Ted Thompson Devalues Inside Linebackers

As Ron Wolf might say, Ted Thompson has never had an inside linebacker as “the girl with the curl”.  Personally, I would have liked to see the Packers select Eric Kendricks with their first round pick a couple weeks ago. Outside of that, I wouldn’t have minded seeing them pick Denzel Perryman or Stephone Anthony. Of course, my BPU must have been very different from general manager Ted Thompson’s BPA board because by the end of the draft, all of the inside linebacker prospects minus Jake Ryan were part of other teams.

While I do believe Thompson does follow the best player available philosophy when it comes to drafting, the fact that the Packers had 4 inside linebackers last year and lost 3 of them during free agency almost seemed to supersede best player available.   Sure “you don’t know what you’ll need in the future” but you definitely do know what you’ll need in the future by only having one true inside linebacker when there are two spots on the field is if anything a purely mathematical problem.  So why so little love for the inside linebacker position?

  • Inside linebacker is the “guard” on defense: Thompson has been famously known to favor drafting offensive tackles (preferably left tackles) and converting them to guard in the pros if needed, with the idea that college teams typically put their most athletic and most proficient linemen on the left and by drafting them Thompson in a sense could double dip and move them to guard if they couldn’t handle tackle.  In fact, outside of Corey Linsley, Thompson hasn’t drafted a true interior lineman in the last couple years. Thompson has started following this pattern at inside linebacker as well, with the Packers trying to double dip with Carl Bradford and Nate Palmer transitioning from the inside to the outside. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Perry or Jayrone Elliot take some stabs at inside linebacker as the preseason rolls on as the team tries to find more value at the position. Even Clay Matthews, who happens to be one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL will likely spend a lot of time on the inside because he happens to play inside linebacker quite well.  Simply put, Thompson likely feels like drafting inside linebackers is a low priority since he can just convert an outside linebacker to inside linebacker; keep in mind of the 4 players who played significant snaps at inside linebacker, two were college defensive ends (Matthews and Jones) one was a 4-3 outside linebacker (Hawk) and only one (Barrington) actually had experienced playing inside linebacker in college.
  • Inside linebacker is just not that important of a position: We all know there is a pecking order when it comes to NFL positions. You have the quarterback at the top, a large gap, the rest of the team, another large gap and then the kicker and punter. For Ted Thompson, when it comes to acquiring talent, you might as well add guard and inside linebacker with the kickers and punters. From a schematic point I do see where he’s coming from; in the modern era of passing the football and the shift towards the spread offense, more and more defenses are playing a large proportion of the time in sub packages like the nickel and dime defenses. Naturally, when you add more defensive backs you have to subtract from somewhere else and usually the first to go with the Packers is nose tackle (another position Thompson seems to not value all that much) and inside linebacker. Just like nickel corner is essentially a starter in the league now, inside linebacker is essentially a part-time role for the Packers as a result; famously AJ Hawk didn’t see a snap in the opening game of 2010 against the Philadelphia because the Packers played the entire game in the nickel. It’s almost as if the inside linebacker and flip flopped with the nickel cornerback in terms of importance; as the game move more to the pass, nickel cornerbacks gained in importance directly inverse to the importance of inside linebackers.
  • Ted Thompson just doesn’t draft inside linebackers high: Ted Thompson has never really put much focus on drafting inside linebackers. For instance, of the true inside linebackers that Thompson has drafted, Sam Barrington was a 7th rounder, Terrell Manning was a 5th rounder, DJ Smith was a 6th rounder and Desmond Bishop was a 6th. If anything, taking Jake Ryan in the 4th signals perhaps a shift from the norm, maybe indicating that Thompson put a little bit more value into the position for this draft than normal.  Even in undrafted free agency, Ted Thompson doesn’t appear to put much emphasis on getting linebackers; the Packers just announced signing 17 undrafted rookie free agents after the draft and surprisingly the Packers have signed 5 wide receivers for an already loaded position without the addition of 3rd pick Ty Montgomery, but only 3 linebackers, which is a position that could definitely see the most influx of new talent.

