Category Archives: Linebackers

29

January

Mike Neal 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, Packers evaluations, Packers report card, Mike Neal report card1) Introduction: Eyebrows were raised during training camp when it was revealed that the Green Bay Packers were giving Mike Neal, formerly a defensive end in their 3-4 defense, a shot to perform at outside linebacker.  After years of showing potential only to be derailed by some sort of an injury, Neal was a man on a mission in training camp and was determined to prove what everyone thought about him (when healthy) was justified.  Moving Neal to outside linebacker seemed like a crazy move but given how badly the Packers needed a pass rush, they were willing to try anything

2) Profile: Mike Neal

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 06/26/1987 in Gary, IN
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 285
  • College: Purdue
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Even before the news about moving Neal to outside linebacker, this was shaping up to be a make-or-break year for him.  He missed all but nine games his first two years in the league and was considered by many to be an injury risk.  2012 was much better as Neal saw action in 11 of the 16 games but he still missed time but this time because of a substance abuse suspension.   If he could just stay healthy, he could be the missing piece in the Packers finally establishing a consistent pass rush.  However, as he adjusts to his new role as an OLB, it was unclear how successful the move might be and what growing pains Neal might encounter.  The initial plan was to have Neal split time between linebacker and subpackage lineman.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Neal notched his first career interception in Week 2 against the Redskins and forced a critical fumble in the Packers’ come from behind 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14.  Neal struggled against the Vikings in the 26-26 tie in Week 12 and not stopping Adrian Peterson was a big reason the Packers couldn’t get the win against the lowly Vikings.

29

January

Nate Palmer 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers, Nate Palmer, Green Bay Packers, Nate Palmer evaluation1) Introduction:When the Green Bay Packers selected Nate Palmer in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the team saw something.  Palmer was not projected by many to even be drafted but the Packers thought highly enough of him to make him a sixth round selection this spring. Illinois State is not exactly known as a football powerhouse, but Packers GM Ted Thompson hoped he found a diamond in the rough in Palmer.  The defense Palmer played in had similarities to what the Packers run under Dom Capers and that must have played a role in Green Bay selecting him.

2) Profile: Nate Palmer

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 09/23/1989 in Chicago, IL
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 248
  • College: Illinois State
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 years
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Not was expected out of Palmer in 2013.  He was expected to sit, watch and learn from Clay Matthews and at some point perhaps evolve over the next few seasons into a decent pass rusher for the Packers. Kevin Greene picked out Palmer when he visited Northern Illinois along with coaches from other teams and Greene was going to try to shape Palmer in the image of Matthews.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Palmer only saw minimal action, seeing the field in only eight of the team’s 16 regular season games. He failed to record a sack, which is a definite low-light for a player trying to be more like Matthews. On a positive note, Palmer recorded six tackles in both the loss to the Bears as well as the home win over the Cleveland Browns.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Palmer provided much needed depth for a team that was decimated by injuries at the linebacker position. For a player that very little was expected from in 2013, Palmer did the best with what he could being thrown into the fire as suddenly as he was.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Non-existent. Palmer did not register a tackle in the playoff loss to the 49ers.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season

(C) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C

28

January

Andy Mulumba 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: Packers fans did not expect to hear the name “Andy Mulumba”  as one of their defensive starters during the 2013 season.  Mulumba was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan.  He was likely initially signed as depth and not much more and he was by no means a lock to even make the roster going into training camp.  Thanks to injuries that decimated the Packers at the linebacker position, Mulumba was called upon in 14 games and started three.

2) Profile: Andy Mulumba

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 01/31/1990 in Luputa, Congo
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 260
  • College: Eastern Michigan
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Signed as an undrafted free agent, there was absolutely no guarantee Mulumba would even make the roster.  With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry set as the Packers’ two outside linebackers, Mulumba’s addition was strictly for depth and that’s about it.  Not many expected Mulumba to make the team, let alone play a role in the season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Well, the earliest highlight for Mulumba was just making the team thanks to a strong showing in the preseason.   He also had a key fumble recovery in the tie against the Minnesota Vikings and recorded a crucial sack in the see saw battle in the Week 17 matchup against the Chicago Bears that the Packers won to clinch the NFC North title.  His lowlight, like much of the Packers’ defense, is in failing to generate a pass rush and letting Colin Kaepernick make critical runs in the postseason defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Since Mulumba was not expected to contribute anything on the field this season, he definitely exceeded a lot of expectations.  He was basically thrown into the fire due to injuries and held his own in the least ideal of circumstances for an undrafted rookie.  He played solid in coverage when needed but struggled in run defense and as a pass rusher.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Mulumba had one assisted tackle during the playoff loss to the 49ers.  He was part of a linebacker unit that could not contain Kaepernick in crucial situations

Season Report Card:

(C) Level of expectations met during the season

28

January

Nick Perry 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: When Perry was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he was expected to take some pressure off of Clay Matthews as far as generating a pass rush.   Unfortunately, a wrist injury derailed his rookie season and found himself on injured reserve in early November.   Expectations were high once again for Perry entering his sophomore season, but once again injuries were the name of the game.  Perry missed significant time for the second consecutive season, raising questions about his long-term viability with the Packers

