Which Linebackers Will Make The 2012 Green Bay Packers?

Aug 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Mathews (52) looks down his bench during the pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE

Recently the Packers made their cuts to make it down to 75 and on Friday come the final cuts to make it down to 53. In the meantime we have the perfect opportunity to speculate about some particular position groups and make a prediction or two. One position group worthy of such a look at is the current group of linebackers. The linebacker spot for the 2012 Green Bay Packers has been an interesting mixture of talent and competition. Here you have players who are overachievers who cling to the roster through special teams play and solid performances off the bench (see Robert Francois) and you can also find underachievers whose detractors constantly call for the guy to be cut or traded (see A.J. Hawk). It's a position group that forms the backbone of the defense, and possibly the team, with its members contributing on defense, special teams, and sometimes even offense when needed.

Traditionally the Packers keep nine to ten linebackers between the inside linebackers and outside linebackers. The Packers did not make any surprise moves with their linebackers in the first round of cuts. The only real moves made were placing Desmond Bishop on IR and Frank Zombo on the reserved PUP. Both moves were understandable considering the extent of Bishop's injury and the amount of time Zombo has missed this camp. Each of these moves though create an opening that would not have been foreseen a few months ago, so the question over the next week is going to be who can take advantage of that opportunity and make it on the final 53?

Roster Locks: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Erik Walden.

No real surprises here. After the injury to Desmond Bishop any potential battle for a starting spot in the linebacking corp all but disappeared. The five roster locks are the starting four LB's, Matthews, Perry, Hawk, and Smith; as well as Walden who is going to be the primary backup for the OLB spot after a strong preseason.

Guys on the inside track: Jamari Lattimore, Brad Jones, Robert Francois, and Dezman Moses

If I were a betting man these would be the four guys to round the position group. Lattimore, Jones, and Francois have all had good moments in preseason as well as fit in as core contributors in special teams. Lattimore and Jones also have the upside of being able to contribute at OLB if a need arose. Moses has been the flavor of the month though camp, but has backed up his hype with good performances and consistent pressure against other teams backups....so unlike Vic So'oto, he at least has more than one good preseason performance to base his roster spot on.

Guys who have something to prove this week: Vic So'oto and Terrell Manning

It's not that Manning and So'oto have had a bad preseason, but they have had a quiet one. Manning had a good performance against the Bengals, but showed little to nothing before that game. So'oto has not been able to rekindle his preseason magic from last year. Though he has shown some ability to pressure on the QB and make contributions on special teams. Either of these guys could make a push for a roster spot if they can have a big game coming up on Thursday.

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