In the end, I think we’re all just going to have to accept that Thompson just doesn’t view inside linebacker as all that important and I have to admit the more I think about it, I have to agree with him.  Inside linebacker just isn’t all that important in a 3-4 defense and with more and more spread concepts taking hold in the league, more and more 3-4 inside linebackers will be sitting on the benches in favor of an extra defensive back.  Add to that the fact that the inside linebackers best skill appears to be making sure everyone is on the same page and in the right place (see AJ Hawk) and it doesn’t take a spectacular physical marvel to man the position.  I find the situation a little bit akin to center; for years after Scott Well’s departure, Packers fans were clamoring for Thompson to draft a center but the Packers made do with Evan Dietrich-Smith and Jeff Saturday until Thompson was able to find value by drafting Corey Linsley in the 5th round and hopefully Thompson can pull it off one more time with Jake Ryan.


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.


63 thoughts on “Ted Thompson Devalues Inside Linebackers

  1. I would say this was a fair article on the whole and think Ted rightly evaluated CB as a greater need over ILB in this pass-heavy, defense phobic NFL. That being said, the ILB position has been woefully underdeveloped for the past couple of seasons.

    The Packers and Steelers’ defense shares an obvious bloodline with the 4-3 scheme from LeBeau and Capers and the Packers are missing their Troy Polamalu. While no where near as “linebackery”, Nick Collins was that guy.

    He was obviously a 1-in-a-million type player that can’t be easily replaced but this is why Hawk would routinely give up first downs or big yardage or Nick Perry was forced to cover Vernon Davis. Because there isn’t the personnel for it on the Packers’ roster and the defense has suffered greatly because of it.

    Thompson and Capers have had a “live to fight another down” mentality which most of the time works out well. Bend but don’t break, give up the first down, maybe stop them later or hold them to a field goal. This has worked more than it’s failed but when it has failed… wooo boy. The reason the underbelly is soft is because there haven’t been ILBs there to stand tall or they’ve been doing the DLs work for them to stop the run.

    With a really capable, fast-ish ILB your defense is instantly better, not just in the pass game but spying mobile QBs like the Vicks, Wilsons, and Jafars of the NFL.

    It’s a need, perhaps one Ted notices and just has to go in another direction due to opportunity cost although it seems it’s one he consistently underrates.

    1. From what I know, the usual MO for NFL teams is that the head coach specifies what kind of player he wants (i.e. a smaller coverage linebacker, a bigger thumper a hybrid ILB/OLB etc) and then the GM goes out and tries to find that kind of player. With the Packers I’m not entirely sure; to me it seems like Thompson really is the final say on what kind of players the Packers pick and the McCarthy kind of has to fit a square peg into a round hole. Throughout the McCarthy/Thompson era, they’ve never drafted a inside linebacker that can really cover. Brandon Chillar was a free agent pickup, Nick Barnett was a holdover from the Sherman era and Matthews is a OLB that just happens to be able to cover well as an ILB.

      1. MM has no say in who TT picks up. It’s Ted’s call. Just watching the draft you could see MM was lost. He was bored and didn’t have much say in anything. He was so bored he grew a beard.

        Excellent article by the way. I agree with what you said.

        1. While I can see that MM might not have a say on what particular players are selected, my thought was more does MM have a say in what kind of players he likes. For instance, if MM says “I like smaller linebackers who are aggressive run stuffers and I don’t care so much about pass coverage”, then indirectly Denzel Perryman would be rated higher on Thompson’s board.

        2. Ted, I’d have to think that if MM looked lost, it was because they had already made-up their lists and there was nothing more to do than wait and see who was there. (?) I read that before the draft, they (TT & MM) will actually ask the players what they thought about certain potential draftees who had questionable personality traits … such as “Do you think he could ‘fit’ in the locker-room if he’s drafted by us?” If that is true, it explains a lot about the Packers’ chemistry.

  2. Well, maybe TT’s philosophy directly links to GB Defense so vulnerable against the run, and almost surely yielding big chunks of yardage in the short middle of the field and that GB couldn’t stop teams very well except for the turnover differential by above average corners.
    I defer more to evidence-based results, which suggests TT has devalued the position to the team’s detriment. I agree with you…An ILB would have been worth a slight reach based on 3 exiting ILBs from the team. Better yet, TT should have picked up a FA prior to the draft (I guess, he still has time, and if he picks up a castoff, bargain, I could appreciate that strategy to off season).
    And another think if TT did not take a chance on La’el Collins, he didn’t adhere to BPA, did he? Really….wasn’t it worth a 6th round pick to take a chance? Collins wasn’t a suspect. Does he have that much character issues that made teams immediately run from him?
    Never mind 31 other GMs did the same over 7 rounds. That seemed like a total missed opp.

