20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
25

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Inside Linebacker

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the inside linebacker position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#50 A.J. Hawk
27 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2015

#55 Desmond Bishop
26 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014

#56 Nick Barnett
29 yrs. old / 8 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#54 Brandon Chillar
28 yrs. old / 7 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#49 Rob Francois
25 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#48 Cardia Jackson
22 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#57 Matt Wilhelm
30 yrs. old / 8 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

As it stands right now, the Packers are stacked at the inside linebacker position.

Nick Barnett is a well-seasoned veteran whose hair is almost as big as his reputation. He was a starter for Green Bay from day one, and has been an anchor at the position for the past eight years. He led the team in tackles for five of those years, set the single-season franchise record with 194 tackles, and ranks third in franchise annals with 986 career tackles.

Then there’s A.J. Hawk, the Packers’ top 2006 draft pick who finally seemed to make his mark this season with Barnett out of the picture. For the first three years, fans became increasingly frustrated with a performance that belied his first-round draft status. Finally, we have seen that his communication skills, good study habits, and great work ethic were a gigantic asset to the team. And for his efforts, Ted Thompson rewarded Hawk with a brand new five-year contract.