25

May

Green Bay Packers Taking Shotgun Approach to Improving the Defensive Line

Phillip Merling

Veteran free agent DE Phillip Merling became the twelfth defensive lineman on the Packers' offseason roster.

Call it the “shotgun approach.” Ted Thompson added his twelfth defensive lineman to the roster on Wednesday with his signing of DE Phillip Merling, who spent the last four years with the Miami Dolphins. Of the four (non-Packer) veteran free agent signings by Thompson this offseason, three have been defensive lineman: Daniel Muir, Tony Hargrove, and now Merling.

There’s obviously been some emphasis by the Packers on bolstering the talent and depth across the unit. The drafting of Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels take the total number of new linemen up to five, meaning almost half of the group will be new faces in training camp.

Is this a case of desperation in response to the horrible performances of last season? No, that’s taking it a bit far. Ted Thompson is not spending beaucoup money on these free agent players, which one would tend to do when desperate.

But he is stockpiling the talent pool in a variety of ways, and hoping a good number of them stick.

The three free agent signings are not superstars. Tony Hargrove is the most well known of the group, but he’s probably not going to be a game-changer. His career has been up and down, playing with four different teams over eight years and racking up just 19.5 sacks and 16 run stuffs in the process. Hargrove hasn’t started a game in two seasons, and he only has 25 starts to his name across his entire career. Those numbers aren’t meant to discourage anyone – they’re certainly not the whole story – but they’re not indicators of a guy who’s going to “tilt the field.”

Then there’s Daniel Muir, whose career contrasts with Hargrove’s. Both are 28 years old, but Muir has 3 years less experience in the league and a slightly less impressive resume. Unlike the travelling Hargrove, he spent most of his years with the Indianapolis Colts after his rookie stint with the Packers. Muir’s numbers aren’t as flashy (just a half a sack in his career), but he is also an inside tackle player rather than a defensive end, so his role is considerably different.

9

April

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: The Catch and Release of Mike Neal?

Packers Beer MugYesterday afternoon, our fellow blogger in crime Zach Kruse shared an interesting bit of information over at CheeseheadTV.com. Apparently some Green Bay Packers sources indicated to Pro Football Weekly that they “will not be shocked in the least if the team releases injury-prone DE Mike Neal after the draft.”

Neal’s recent violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy earned him a four-game suspension to start the 2012 season, and this has most likely put him on the short list in the mind of Ted Thompson. Of course, this is also just adding to the fact that, due to injuries, Mike Neal has only been active for 9 games in his first two years as a pro football player. And in only 3 of those games did he actually record a tackle.

A lot of fans have been hailing him as the second coming of Justin Harrell, though perhaps a bit prematurely. Now, though, it seems he also has a little bit of Johnny Jolly in him, too.

This is not the way to start an NFL career, especially one that carried so much promise (or “potential”) with it. Mike Neal is a second-round draft pick who showed some good flashes of ability in training camp, but not much else. A decent number of fans have already called for his release, and I’m sure they’re happy with this recent news from Pro Football Weekly. Yet the question remains:

Will Mike Neal play for the Green Bay Packers in 2012?

In this installment of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half empty” or “half full.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

If the situation with former Packers defensive end Justin Harrell is any indicator, Ted Thompson will ride out the prospect of Mike Neal until there is simply no hope left.

While Neal’s situation is different in many ways from what Harrell went through, the similarities are enough to help us draw some conclusions about what Thompson will do. Both missed significant playing time due to injury despite the potential that came with their draft status. (Harrell was selected in the 1st Round of the 2007 NFL Draft at the 16th overall pick, while Neal was taken as the 56th overall pick in the 2nd Round of the 2010 draft.)

25

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

The Packers signed free agent center Jeff Saturday this week to replace the departed Scott Wells. Yes, I said the Packers signed a free agent. A free agent that I actually heard of, nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react to this occasion.  It’s been a while since Ted Thompson blew the dust off the checkbook he uses to sign free agents from other teams and actually brought someone in. Fans from other teams often celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl after inking a free agent so….congrats fellow Packers fans?

Thompson obviously didn’t know how to react to the occasion, either. He was so confused and out of sorts about what he just did that he turned around and did it again, signing free agent defensive lineman Daniel Muir.

Now, Muir fits the mold of a Packers free-agent signing much more than Saturday. Muir is a journeyman that Thompson signed and released once before. He’ll have to fight hard just to make the team and anything he contributes during the season will be a bonus.

Saturday, on the other hand, will be expected to be what he’s been his whole career: A reliable pass-blocking center who quarterbacks the offensive line for one of the most explosive offenses in the league, often during no-huddle situations. I’m sure Saturday is up to the task, but he’s also going to be 37 years old when the season starts.

Yes, Saturday has started all 16 games in six of the past seven seasons, but the thing with 37-year-olds is that they’re, well…old. You never know when the body of a 37-year-old football player might say enough is enough, or their skill set diminishes almost overnight.

Saturday was a good signing. No arguments about that. But it’s still going to be business as usual for the Packers at the center position. Saturday will (hopefully) fill in nicely this season and possibly next, but the Packers will still likely draft a center in April, both to solidify the position long-term and provide insurance in case age gets the best of Saturday.

Tim Tebow, Pat Lee/Jarrett Bush, Anthony Hargrove

23

March

Packers Add Free Agent DT Daniel Muir

DT Daniel Muir is the latest free agent signing by the Green Bay Packers.

The Green Bay Packers have just announced their second free agent signing of the season – defensive tackle Daniel Muir. Here is the information as reported by Packers.com:

Muir, a 6-foot-2, 312-pound fifth-year player out of Kent State, played for the Indianapolis Colts from 2008-11, appearing in 40 games with 26 starts. He posted a career-high 66 tackles (54 solo) and a half-sack for the Colts in 2009.

Muir originally entered the NFL as a non-drafted free agent with the Packers in 2007. He appeared in three games for Green Bay as a rookie in ’07 and recorded eight tackles (four solo). Muir was a four-year letterman (2003-06) at Kent State, playing in 46 games with 45 starts.

It’s clear Ted Thompson has identified the same holes in the team as just about everyone else. With the replacement of center Scott Wells by former Colts player Jeff Saturday, Thompson has now moved onto addressing the gaps in the defensive line. The departure of Cullen Jenkins last season coupled with the disappointing play and four-game suspension of Mike Neal have made the unit rather thin.

Muir is not guaranteed a spot on the roster, but it’s obvious the Packers are taking this need seriously. Thompson doesn’t often dip into free agency outside of his own team, so these last two signings are rather noteworthy.

Expect Thompson to continue to shore up the defensive pitfalls with draft picks in April.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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