    1. I don’t think lack of a true ‘thumper’ ILB is why the run D hasn’t been great since 2010 – I think it’s directly correlated to Pickett getting old and Raji being misplayed at 5 technique. Also Raji sucking. 🙂

      Also TT not being able to find a DL in the draft not named Daniels. And let’s face it, even Daniels isn’t the world’s best run defender. He is an 3 tech in a 4-3 defense manning a nickel DT in a 3-4 defense.

      1. Daniels was apparently 10th in the league in run defense for 3-4 defensive linemen, but I agree he physically isn’t going to be the kind of guy you want to wall off blockers in the run game. Then again, I’ve never understood the Daniels pick, and while I fully accept he’s a great football player, I still have no idea how he does it.

          1. Sure, but from a physical perspective he shouldn’t be successful in the NFL, let alone as a 3-4 defensive end. Sure, different players get it done different ways, but there are physical aspects that should be considered a minimum to play in the league (i.e. no cornerbacks under 5’10”); what makes Daniels even more amazing is that he’s probably under everyone one of those aspects and still makes plays.

        1. Have you seen Danielson’s arm’s lately? Their huge. He’s going to be a monster this season. Unstoppable.

    2. Well as Jeff wrote, Thompson will have the full green light to sign free agents tomorrow, so you could see him sign someone soon.

      As to Collins, I would say its two fold. First is that the media has hyped Collins up to be “maybe a top 10 pick” but it’s definitely possible that no team actually had him ranked that high at all and say for instance if your team had him as a 3rd/4th round pick, then it might be better just to take him off the board even though he doesn’t looked to be involved. As for signing him as a rookie free agent, there is a rookie pool that every team must be under to be cap compliant. The contract that the Cowboys gave to Collins was close to a 2nd round pick (again suggesting that Collins wasn’t really ranked that high). But to do that, they have to basically lowball every other undrafted rookie free agent in order to stay under the limit. From media accounts, basically every team was trying to sign him, but no one was willing to sacrifice the rest of the rookie free agent pool like the Cowboys were will to.

    3. Collins said that he would only sign a contract as a UDFA or if he was selected in the first three rounds. No GM was willing to risk a 3rd rd. pick, or higher, on him. Still, I am a little surprised that some GM didn’t call his bluff and take a flyer in the 6th or 7th round.

      1. If I understand correctly, if Collins was drafted and then held out for a year, he could then reapply for the draft (I believe that’s how the rule works at least). So if for instance, the Packers drafted him in the 7th round, he holds out and sits out the year (and presumably clears his name in the meanwhile), then he could be drafted the next year at a higher round, essentially meaning the Packers would have wasted a 7th rounder.

    4. On the Collins’ angle, who knows if they were bluffing, but apparently he (through his agent) said ‘If you pick me after the third, I won’t sign. I’ll hold out and re-enter next year.’

  3. I agree, it would have been great to see more investment in the ILB position. But barring catastrophic injury, I think the success or failure of the D this season will ultimately hinge on how well Raji/Guion/Jones do. If they can keep the LBs clean, this defense is going to be very good.

    That said, I haven’t given up hope on Richardson playing WILB in nickel and dime D, nor have I given up hope that GB brings in Spikes starting tomorrow.

    1. I wonder if picking up Randall also frees up either Burnett or HaHa to take a shot at playing “cover” ILB in the same mindset that you mentioned Richardson. My opinion is still that Richardson replaces Bush first and foremost and maybe contributes to defense on occasion.

  4. Perhaps it isn’t TT devaluing the ILB position but perhaps over valuing with too much emphasis being placed upon Matthews doing enough part time and ignoring the higher risk of injury that may befall him…hammies. Which unless new hoped for hero Jake Ryan or another steps up from the assumed depths of the depth chart will leave us in a bad place and even worst still if the play of Raji,Guion,Jones fail to be a decent run stop.

    Also,how could I not mention Nick Perry since the mention of him possibly being seen playing the role or in my description acting the role of ILB and will await the bandwagon riders clamoring to this move much faster than Perry will ever move on the field of play.

    1. If I understand your post, I agree with you about Perry. He doesn’t have the lateral agility to play ILB. In fact, I also question his heart, and that doesn’t bode well for a position change, especially one that doesn’t pay as well on the free agent market.

