Welcome to the prediction section of the offseason. Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company will present our overall roster predictions for the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening 53-man roster. Today, we continue with the Packers’ outside linebackers.
With a full search for pass rushing help being conducted in Green Bay this summer, the APC staff believes the Packers will carry six outside linebackers on the final roster following training camp.
The team decided to keep four edge players on the initial 53-man roster last year before adding Atlanta and San Francisco castoffs Chris Odom and Ahmad Brooks. While Green Bay brass surely will be hunting the free agency market into early September, several youthful faces figure to get a strong crack at making the regular season squad.
Starters: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry
It’s a contract year for the Packers’ all-time sacks leader and he’s a unanimous starter selection from APC. Health has led to a decline in production of sorts in recent seasons, but a system change that utilizes Matthews’ skillset in different formations could benefit the veteran and give the Packers’ pass rush a lift.
Another no-doubter on this list of starters, Green Bay is banking (in more ways than one) on Perry to revert back to his stellar 2016 production. Perry is a key to this defense and his effectiveness, along with Matthews, would go a long way in assisting the Packers’ newcomers in the secondary. The question about Perry is a routine one: can he stay healthy and play without a club on one hand?
Backups: Vince Biegel, Reggie Gilbert, Kendall Donnerson, Kyler Fackrell
The former Badger’s learning curve seemed to diminish as the season came to a close and the Packers need a healthy, consistent Biegel to take a step forward in 2018. As a fourth round pick limited by an early-season injury as a rookie, he’s a safe bet from APC to make the 53-man roster. But expectations will be raised.
The defensive end convert gets a vote of confidence from the APC staff for an immediate spot on the final roster after practice squad stints the previous two seasons. Gilbert should have ample opportunity to build on a promising end to the 2017 season and potentially become a key contributor for the future with Matthews’ contract nearing its end.
A seventh round pick in April, Donnerson earned a solid vote from APC to get active roster experience as a rookie. How much playing time he will receive is unknown as Donnerson figures to need plenty of development in his first NFL season. Still, the athleticism is there for the Packers to take on a project that could pay dividends in the future.
Heading into his third season, Fackrell squeaked out a selection with seven votes out of 12 predictors. The leash is seemingly becoming shorter for Fackrell, who has been an average backup NFL outside linebacker at best. But as a core special teamer and former third round pick, Fackrell has a good chance at a roster spot again.
Released: Chris Odom, Naashon Hughes
With just 59 defensive snaps last season and 13 on special teams, there is too little information on Odom to give him another 53-man roster listing. However, Odom spent almost all last season learning how to be an edge rusher and had an offseason to further hone his craft. With five votes from APC, he almost got another crack at the roster and will be one to watch in training camp.
With just one vote, Hughes would figure to be a practice squad candidate as a prospect with untapped physical potential. But every year the Packers give undrafted free agents a fair shot at making the team, so it’s hard to count Hughes out at a position requiring a bit of help.