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Green Bay Packers 2012 Roster Projection: Inside Linebacker

Sure you look smug now but wait till A.J. Hawk shows up to show you a thing or to.  Wait....that's him?  When did he cut his hair?   Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Sure you look smug now but wait till A.J. Hawk shows up to show you a thing or to. Wait....that's him? When did he cut his hair? Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

The Packers have kept a large supply of ILB's on the roster over the past few seasons going all the way back to the log jam of Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, and Brandon Chillar. Last year Chillar and Barnett left town but the surprising play of D.J. Smith and Robert Francois kept the team from hurting too much when Bishop and Hawk couldn't answer the bell. This year the four guys from last year are there as well as a few guys from the OLB spot (Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore) and fresh faced rookie Terrell Manning. All this means some interesting camp battles and a few guys on the bubble going into heart of the preseason.

Roster Locks: A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop - There always a few players the fans love to hate, and right now Hawk seems to be one of those guys. Sure he's not the playmaker we thought he was going to be, but he's pretty solid and will make this team. Bishop has been one of the better ILB's in the league since earning his starting job and that probably will continue this year.

Job security: Ironclad - Hawk may need to prove that he's worthy of being a starter or part of the long term plan of the Packers again this year, but he and Bishop are not going anywhere right now and should be the starters Week 1.

Backups: D.J. Smith and Brad Jones - Smith was a bright spot for an average LB corp last year. Hopefully he takes a step forward this year and really pushes Hawk for playing time. Jones is an interesting guy right now. This offseason he has moved from the OLB spot that he held down early in his career to a role on the inside. As an OLB he was pretty good against the run and average in coverage but tended to disappear in pass rushing; thus the move to ILB should highlight these strengths of his game. His presence will also add a bit of size to the middle part of the field which is always nice to have around.

Job Security: Ironclad (Smith) Moderate (Jones) - Smith isn't going anywhere. If he can repeat his performances from last year he may become the long term solution to the starting ILB position. Jones is in good shape to make the team based on his special teams participation and ability to play ILB and OLB, but he's not a lock.

Rookie contrubutor: Terrell Manning - Manning is another guy who could probably play inside or outside. He should be a flexible guy to rotate into the defense and will be an interesting option in a psycho package.

Job Security: Strong - Rookies aren't often cut by the Packers. Basically you have to show a whole lot of nothing to washout in your first camp no matter what your draft status. See Ricky Elmore. Manning had a little bit of post-draft buzz to him from some draft experts and should find a way to contribute this year.

Cut: Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore - So close yet so far away has got to be a theme for Francois. He's been the on again off again guy on the Packers roster for a while. When he gets his opportunity he has been pretty good, but he just doesn't have the high ceiling of some of the other guys making the cut. Lattimore is an interesting prospect that may be able to play any LB spot, but right now with two other guys on the roster can do that as well (Jones and Manning) and so he just misses as well.

Roster spots remaining: 11

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