      1. At this point, he’s got to realize that getting on the field and putting on some quality tape is more important than being a role player in a position of greater value. For instance, if Perry wins an ILB spot, he definitely could be in 50-75% of defensive snaps but if he stays at OLB, he’s likely going to see something more like 25% of defensive snaps as he’s going to be in a rotation with Matthews, Neal and Peppers. Beggars can’t be choosers and when you’re one of the few players not to receive their 5th year option, you know the writing is on the wall.

        1. I agree with that. Hopefully Bradford and Ryan seize the positions and don’t put Perry in the mix to even compete at ILB. I’m trying to not let my personal opinion against Perry cloud my judgement, but I think he would be a disaster at ILB. In addition to his lack of lateral agility and heart, I think he lacks ball awareness as well.

          1. That’s not entirely unsurprising since he was a 4-3 DE in college and I think even he knows he’s a better fit at 4-3 DE. It’s almost sort of ironic that Perry’s combine numbers were so good that many teams projected him at 3-4 OLB even though he probably is still best at 4-3 DE.

            1. I was shocked when Thompson picked him based on the Zombo and Kampman conversions.

              1. There simply aren’t enough college teams playing a 3-4 defense to ignore projections at OLB. Sure there are some players who switch between DE and OLB, which might make the projection a lot easier, but in reality all teams are going to be making educated guesses. It’s kind of like how there aren’t enough pro-style quarterbacks coming out of college to fill the demand in the NFL.

              2. It is a contract year for Perry. He’d best do whatever is asked of him, especially if someone else steps up at OLB. Also, I wonder if Perry wants to leave GB and play DE for another team. Perry may think that the square peg into a round hole thing may have really hurt him financially.

        2. I totally agree with this other than haven’t a lot of fifth-year options been dropped this year?

    2. One interesting point that someone brought up is that putting Matthews at ILB is going to hinder the Packers chance of resigning him later on, since it’s pretty well known Matthews doesn’t actually want to play ILB and he might switch teams if they want him to play more OLB (which I’m sure every 3-4 team will want). Then again, Matthews will be 31 by the time he’s up for his next contract so that might be a moot point anyways.

      1. GB seems to play a lot of athletic QBs (or is it my imagination?) I think that outside rush were CM3 can bend around/lean almost parallel to the ground is a great move, but it opens a running lane for running QBs. Daniels as a penetrator against the run rather than a shock absorber, take on, and shed guy hurts CM3.

        1. Well the only thing the Packers can count on seeing every year is NFC north opponents and Stafford and Cutler aren’t exactly the most athletic quarterbacks in the world. Bridgewater might be more athletic but apparently he’s more of a pocket passer as well.

  5. Kind of a downer. Just hope that Thomas and Bradford step up and my personal belief that Hubbard will surpass Perry and along with Eliot and some others fill Matthews void so he plays inside like last year. And oh yeah, Raji, Pennel and Guion all play well and are healthy the entire season.

    1. I don’t think it’s as much of a downer as it is TT believing that good pass D and turnovers goes farther than a 3 and out defense does. I’m excited about the ballhawking ability of the secondary this year, but concerned that we’ll have to get turnovers to get off the field just like we did in 2009 and 2011.

      That said, IF Raji and Jones OR Barrington and Bradford/Thomas/”AJ Hawk part dos” progress, this is a moot point, because we’ll have the best of both worlds.

      1. I would say that most teams have offenses and defenses that compliment each other and logically the Packers defense is molded to fit the offense. The idea I believe is to get a big lead early and then force the opponent to make risky plays, which would allow for INTs/sacks/etc. Personally, I like a philosophy of scoring as many points as quickly as possible as opposed to the “ground and pound” philosophy which uses a great defense and an offense that can burn out the clock.

        1. If you’ve got a great QB, yeah. This is the way to go. Ideally, you’ll have the ability to do both, but in the salary cap era, this isn’t possible…at least not for more than a year or two before cap hell gets you. And that’s if you are INSANELY lucky with the draft.

      2. Love the deeper secondary, just want to finally have some attitude at LB. Should be much improved with existing talent and new blood.. Don’t overlook Hubbard and the undrafted guys.

