Examining The 2011 Green Bay Packers: Outside Linebackers

PHILADELPHIA PA - JANUARY 09: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers sacks Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9 2011 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have one lock at outside linebacker, and another spot with a giant question mark. Of the three players that started at outside linebacker this season, I'd put Walden first, Jones second, and Zombo last. Having said that, all three players shined at times, and all three deserve a chance to battle for the starting job. Assuming the Packers don't use a high draft pick on an outside linebacker to improve the position. 

Outside Linebackers (6): Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Brady Poppinga, Diyral Briggs.

#52 Clay Matthews

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 - Clay Matthews 15 13.5 93.5 1 62 0 54 5 59

I'm not sure how he'll improve. I guess he could actually win defensive player of the year instead of almost winning it. He's an every down player who rushes the quarterback, can drop back in coverage, is tenacious in pursuit, and a sound tackler. He's come so far, so fast.

#59 Brad Jones

Player Progression: progress

Team Standing: same

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: average


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Brad Jones 6 0 0 0 0 0 14 12 26

He was injured at the start of the preseason, he was hurt again early in the season, and finally it was over after only six games. After such a promising rookie season in the place of DE Aaron Kampman, 2010 was a lost season. He's got the talent, and as the roster currently stands, he's the likely starter. I'm neutral on him until he comes back healthy. 

#58 Frank Zombo

Player Progression: progress

Team Standing: same

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: average


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Frank Zombo 12 4 34 0 0 0 28 9 37

Will he continue to improve, or have we seen the best he has to offer? Four sacks are more than I ever expected when they signed him as an undrafted free agent last April. He shined at times, but most of the time he was just another guy. Injuries kept him out for seven games (final four regular season, and first three playoff games), but he still managed a productive season. I really need to see him for another full season. 

93 Erik Walden

Player Progression: progress

Team Standing: same

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: average


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - Erik Walden 8 2 19 0 0 0 17 3 20

I feel like I'm writing the same thing about Jones, Zombo, and Walden: they've all shown flashes at times, but they've got to stay healthy, play another full season, and prove to the coaches that they belong. I think he could be the starter in 2011, but he's got to prove it.

#51 Brady Poppinga

Player Progression: regress

Team Standing: same

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: poor

Every year, I keep expecting the coaches to see his limitations and move one. But he's always impressing the coaches in practice, and remained the first guy off the bench. Just like Jones, he only played in six games. I expect he'll get another chance in 2011, but with a salary over around $2 million, this might finally be the year the Packers move on.

#53 Diyral Briggs

Player Progression: stagnant

Team Standing: diminshed role

Likelihood of Long-Term Relationship: poor

If he played at all on defense, I might have a better opinion of him. After a rash of linebacker injuries mid-season, Briggs was signed as a street free agent,. He primarily played on special teams, and he often had trouble with that job. Once everyone comes back healthy, I don't see how he'll stick with the team.

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