea is to have LBs making plays, not preventing damage (5 yard gains). A few have commented about how our LBs can’t “get off blocks”. This is not how Capers designed this defense and proves my point. Our LBs are not supposed to face offensive linemen.

        Keep the LBs clean with big boys up front.

        1. I would debate that the Packers’ 3-4 D is Not a straight 2-gap D line. Think they like New England before them, went to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme. I think currently the NT(Pickett,Raji) is responsible for 2 gap, and the DE(Wilson, Pickett) is a 2 gap while the other is 1 gap pentrating type (Neal, Worthy, Daniels). So it like 1/2 the d is 3-4 responsible and the other side is 4-3 responsibilities. Matthews is plays like classic 3-4 OLB and Perry is on the 4-3 side, plays more like a 4-3 end. JMHO.

      2. Both would help the defense overall. Dline can make the people behind them better.
        Worthy has to be removed from the 2013 plans.
        Neal showed he might be able to stay healthy and he played in more games this year then the two years before that. He showed he belongs, now with experience can he do more.
        Wilson is a run stopper, but not a great one.
        As I said in the earlier article Raji and Pickett should both just rotate at NT.
        Daniels is situational, rotational player but not a stater or a base 3-4 DE or NT.
        So with the Linebackers the Packers have now, Dline would be a higher priority if I have to choice between the two.
        But both need to be addressed.

        1. So, shall TT draft Te’o if he is there at 26 assuming there is no world-beater there as a 3-4 DE prospect?

          1. You take the highest rated player on your board. That old argument can go on for days. But the point of it is to not reach and draft a player that you don’t have ranked there because you need one.
            Now if you have 3 players at three different positions and all are ranked at that place in the draft you take the player you need most.
            I am not a big fan of Te’o and for sure not in the first round. I think he is over hyped.
            If I have to take a Linebacker at #26, I would look hard at Alec Ogletree who is 6-3 235# played OLB for Georgia.
            A bit undersized at 6-2 231# for how I like ILB’s, Sean Porter OLB Texas A&M would be someone I would look hard at as a 3-4 ILB, his coverage and blitz ability is quite good. Might be one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft.

            1. Thanks for the player analysis. I really don’t watch much college ball, so I really just base my views on the draft on other folk’s player analysis and my own team analysis.

              Just a random soapbox speech:

              I think that BPA in its strictest sense is used to a much lesser degree than what most people think. It could be that Bulaga, Sherrod and Perry were all the highest-rated players on TT’s board because they were simply the best players available, regardless of position. However, I would be very surprised if the value of each player, and hence the player’s position on TTs board, didn’t take into account the needs of the team in addition to that player’s talent and potential.

              Each player’s value, or position on TT’s board, has to take into account team needs. For instance, some players simply don’t fit into the system–take 4-3 DEs who don’t possess the tools to be converted to OLB for example. Even though the top 4-3 DEs are very good at what they do, they hold relatively little value to TT, because unless they can be converted, they cannot bring value to the team because they have no position to play.

              Likewise, each players at “positions of need” are going to be bumped up the board because they bring more value to the team. So, it’s really a function of both “need” and “BPA” IMO. That being said, player contracts come into play for the “need” part of the equation as well.

              If TT can upgrade at ILB and dump salary, it might make more sense to spend a high pick on that spot, even though it really doesn’t improve the position to a large degree.

              Along these lines, I would like to see a mid-late pick be spent on H-Back/Fullback to shed the unnecessary salary that Kuhn is drawing. If memory serves, he is pulling down $2.2 million/year. That seems like a helluva lot when similar production can be had for $400,000/year or so. Maybe the kid from Harvard would be a good fit.

  14. I am not the draftnik that many are, but wanted to comment briefly on an Iowa State LB. Yoop mentions A.J. Klein as a prospect at ILB, but I’d submit that OLB Jake Knott was the heart and soul of the Cyclone defense. He missed the final four games with a shoulder injury and has dropped significantly in the rankings, despite being bigger and faster than A.J. As far as I know, he should be good to go come combine time…

  15. Good article and good discussion. I would agree that picking an ILB in the middle rounds can be a good move for the Pack. However, the D-Line needs to be the priority for the defense this year. After Pickett, who is getting long in the tooth, the rest of the DL are all questions marks. I also agree that Yoop needs to take a writing course. Thanks, Since ’61

  16. Tough crowd, yoop, but take it as constructive criticism.

    People like the content, just gotta brush up on the delivery.

  17. Doesn’t bother me at all, because they are right. Since it is being posted here for Al I need to be a bit more careful.

    1. Al has not only populated AGBP dot com with great packers fans, but some really, really good writers as well. I imagine most of these young men will go on to make a living with their words. It certainly makes it a daunting proposition to write up an article for posting on here!

  18. Excellent aticle Don… My question is… Who can the Pack ACTUALLY draft?… and are there no F.A. out there that would fit?

    1. Like every draft you take good players, you don’t EVER reach for a position of need.
      There really isn’t any 3-4 ILB’s I would go after as a FA. It is bad when Urlacher is listed as the #1 MLB.

      Draft I like college OLB’s as 3-4 ILB’s.

      Adn there is a pretty good mix of those and later round ILB’s. I will be doing further pieces on positions as the combine and pro days start up.

  19. I think our first focus should be the Linebacker corp for the 2013 season. or at least some big Strong Safeties that can play like a linebacker. I would start with paving the way of dead weight. Even if you cannot get a Bjorn Werner (a hybrid DE/OLB) in this draft other teams rejects that are strong in talent at that position should have some guy’s to cut from their squad, simply because they have no room. Also, it is my hope that the Packer squad is looking at how a LineBacker tackles as well as gets around blocks. All the video I have been watching of linebacker draft prospects show Arther Brown, as well as Werner, are the best potential linebackers at beating blocks. Speed is good, but that alone doesn’t cut it.

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