  6. I read what you all commented, as well as the article… My first impression is that Ted Thompson was drafting players that can play football, e. g. football players (I think he said something like that – his draft picks are football players!). He do not draft linebackers, outside or inside, corners or safeties, of defensive backs if you like, nose tackle and defensive ends or defensive tackles. He is drafting players that can play football, on the offense or on the defense… And I predict, very soon you will have players that can play both side of the balls (already have few, e. g. J. J. Watt)… So, some of you put words in favor of Brandon Spikes. We do not know, but we might have Brandon Spikes already on 88. Can anyone here claim that is not truth? Also I read that you would love to have thumper for ILB, so what to do with up tempo offense on 3rd down when you can not replace player. You will play D with 10 only? There is so many tricky moments I can not even remember of, I suppose nether of you…
    Lot of teams pick up WR in the 1st round… Answer for that is not to pick ILB, but to pick CB or DB… How many running backs are picked up in the 1st round? Game is obviously changing dramatically… Also Packers has enough OL men for QB protection and one of the best OL in the league…
    And there I come back to turning OLB into ILB. Because it is more important to have pressure on the QB than to stop the run. You can surrender 200 yards per game to run, but can you surrender 400 or more yards to passing game? And you can not put pressure on QB just with 2 OLB…
    I think I did not scratch the surface with my questions, there is lot of more of those doubts. Because, next draft, when teams start to draft CB & DB, Packer will already have establish group of CB, BD and Safeties…

    1. Thompson is drafting football players, but football players also have defined roles and certainly players fit better into certain positions than others. You aren’t going to throw BJ Raji out at WR just because he’s a football player. Add to that the increasing specialization of players where there essentially isn’t a two-way player in the league today (JJ Watt got 9 snaps on offense so that doesn’t really count). While I agree with the fact that passing the ball is way more important to the game now than running the ball, some teams are still run first and the Packers will need to be able to stop the ball on the ground. It doesn’t really matter if the Packers can stop Alex Smith if they can’t stop Jamal Charles.

      1. Bad example. Charles can’t score 27 on his own. Nor can Alex Smith. If BOTH are working, then yeah, the Chiefs can score 27.

        I think a better example would be Manning and CJ Anderson. Either could score 27 if that was the only thing working for the Horsies that day.

        1. Sure, whatever example you want to use is fine, you get my point at least.

  7. Ted used his highest draft pick ever with the Packers on an ILB (AJ Hawk at #5) so I don’t buy the premise at all.

    The draft has been weak at ILB for the past two years. I’ll bet TT would have jumped at the chance to pick either Shazier or Mosely in 2014, but both were gone by the time it was his turn to draft. In 2015, many of the draft reports I saw had no ILBs with first round grades. And, there did not appear to be opportunities to trade back out of the first round.

    There’s one other thing at play. Maybe ILB is the RB of the offense. Thumpers that have shorter shelf lives and hence fall in the draft.

    I think GB will be fine at ILB in 2015. I’m sure he had this planned out well in advance of the draft.

    1. AJ Hawk was drafted as a 4-3 OLB, and then made the switch to 3-4 ILB when the Packers moved to the 3-4 defense so Thompson could not have had it in mind to have Hawk play ILB when he was drafted, hence he doesn’t count.

      Would Thompson had taken Shazier or Mosley last year? Media reports says yes, but really no one knows outside of the Packers front office. As for this year, I agree that the ILB class was rather weak but Thompson did mention in his press conference that he did field some calls to trade down but the deals weren’t too good. I do wonder if the 5th year option makes 1st round picks way more valuable than they were before, especially with late 1st round picks.

      As for the idea that ILB is the RB of the defense, the three shortest careers on average in the NFL are RB, WR and CB, and the Packers happened to draft two CBs with the first two picks a couple weeks ago, so I don’t think career shelf like is all that important to the Packers (its not like you are betting that any player has a career longer than 4-5 years anyways) (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/24/sports/pro-football-inside-the-nfl-draft-is-start-but-end-is-usually-near.html)

  8. I think the two most interesting items in the article were about TT drafting players and putting the onus on the coaches to make them work, and the conversion projects. I don’t really buy the first argument. Looks to me that TT at least thinks the players he drafts have a certain skill set that fit what the coaches have in mind, even if they didn’t play the position in college, and often enough certain physical size parameters. Hard to know how much input MM has, but I think it is very little.

    The second issue of converting players is more interesting. To me, it is a balance. TT can draft Brad Jones, or Bradford, as OLBs with the thought that they can transition to ILB if necessary, giving him as GM two chances at success. Similarly, TT often drafts OTs with the thought they can move inside, but I think that is overrated as many, maybe most, of those prospects were projected inside. There are plenty of examples of TT drafting OTs strictly as OTs, and it is only if they fail or GB has a need that they might be moved inside. You mention Linsley, but he was drafted as a true center despite their being concerns about whether he could even play OG. GB always liked the idea of having a big man at OC, thus the endless desire to replace Flanagan and Wells, despite decent play.

