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Preseason Review: The Packers Linebackers

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With the Green Bay Packers still looking to settle the starting outside linebacker position opposite LB Clay Matthews, and after the release of long-time players Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, and Brady Poppinga, there are some things to watch for among this group.

LB Frank Zombo started in place of Matthews, and he didn't get anywhere near the quarterback. I expected to see more of LB Brad Jones instead, but he's fallen behind undrafted rookie LB Vic So'oto, who instead got some playing time with the first team defense. Jones only entered the game later as a backup inside linebacker, and I'm not sure of his future with the Packers. I expect they'll keep him because they're giving him experience inside and out, but he doesn't contribute much on special teams and he could be on the roster bubble.

LB Erik Walden started opposite Zombo, and he too didn't put much pressure on the quarterback. He wasn't especially challenged in pass coverage, but he allowed a long pass completion to TE Ben Watson the week before. I'm not high on him if he can't get to the quarterback, or show something more in pass coverage.

I've been waiting to see something from 7th round LB Ricky Elmore, but it's just not there. He didn't get anywhere near the quarterback again, and he badly missed on an open field tackle.

In the second half, LB Robert Francois and LB D.J. Smith played almost exclusively at inside linebacker, and they ended the night among the leading tacklers. They both looked good, but I do worry whether they're big enough to hold their own against a first team offense. Francois is listed as being bigger than A.J. Hawk, but it doesn't seem like it. I expect they'll both make the team because they both seem to play a big role on special teams.

I'd be surprised if Zombo isn't the fourth starting LB at the start of the regular season. And I'm expecting to hear a couple obscure linebackers, such as Vic So'oto, make the roster as the Packers rebuild their linebacker depth.