2) Profile: Nick Perry

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 04/12/1990 in Detroit, MI
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 265
  • College: USC
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Finally healthy again, Perry was expected to rebound and build on some early season successes as a rookie.  His bone jarring hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012 had Packers fans salivating at what he could potentially become.  He showed decent ability in coverage, but Green Bay took him for his speed and pass rushing ability.  A higher sack total was in order for Perry along with continuing to adjust to playing as a 3-4 linebacker after playing as a 4-3 defensive end at USC.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The biggest highlight for Perry was his two-sack performance at home against the Detroit Lions in Week 5.   He had only two sacks for his entire rookie campaign and his two sacks of Matthew Stafford in that game gave Green Bay the edge and got the team’s record back to .500 after some early season struggles.  His low-light was that he once again battled injuries, this time with a broken foot.  Perry missed five games this year and is becoming yet another injury concern for a team that every season seems to face multiple critical injuries.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Perry was part of a linebacker unit that failed to meet expectations this year, mainly due to injuries.  Perry’s injury didn’t help but it was really Clay Matthews’ twice broken thumb that really doomed the unit.  Perry hasn’t yet truly emerged as the Robin to Matthews’ Batman, but he showed progress in the 11 games he played this year.

2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.

10

November

Eagles vs. Packers: Keys to the Game

Seneca Wallace

Wallace is Green Bay’s biggest key in Sunday’s game against the Eagles

This week’s game is the only the fourth of its kind in the last 21 seasons for the Green Bay Packers.  Someone new will start at quarterback.  Before Seneca Wallace takes the first snap this week, only Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Brett Favre have lined up under center for the Packers’ first offensive snap since 1992.

Many a thought, opinion, suggestion, rant and meltdown have surfaced this week about why Rodgers was hurt and what in the world the Packers can do about it now.  All of that aside, there is a game to be played this week at Lambeau Field and it will count in the standings.

Rodgers is out this week.  You can write that down in ink, as Mike McCarthy sometimes says.  Earlier in the week, practice squad quarterback Scott Tolzien was promoted to the active roster.  The Packers also are reportedly going to bring in Flynn for a workout.  Regardless, Wallace has been practicing all week with the first team and will be the Packers quarterback on Sunday.

For many, this is the first real glimpse of how this team will look each week until (or dare I say “if”) Rodgers comes back.  As John Rehor of PackersTalk.com discussed a few days back, this is new territory for many Packers fans, especially those under age 22.  Rarely has the quarterback position in Green Bay been one of the big question marks heading into a game.

With that, let’s look at that as well as the other keys that will likely surface and determine Sunday’s outcome.

Seneca Wallace & Green Bay’s Offensive Game Plan

You knew this would be the first topic mentioned.  Obviously the Packers would like to get as much out of Wallace as they do out of Rodgers but that isn’t happening.  Wallace isn’t anywhere near the same type of quarterback that Rodgers is.

Still, the Packers can have success without #12 under center on Sunday if they prepare to play within who Wallace is and what he can add to the talent pool that is still healthy enough to play.  Wallace looked shaky on Monday night and understandably so.  Lambeau Field, Monday night football, Chicago Bears, slight division lead and all of a sudden, he’s in to keep the Packers in the game and win it.  Not to mention while everyone around him was trying not to go into full panic mode.  Still, a loss is not well-received by the home crowd.

11

October

Green Bay Defense Relying On Young Depth

Nate Palmer Green Bay Packers

Nate Palmer is one of the young guys who may be called upon to step in and help.

The Green Bay Packers will be without two of their defensive starters for at least this week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.  Outside linebacker Clay Matthews reportedly had successful surgery on his broken thumb and will be out at least a month, probably longer.  Inside linebacker Brad Jones suffered a hamstring injury and was ruled out of this week’s game on Wednesday.

Losing Matthews is a huge blow to the Packers and their pass rush.  Replacing him is impossible and I need not break down the many reasons why.  He is the team’s best defensive player and the heartbeat of that side of the ball.

In Jones, the Packers are losing yet another solid contributor to their defense.  Jones stepped last season amidst a few injuries and has maintained his starting role along side of AJ Hawk.  According to Pro Football Focus, Jones ended up with a +7.3 overall rating in 2012 and scored equally well in both pass and run defense with a +4.6.  So far in 2013, Jones has a +3.9 rating.  While not stellar, Jones has been OK in pass coverage, an area that Packers linebackers have lacked in.  Now Green Bay is faced with trying to plug these two holes.

Mike Neal will assume one of the outside linebacker spots opposite Nick Perry.  ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde ran an interesting piece on Neal’s transformation to OLB.  Perry had success coming off of the right side and so Neal could line up left.  Both had a decent showing against Detroit and any similar production would come in very handy at Baltimore.

At middle linebacker, the Packers went from thin to thinner on Sunday.  After Jones was lost, Robert Francois filled in.  Francois then suffered a torn Achilles and has already been placed on season-ending injured reserve.  Francois was replaced by Jamari Lattimore.  Lattimore will likely remain with the first unit in the team’s base 3-4 defense.

Behind these incumbents, the Packers will rely on their young and unproven depth to step in and contribute, where needed.  Sixth round draft pick Nate Palmer, seventh rounder Sam Barrington and undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba will all be asked to support the current starting cast.