    Regarding converting players, it is better than having them fail completely, but it also impacts the salary cap (in my own little world at least). The college player has to make several adjustments, one to the speed and power of the NFL where everybody is good, to the playbook, and to a new position that perhaps they have never played. I would suggest that this overall can’t help but delay development of the player (obviously some players transition better than others). My theory that one needs to get good play from rookies in their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years while on their rookie contracts take a hit if a player’s 1st year is wasted while he figures out his new position (see Bradford), or if he has to shed or gain weight to make the move to the new position (see Neal).

    1. I should say that I’m not convinced that conversion projects is the best way to go unless you have no other option. As I’ve argued previously, modern football is played by specialists with essentially no two-way players and very few who can even play two fairly similar spots. Naturally with a lack of pro-style QBs or 34 OLBs entering the league teams have no choice but to convert but if Thompson really does value the tape above all else, wouldn’t the tape of a guard playing guard be better than a tape of a tackle playing tackle that you have to project as a guard?

      1. The tape would relate better, definitely, but talent reigns supreme in the NFL. If you have to choose between a lesser-talented player you know can do the job and a more-talented player that likely can do the job, you go with the latter.

  9. Let’s see: Pittsburgh and Baltimore both run 3-4 defenses and they both took ILB high in R1 last year. Most people think those two clubs are two of the better drafting clubs in the NFL That leads me to think of two possibilities:
    1 – TT would have happily drafted Shazier or Mosely last year; or,
    2 – TT is nuts and on an island by himself as to his supposed thinking that ILBs aren’t valuable anymore.

    Either one is possible. We lack sufficient information to be sure whether we are in reality 1 or 2.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that one of the biggest reasons why the Pack’s defense is thought to be soft is the inability to stop the run or cover the middle of the field. A lot of that has been attributable to our ILB play. Having CBs and S that don’t tackle well contributes as well as does a DL that gets pushed around or stonewalled. The failures of Raji, Perry, Neal and Jones has made our front 7 a train wreck for many years now. Throw in Kyhri Thornton now. All high picks that you would be lucky to get a 7th round pick for now.

    1. I think TT would have taken Mosely or Shazier over HHCD last year – because at FS at least we had teh option of Hyde. That said, I think HHCD is going to be a Pro Bowl player for years to come, so I’m pretty happy with the pick.

      I agree with your point about Raji/Perry/Neal/Jones. They all need to step up and our D will not be more than mediocre until they do.

    2. I think it’s interesting that you bring up the Ravens and the Steelers because they have a history of drafting linebackers in the 1st round that haven’t done so well. Arthur Brown and Courtney Upshaw haven’t lived up to their draft status and neither have Jarvis Jones nor Shazier.

      1. I used those examples to demonstrate how those GMs value the ILB position, not whether who they picked panned out.

    3. In response towards the player’s futures, Some team might give their 7th for Neal. Not sure of the rest. I’m not saying they can’t play or even start for NFL teams (the players in question above), which of course they do. A simple study of TT’s prior moves gives other team’s a pretty good idea of what the Green Bay Packers final roster will be. Especially After cut downs this Summer. Why trade a pick if a player will be cut from GB’s roster?
      A dropped by GB, but picked up player would miss the new team’s training camp, which is definitely a big deal, but players going to new teams, running similar schemes- with the whole preseason to learn, practice and utilize actual NFL game tape (albeit preseason) of themselves in action, can lead toward an easier transition into what the coaches are looking for the player to do. Many other teams salvage from the Packer’s rich heap; the Viking’s immediately come to mind.
      So long response, but I unfortunately agree. After TC, everyone will have a better idea of where all the players stack up on the roster and bubble. Right now, they’re “prove it” type players, to me. They’ll succeed or fail, and might even be out for good, after this year is said and done. Injuries matter, big time, for all listed above towards a future signing by any team next season.

      1. No, it was a smart-ass reference to how eerily similar Ryan looks (number, hair, stance) to Matthews in the photo with the article.

