To prepare for training camp, we will be breaking down every player on the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster in more detail, looking at contract terms and 2013 statistics, before we make our prediction for which players will make the 53-man roster at the end of training camp.
It should be an exciting group of linebackers for the Green Bay Packers this upcoming season. We have five outside linebackers making the 53-man roster, with the starters not coming as a shock, but the reserves add some intrigue discussion. Also, even though he isn't labeled as a linebacker for these purposes, Mike Neal is another player to throw in the outside linebacker group to help mix things up for Dom Capers' blitz packages.
Projected starters: Clay Mathews and Julius Peppers
A lot of people questioned the signing of Peppers for the Packers based on his age and how much they feel he actually has left in the tank. Regardless, he's still a physical specimen and will help in sub-packages for Green Bay on the defensive side. Good defensive coordinators find ways to get good players on the field. And no matter how old he gets, Peppers will still force double-teams from opposing offensive line units on Sunday. On the opposite end, Mathews will is still battling his thumb injury and will look to regain his Pro-Bowl form in 2014, and having a mammoth on the other side helps take some pressure off of him when coming off the edge.
Backups: Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Carl Bradford
I don't know if it's completely fair to say this is a make or break season for Nick Perry, but I believe it is. Let's face it: Perry has get up to speed with the defense and stay healthy in 2014 if he doesn't want to get passed up on the depth chart. Peppers surely won't play every snap, so Perry will still have his chances, but he'll have to make the most of them when given the opportunity.
Of the outside linebacker core, Mathews and Peppers are locks for the start of the season, and the other remaining spots are where things get interesting (hence what training camp is for). We haven't seen Perry yet, Bradford looked good in minicamp and organized team activities as he rushed from the outside during blitz periods, and he's making a strong push to make the team. Meanwhile Andy Mulumba will battle along with Nate Palmer and Adrian Hubbard for the last spot. That's where the real battle will happen during camp, and it should be a fun one with all of them adding their own different elements on the field.
Projected Cuts: Nate Palmer, Adrian Hubbard, Jayrone Elliott
Palmer was significantly less impressive than Mulumba last year, and will need a big step forward in 2014 to beat him for the job. Hubbard's size and athleticism are tantalizing, but we felt that Mulumba's experience and work on special teams give him the edge at present. Elliott is a raw pass-rushing talent, but with emphasis on the raw part.