Packers Training Camp Battles: Will Anyone Stand Up to Perry at OLB?

Nick Perry

Packers OLB Nick Perry

When the Packers open training camp, we will hear plenty about Nick Perry making the shift from a hand-on-the-ground college defensive end to a stand-up NFL outside linebacker.

No doubt, there will be plenty of adjustments that Perry needs to make as he transitions. But don’t let that fool you, Perry is the player the Packers want to rush the quarterback opposite of Clay Matthews.

There is no need to be overly concerned about Perry not yet being a well-rounded OLB. The Packers should focus most of their efforts on making Perry the best possible pass rusher that he can be. What deficiencies he may have in pass coverage or other areas can be developed over time.

If Perry turns out to be the pass rusher the Packers think he can be, the other aspects of playing OLB will come to him. Meantime, Dom Capers can create sub packages and scheme as necessary to maximize Perry’s talents and mask the undeveloped portions of his game.

After Perry and Matthews, things get interesting at OLB.

Erik Walden
The Packers brought Walden back even though he disappeared down the stretch last season after getting arrested. Most people have written Walden off, but I say not so fast.

There’s a reason the Packers brought him back. If they didn’t think he was any good, they wouldn’t have resigned him. I’m not saying Walden is going to be a breakout player, but don’t immediately dismiss him.

He’s had his moments with the Packers, including three sacks in the 2010 season finale and a two-game stretch before getting arrested last season where he totaled 15 tackles and a sack.

Bringing Walden back was a good decision. If he plays like he did before the arrest, the Packers have a solid depth player. If he looks finished, the Packers can just cut him and move on with their lives.

Dezman Moses
This year’s buzz player, Moses made everybody take notice of him during OTAs. His 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill times at the combine were better than Perry’s, and he was a very productive college player.

Ted Thompson seems to always find an undrafted free agent or two that sticks around. A few even make a major impact (see Sam Shields in 2010).



NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB Boise State

Shea McClellin OLB Boise State NFL Draft Profile

Shea McClellin OLB Boise State

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Shea McClellin

Player information:

  • Shea McClellin, DE/OLB Boise State
  • 6-foot-3, 260lbs
  • The type of player coaches (especially one named Kevin Greene) love. Hard worker that gives you full effort at all times and is always looking to improve.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.62 40yd dash
  • 4.33 20 yard shuttle
  • 7.07 3-cone drill
  • 9.83′ long jump
  • 31.5″ vertical jump
  • 19 bench press reps

News & Notes:

Boise State was the only FBS school that showed any interest in McClellin out of High School. Played running back and linebacker in High School. McClellin has built himself up and gotten bigger and better every year. Played multiple positions at Boise, as a DE with his hand on the ground and a LB from a standing position. The 19 bench press reps at the combine might be a red flag, until you find out he measured out with 32 3/4″ arms and 10 1/8″ hands. Surprised many with his 40 yd dash time.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post):   A versatile, explosive athlete with a mighty motor who knows how to reach the quarterback. McClellin possesses a solidly put together frame with a strong upper body which maximizes his length into contact. He plays all over the Boise State defense. He will play with his hand on the ground, can stand up and rush from a two-point stance and will blitz from the inside as well.  Impression: McClellin is a productive pass rusher with a big motor, good skill set and can get after the QB in a number of ways. Looks like a potential starter at the next level.

Chad Reuter (CBS Sports):   Extremely active and plays with an aggressive playing nature and attitude — self-starter and strong finisher. Country strong and very physical, welcoming contact. Fights and works hard to find a way to beat blockers — disruptive with a nose for the ball. Versatile defensive player with experience at LB, DE and other hybrid front-seven positions. A creative pass rusher, using a variety of moves and techniques to create pressure.

NFL.com (Combine): McClellin has started three consecutive years at defensive end for Boise State. He is an undersized DE who 3-4 teams will value at the OLB position in their schemes. At just under 260 pounds, he can struggle at times against bigger linemen, but he is a decent prospect at the position and has fifth-round value, especially as a swing player.



NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia

Bruce Irvin NFL Draft Profile

Bruce Irvin, OLB West Virginia

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Bruce Irvin

Player information:

  • Bruce Irvin, OLB West Virginia
  • 6-foot-3, 245lbs
  • Teammates claim he has run a sub 4.4 40 yard dash

NFL Combine:

  • 4.50 40yd dash
  • 4.03 20 yard shuttle
  • 6.7 3-cone drill
  • 10.25′ long jump
  • 33.5″ vertical jump
  • 23 bench press reps

News & Notes:

Irvin dropped out of High School as a junior and spent 2 years on the streets caught up in the seamy world of drug dealing and robberies. Was arrested and spent a few weeks in jail, where a friend pleaded with him to not waste the physical gifts he was blessed with. Irvin turned his life around, got his GED and enrolled at Mt. San Antonio Junior College. After a season where he recorded 16 sacks, Irvin transferred to West Virginia and spent two seasons there.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post):  A gifted athlete who has the initial burst to routinely reach the edge. However, lacks ideal size and doesn’t have a real sophisticated pass rushing repertoire. Is going to make the move to a 34 OLB at the next level and might need a little time. Reminds me some of the Chris Clemons.

Chad Reuter (CBS Sports):    Despite his lack of experience, Irvin’s athleticism and toughness should give him a chance to be a pass rusher as a 3-4 linebacker at the next level, or possibly a defensive end for the handful of NFL 4-3 teams not minding his lack of size. If he answers questions about his past to NFL scouts’ satisfaction, they may decide to take a chance on his potential in either role with an early-round selection.

NFL.com (Combine): Bruce is a compelling prospect whose athletic ability is as unique as his path to the NFL. An electrifying pass rusher who will fit as either a specialist DE or an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, Irvin uses a flurry of moves and his uncanny athletic ability to maneuver his undersized frame around and through offensive linemen to produce massive sack production in his limited views at West Virginia. A player who is hampered by his size and amount of snaps taken at a high level, Irvin should be selected within the first two rounds of the draft by a team looking for a boost in their ability to get to the quarterback.



NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Vinny Curry, DE/OLB Marshall

NFL Draft Prospect Vinny Curry, DE/OLB Marshall

Vinny Curry, DE/OLB Marshall

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Vinny Curry

Player information:

  • Vinny Curry, DE/OLB Marshall
  • 6-foot-3, 266lbs
  • Curry finished 2011 in the top ten in the nation in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles.
  • Is from New Jersey. That is all…

NFL Combine:

  • 4.85 4.98 40yd dash
  • 4.4 20 yard shuttle
  • 6.9 3-cone drill
  • 9.1′ long jump
  • 32″ vertical jump

News & Notes:

All-State selection at Neptune High School, where he was voted team captain and MVP.  Named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 with 11 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 22 TFL.  Recorded two sacks in the Senior Bowl, answering some questions about whether he could handle better competition. Ran a disappointing 4.85 40 yard dash at the combine, which has many observers thinking he fits better as a 4-3DE.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post):  A strong kid with good movement skills and the production to go along with the skill set. Isn’t a dynamic athlete but has the ability to keep tackles off balance and be a solid pass rushing force.

Chad Reuter (CBS Sports):    Plays with intensity and a nice anchor even when giving up 40-50 pounds against most blockers. Shows pop as a bull rusher. Stands up well against the run when lined up at five-technique, but must prove he has the bulk and strength to handle NFL linemen one-on-one or double-teams before moving inside. Team leader, younger players look up to him. Positive attitude in the locker room, works well with the media. Hustle on the field reflects work ethic off the field. No major off-field incidents.

NFL.com (Combine): Curry is an explosive athlete who could be moved around depending on the type of defensive scheme of the team who selects him. Some may stand him up and have him play outside linebacker in a 3-4 where he can focus on purely rushing the quarterback each play. In the run game, he is effective and can set the edge nicely against an offensive tackle, but has a difficult time getting to the ball if he is engaged upon early. Curry has second-round value based off his athletic ability and sack production the past two years.