  10. Thomas – good article. It may well be true that TT does not place high value on ILBs, but the results are what matters most. Poor ILB play (and DL play) results in teams running against the Packers defense to keep Rodgers and the Packers offense off the field. This is the problem and the frustration with the Packers defense, in that they cannot get off the field on 3rd down, especially 3rd and short. It may be a passing league but teams know that if they can keep the score close they keep Rodgers off the field with their ground game and run off time. Given the current rules in the NFL which favor the passing game there is only so much even good CBs and safeties are going to be able to do to stop a strong NFL passing game. But if the defense can stop the run and you force the opponent into passing situations the defense gains substantially in making a play/sack or forcing a turnover. Unless our DL and ILBs step up this year we can expect to see teams continue to take advantage of the middle of the Packer’s defense. The formula works well during the regular season but in the playoffs the good teams expose and exploit their opponents’ weaknesses as we have seen with the Packers defense too often already. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. I agree, but in the salary cap era you can’t have it all and the Packers have chosen to defend the pass at the expensive of the run (they’ve also chosen the offense at the expense of the defense as well). To be honest, my feeling is that the Packers are aware of their run defense troubles but are more concerned about other issues, which at least to them are more pressing.

  11. I don’t think TT devalues the ILB position at all–or any position. To my admittedly amateur eye, it seems like TT truly values drafting “football guys,” and if they meet a positional need at a bargain price, all the better. Apparently, the top 4-5 ILBs on everyone’s boards didn’t meet TT’s criteria for football guys, and/or those players weren’t available where TT valued them on his draft board. That doesn’t mean he devalues the ILB position.

    The big question is figuring out what a “football guy” is in TT’s mind. Like most folks, I can’t read TT’s mind, but based on what I’ve seen from TT’s draft tendencies, I’d suggest the following criteria that “football guys” should possess in his mind (the more criteria they hit on, the better):

    natural talent (sometimes raw) at a position;
    versatility (ability to play multiple positions);
    quality character (maturity, humility, no big behavioral red flags);
    film rats/students dedicated to the game;
    high performance ceiling;
    ability to be a 3+ down player (special teams ability = bonus asset);
    other criteria I’m not thinking of right now;

    All of the top ILBs (including Ryan, who wasn’t one of the top-rated ILBs) had limitations that media experts and scouts noted. Based on the potentially-flawed criteria above, how does Ryan compare to Kendricks, Perryman, etc.? I think he compares pretty well, and TT didn’t have to pay a first or second round price tag to get Ryan. Instead, he added depth, talent, versatility, and competition in several DB positions in rounds 1-2, which we needed. And in Jake Ryan, TT may have gotten the talent he needs at a valuable price in round 4 at the ILB position.

    Of course, that remains to be seen, but for now, it looks like TT has drafted a great class of players (including some potential stud UDFAs).

  12. BPA vs NEED = you take the BPA at the position of need that you have … unless someone really wild falls to you! (Like Rodgers.)

    Every one of these guys are going to need work to become starters in the NFL. I seriously don’t see Ryan as being any worse than these three guys below. More of a ‘value pick’ who has a good chance to become a solid player.

    I would liked to have seen TT grab Reshard Cliett from South Florida. Something tells me he’s going to become something special. Unfortunately, the Texans grabbed him in the 6th.

    Eric Kendricks … is more like mid-2nd round quality in any other draft. He was only ranked as 1st round talent because of the weakness of that draft-class. Cripes some even had Perryman going late in the first!

    Denzel Perryman …. Sure, he plays faster than he looks, but he’s still nothing close to a sideline-to-sideline ILB. He doesn’t play with enough leverage and is more of a thumper when in position. Bad angles take him out of too many plays and opens running lanes for better RBs. 2nd-3rd round talent.

    Stephone Anthony’s biggest issue for the Packers is (was) the fact that they weren’t sure if he could transition to a 3-4 defense. I thought he was better than Perrymen, but still only a 2nd round talent. The question that remains is this: Did Perrymen look as good as he did because of Vic Beasley? Or was it all him?

    BTW: OG is a position that almost NEVER has anyone drafted in the 1st because they are a ‘pure’ guard. (( I believe that the last PURE OG taken in the first round was Chris Naeole, Colorado in 1997 by the Saints ?? )) TT took Bulaga as a LT. I said before that draft he would probably be a ‘good’ LT, but I thought he could become an all-pro RT.

    1. “The question that remains is this: Did Perrymen look as good as he did because of Vic Beasley? Or was it all him?”

      Denzel Perryman played for the U and Vic Beasley played for Clemson. So what the hell are you talking about?

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