1) Introduction: The Packers are known for being able to find the “diamond in the rough” when it comes to undrafted rookie free agents and this year Mike Pennel was the surprise addition on the 53-man final roster. Is Pennel the real deal or just a flash in the pan?
- Age: 23
- Born: May 9, 1991, Aurora, Colorado
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 332
- College: Colorado State University – Pueblo
- Rookie Year: 2011
- NFL Experience: R
3) Expectations coming into the season: Get on the roster, as a rookie free agent with a checkered history including stops at 2 universities and a junior college, Pennel had all the physical talent in the world but had yet to show he was mature enough to get the job done. With so many rookies and free agents looking to make the team, Pennel was looking more at a practice squad spot really than any place on the team. However, Pennel showed glimpses of the brilliance that once labeled him as a “once in 20 years” type of talent at Arizona state and managed to make the team alongside Jayrone Elliott.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: While Pennel didn’t get many chances on the field, especially with the resurgence of Letroy Guion, Pennel’s best game was against the Carolina Panthers where he proved a rock in the center against the running game (which admittedly the Panthers threw out half way through the first quarter for some inexplicable reason) but outside of that Pennel had mostly a down or average season. By far his worse game was against Dallas in the playoffs where a big nose tackle likely would have helped stop the Cowboys stud offensive line and star running back but Pennel was largely ineffective.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Below average. In all fairness it’s not like anyone was expecting all that much from him; undrafted rookie players for the Packers typically don’t contribute all that much, and the traditional nose tackle position is slowly being phased out for smaller, quicker defensive linemen (see Ryan Pickett for Letroy Guion). Surprisingly for such a big man, Pennel graded out better at rushing the quarterback than he did stopping the run (then again so did the rest of the Packers defense). If he can learn to be more of an anchor in the middle against the run, the Packers might have found another diamond in the rough.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Incomplete. Pennel only played 13 snaps total in the playoffs, so it’s very hard to make any sort of fair assessment. While as mentioned above Pennel recorded his worse game against the Cowboys, it was only 6 snaps so not much can be made from it.
7) Intangibles: Pennel is a scouting nightmare, with all the talent in the world coupled by all the off-field issues you can imagine. If Pennel can keep his head down and out of the headlines, Pennel could at very worse become a solid rotational defensive linemen in the future.
Season Report Card (Player Grades):
(B) Level of expectations met during the season
(C) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(INC) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: C——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.