If you're a Packer fan, unless you've been living on another planet you know that Mike Neal has been playing at Outside Linebacker. Admittedly my first thought about this is that it's insane to take a 294 lbs Defensive End and play him at A position where 280 lbs is a very heavy player. After reading more and thinking about it a bit more, I am more optimistic about this move.
Granted, from my posts you can tell that I am a glass half full type person. That being said, lets look at Mike Neal and see how this move may be a wildly successful move for the Pack.
1. One of the knocks on Mike Neal has been that he lacks ability in stopping the run. Now I realize that playing OLB will require Neal to be able to not only stop the run but also be able to cover Receivers. The coaches have insight to these players that we fans do not. The way I see it if I connect the dots is that the coaching staff believes that if Neal takes his hand out of the dirt and stands up, he'll have a lot more vision of what's going on with the offense. With a better view of what's going on perhaps this will help Neal be better in run coverage. It seems obvious to me that the coaches believe he has the speed to cover as a Linebacker in some situations. So perhaps what is going on here is that the coaches think that with greater vision, Mike Neal will be able to better anticipate what's happening and improve in run coverage. At the same time the defense will better be able to take advantage of his pass rushing skills from the outside which will, in turn, help draw blocking away from Matthews at times to help him be more effective.
2. The more obvious use of this development comes from what we've seen from Capers in his defensive strategies. I believe that he is looking to accomplish with this move is to be able to create confusion on the opposing offensive line. By using Neal at Linebacker I think that Capers will be able to take advantage of a multitude of blitz packages that include Neal, Matthews, Datone Jones, Perry, and perhaps even Raji rushing the passer from all different directions in different combinations. When you include the options of blitzing with any of the DBs, this could make for a very exciting and aggressive defense. So, not only will Capers be able to use a Safety or Cornerback to blitz along with Linebackers, but now the opposing offensive lines will not even know if a hulking Defensive End is playing D line or if he's playing cover Linebacker or blitzing Linebacker.
So, after thinking about this move for awhile, I realize there is a lot of upside from this move. I, personally, hope that this move works out for the Packers and Mike Neal.
JC - Misplaced Packer Fan