Examining The 2011 Green Bay Packers: Inside Linebackers

If I had written about the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers a month ago, then I would have gone through a number of scenarios. What will they do about Hawk's huge 2011 contract? Will they let Hawk go since they have both Barnett and Chillar under contract? Can they all co-exist? Can they afford all of them? 

But a lot has come out since then, and it's pretty clear the direction they're headed at inside linebacker in 2011.

Inside Linebackers (6): Nick Barnett, Desmond Bishop, Brandon Chillar, Robert Francois, A.J. Hawk, Matt Wilhelm.

#55 Desmond Bishop

Player Progression (progress/stagnate/regress from 2010): progress

Team Standing (expanded/same/diminished role): same role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: high


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Desmond Bishop 14 3 23 1 32 0 71 28 99

Like many fans, I'd been hoping to see him get a chance for the past couple seasons. In the past, I wanted him to replace Hawk, but he instead replaced Barnett after he underwent season ending wrist surgery. We've known what Bishop can do against the run for the past couple years, but he also showed he was much better against the pass than he was during a brief starting gig in 2008. And he was rarely, if ever beaten, last season. Mike McCarthy recently said that he enters 2011 as the starter, and he's not going anywhere after signing a four-year extension. I don't expect he'll get a lot better, he's great all ready, but having a full season as the starter can only help.

#50 A.J. Hawk

Player Progression: stagnate

Team Standing: same role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: high


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - A.J. Hawk 16 .500 4.5 3 31 0 71 39 110

McCarthy recently said Hawk enters 2011 as a starter, and he isn't going anywhere after signing a five-year contract. He's not great in any one area, but 2010 was his best all around season. And the coaches love him. Still, I don't expect him to get much better as he enters his sixth season, and he was the weak link in their 22nd ranked pass defense against tight ends. The low point was the two game stretch starting with their week 12 loss in Atlanta when TE Tony Gonzalez went 6-for-6 with a touchdown, and the next week when they beat the 49ers but TE Vernon Davis ran wild with 126 yards and 1 TD.

#56 Nick Barnett

Player Progression: stagnate

Team Standing: diminished role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: low


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Nick Barnett 4 0 0 0 0 0 19 5 24

It's no surprise that his name has come up in trade rumors because they are paying too many inside linebackers like starters and someone has got to go. Removing his $5.5 million salary from their books in 2011 would help their bottom line, but I have no doubt that he can still play. He's above average against the pass, and he's recorded over 100 tackles in six different seasons. He's suffered a season ending injury in two of the last three seasons, but he should be fully healed from his 2008 ACL tear and 2010 broken wrist. He was actually very good in 2009, so the more serious ACL injury hasn't been a problem. He'll turn 30 before the start of the season, but there are many middle linebackers over 30 that still play at a high level. I don't think the team photo flap helped him, but they aren't going to make a roster decision because of it. I don't expect they'll receive a high draft choice for him, nothing better than a fourth round pick, but he is the one linebacker after Hawk and Bishop who has trade value.

#54 Brandon Chillar

Player Progression: regress

Team Standing: diminished role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: low


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Brandon Chillar 6 1 9 1 9 0 12 3 15

He was just signed to a four year extension back in December 2009, but I think he's in real danger of being released by the end of training camp. McCarthy recently showed some concern by mentioning that Chillar is now coming off his third shoulder surgery. His return is entirely dependent on his health. If he's back to where he was a year ago, then he'll remain the top backup. But even healthy, I expect his role will diminish because Hawk should enter 2011 as an every down player.

#49 Robert Francois

Player Progression: stagnent

Team Standing: diminished role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: low




Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Robert Francois 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

He had an impressive preseason, but he didn't make the team out of training camp. He was shuttled back-and-forth from unemployment, to the practice squad, and the active roster. He's wouldn't have played at all if it weren't for all the injuries at linebacker, and I'm sure that they'll find someone to replace him in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.

#57 Matt Wilhelm

Player Progression: stagnent

Team Standing: diminished role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: low


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Matt Wilhelm 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The veteran linebacker was signed mid-season after the injuries piled up. He played exclusively on special teams, and committed one of the worst special teams plays of the season: the facemask of KR Eric Weems that setup the Falcons game winning field goal in week 12. He was left inactive for a couple weeks after that, but eventually returned to play on the short handed special teams unit. He remains on the roster, but I'm sure the Packers are looking elsewhere next season.

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