The Packers discovered undrafted rookie free agent Sam Shields in 2010, bringing the receiver-turned-cornerback into training camp and watching him play a key role in their Super Bowl run. He kept right on developing and is now a player the Packers deemed worthy of a $39 million contract.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson has had success with other undrafted free agents in successive years, but hasn’t uncovered a gem quite like Shields. Might that change this season?
It’s far too early to tell, but nose tackle Mike Pennel and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott have flashed so far this season. Could they be the next undrafted stars for the Packers?
We’ll find out soon enough.
In case they are, here’s a little more about each player so you can say you knew all about them if they do end up turning into big-time players.
With free agent signee Letroy Guion out with a bad hamstring, Pennel, a 6-foot-4, 331-pound wrecking ball, has seized his opportunity as the second-string nose tackle.
Nobody drafted Pennel because 1) he never finished high school, 2) he played his first two college seasons at a community college in Scottsdale, 3) he got into Arizona State, only to be suspended twice after playing just five games, 4) he played his last season at Colorado St.–Pueblo and didn’t exactly light up the field, and 5) he’s had at least one social media meltdown.
So far, he hasn’t been on a problem for the Packers.
Pennel’s size and athleticism has been impressive in training camp and he came up with a sack in Saturday’s exhibition win over the Rams. Of course, he’s raw and unpolished, but his body type and nasty playing style are exactly what the beleaguered Packers defensive line needs.
To me, what’s most impressive about Pennel is how he’s a sneaky 331 pounds (as much as one can be sneaky when weighing 331 pounds). He doesn’t look like he weighs 331 pounds and he sure doesn’t move like it.
If he can harness all that raw talent, not get on the wrong side of the coaching staff, and stay off of Twitter, the Packers might have found a player.
Elliott has played eight snaps this exhibition season and has three sacks — all of them coming in a four-play span against the Rams on Saturday.
At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Elliott has the size and height to be disruptive even if he’s not getting sacks. He’s also nimble enough to duck, spin, hook and race around bigger offensive tackles, much like he did on Saturday against the overmatched Sean Hooey.
No, dominating a third-team offensive tackle isn’t anything to brag too loudly about, but Elliott’s been making plays throughout camp, not just against third-stringers late in meaningless exhibition games.
The Packers seem to have about 500 outside linebackers on their roster. Unfortunately, only one (Clay Matthews) is really good and another one (Julius Peppers) is aging, new to the position, and might be on a snap count week to week.
The door is wide open for a player like Elliott to snag a roster spot and try to supplant Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba or Mike Neal in the outside linebacker rotation.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .
3 thoughts on “Getting to know Packers Undrafted Free Agents Mike Pennel and Jayrone Elliott”
I think it’s unfair to compare UDFAs to Shields. That’s a really high bar. Shields had off-the-charts athleticism (speed) coming in. Still, one has to be impressed with both of these guys. Raijon Neal and Perillo are the other guys that have a realistic shot at cracking the 53 man. Neal’s size/speed combo is intriguing and he looked good in the first game.
I wasn’t trying to compare to Shields….more like holding out hope, however slim, that one of them might turn into a player of Shields’ caliber.
It would be a surprise to see the Pack let either of these players go. That they are both defensive players, and front 7 players to boot, makes all the sense in the world. TT’s endless mistakes drafting front 7 players has created a golden opportunity for UDFAs. Not so easy to make this team on teh offensive side of the ball but Perillo has the look of a keeper too. Harris is the keeper over Neal so GB has to keep 4 RBs for Neal to make squad. If he can get back on the field before cutdowns and continue to impress, he might achieve that. As always, cutdown dates will be interesting. Is this the end of the road for Bush and Kuhn? Could be if we have young guys worth keeping. This team is 10-1 for the SB so TT can’t just open holes for young guys. Delicate balance. Do we keep 3 QBs or do we let Flynn go? Do we let Raji go? Do we cut a boatload of OLBs to keep Mulumba, Elliott, Perry, Neal, Peppers and CMIII? Can we keep 6 CBs and 5 S? Probably not. Easiest cuts will probably at DL/OL.
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