Video analysis:



NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Ronnell Lewis, OLB Oklahoma

Oklahoma LB Ronnell Lewis, 2012 NFL Draft Prospect

Oklahoma LB Ronnell Lewis

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Ronnell Lewis

Player information:

  • Ronnell Lewis, OLB Oklahoma
  • 6-foot-2, 253lbs
  • Played only some 8-man football in HS.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.65 40yd dash
  • 4.4 20 yard shuttle
  • 7.09 3-cone drill
  • 9.3′ long jump
  • 31″ vertical jump

News & Notes:

A late bloomer, Lewis had a good 2011, playing in multiple spots on the front seven and averaging 6 tackles per game. Doesn’t have a lot of football experience, so he will take some time to develop. Lewis loves to hit hard, but is not particularly assignment-responsible. In 35 games at Oklahoma, Lewis was in on 118 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. There are some questions about maturity, as he was suspended for Oklahoma’s bowl game due to academic ineligibility. Will be a special teams demon.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post): he possesses an impressive physical/athletic skill set, a “plus” motor and a real passion for the game. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a top end pass rusher in the NFL. However, as a 6-8 sack guy long term who can help out on special teams and give you all he has play in and play out, I think he warrants a second round type grade.

Dane Brugler (CBS Sports): Lewis was moved around a lot in college as the coaches tried to maximize his talents, playing “SAM” linebacker, defensive end and also a hybrid of the two positions — lacks a natural spot and looks to be scheme specific as a pass rusher in a 3-4 defense. Lewis plays hard on every snap and has a lot of ability, but is still relatively unproven and raw — a good, but not great, prospect who is being overrated as a top-40 pick, but has starting potential at the next level down the line with his natural athleticism and strength.


Video analysis:

Will make his presence felt on the field, especially on kick coverage teams.
Strong against the run. Has good closing speed and is a sure tackler.
Limited experience in pass coverage.
One-dimensional pass rusher at this point. Needs to be coached up on techniques.
Has enough explosiveness to possible develop into a 10 sack player in the NFL.
Could be there in Round two for the Packers.



Packers Three-Man Rush Revisited: Football Outsiders Responds to Inquiry

As I opened up my e-mail Tuesday evening, I was pleasantly surprised with a message from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. You see, a little over a month ago, as I was preparing for my article about Dom Capers and his use of the three-man rush, I decided to send Football Outsiders a query for some information to beef up my analysis. It’s hard to find statistics on the effectiveness of certain types of plays, but I knew they would have this sort of information logged into their databases.

Here was my original message:

Hi Aaron,

As a Packers fan and blogger, I have heard many complaints about Dom Capers’ use of the three-man rush, especially in third-and-long situations. I was wondering if you had any stats/analysis on the effectiveness of this strategy regarding the Packers defense and/or the NFL as a whole.

Chad Toporski

And then I waited…

…and waited…

…and eventually decided to finish the article without the information. By this time, the Packers had finished beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17, and I saw some good footage I could use instead.

But lo and behold, I finally received my answer. So I thought I would share it with you, because I found it rather fascinating. (It also helps to confirm my suspicions that most people complain about the three-man rush due to faulty preconceptions.)

Here’s what Aaron Schatz found out:


This would be as good a time as any to answer this question! Sorry it took me so long.

Believe it or not, overall rushing three is actually a little more effective than rushing four. Here are the league-wide numbers for all the games we’ve charted in 2010, with yards per pass and defensive success rate.

3        6.1       60%
4        6.5      55%
5        5.9      57%
6+     5.7      60%

Now of course, most of the time when a defense rushes three, it does so because it is the second half and they are protecting a lead, but I went and checked and the numbers don’t really change if you consider only the first half.

As for Green Bay, our numbers suggest that those complaints about rushing three are a bit misplaced. The Packers rushed three on 18 percent of plays, tied for third in the NFL. On those plays, they allowed 5.8 yards per pass with a spectacular 72 percent success rate.

On third-and-long (7+ yards to go) they allowed 7.4 yards per pass but had a 75 percent success rate because so many of those passes were short dumpoffs. (For the record, we have 51 charted passes as rushing three on third-and-long.)

The Packers also had three picks in third-and-long when rushing three, all in recent weeks: Week 14 on a Drew Stanton pass to Tony Scheffler, Week 16 on an Eli Manning pass to Hakeem Nicks, and Week 17 on a Jay Cutler pass to Johnny Knox.

Hope that helps.

Aaron Schatz

As I said, pretty interesting stuff across the board.