Sunday Jan 16

Brad vs. Cyril

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Green Bay Packer Outside LinebackersAs the Draft weekend comes to a close, football fans are now left to wonder if the selections made were the correct ones. Did my team draft the right players? Were all positions of need filled? Who will be the new starters, and who will get cut as a result of the influx of new talent. All of these questions will be answered in the next few months, as the summer programs begin. Rookie orientation, OTA's, and culminating with the start of training camp on July 30.

As the Packers walk away from their Draft, I am satisfied with the choices they made. They obtained their left tackle of the future in Bryan Bulaga, a position that was sorely in need of depth and a definite plan of the future, as Clifton cannot be expected to last the entire season, much less 3 more seasons. Mike Neal adds immediate flexibility on the defensive line, and Morgan Burnett will push Atari Bigby for the starting Strong Safety position and gives Collins a quality backup. Andrew Quarless will push for playing time at Tight End, and Marshall Newhouse will definitely make Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini work for a roster spot. Hopefully James Starks will be able to be the shifty change of pace back the Packers need, and C.J. Wilson should be able to fill a backup defensive line position, more than likely along with Mike Neal, the position Justin Harrell was supposed to fill when he was drafted in 2007.

All of these players will be able to compete for playing time once OTA's and training camp start. However, there is one position I was hoping that the Packers were going to be able to draft someone to fill a need position. The position is Outside Linebacker.

Clay Matthews established himself as a fixture at one Outside Linebacker spot for years to come with his solid rookie season. The other side of the field is a question mark. Aaron Kampman left to join the Jaguars after what most can now say was a horrible miscasting as an outside linebacker. The primary candidates to replace him, minus any free agent signings or internal moves (Nick Barnett had been mentioned as moving outside occasionally) are Brad Jones and Cyril Obiozor.

Brad Jones had a decent rookie season. After being drafted in the seventh round, he stepped in to replace Kampman after he went down with a torn ACL. Jones showed an ability to get to the QB, notching 4 sacks in half a season. More importantly, he did finish with 15 QB pressures. In comparison, Kampman had 25 pressures in 1 more start. He is light at 240 pounds, but he can hold his own at the line of scrimmage, and seemed to get more comfortable playing in space as he played more. He was noticed as having ability to rush the QB coming out of college, where he showed good burst, which can be seen below.

Cyril Obiozor went from the Practice Squad to the active roster in their last 6 games, mostly on special teams. He has widely been said to have the potential to develop into a pass rushing linebacker. He has good size (6-4, 250 lbs) and has decent speed (4.75 40 yd. dash). He has also shown he has the heart and desire to work, as evidenced by starting on the Practice Squad and ending the season on the active roster. He also has a quick rush off the edge as can be seen here:

I personally like both of these guys. They both have the "Donald Driver factor" going for them, in the sense they were a low round draft selection or undrafted, and have had to work their way to playing time. Jones flashed at times, and Obiozor was noted by coaches in training camp that he has a serious motor. Hopefully one of them can assert themselves as the perfect compliment to Matthews coming off the edge. If not, Matthews will face constant double teaming and the surprise element of the 3-4 (not knowing who is coming from where) will be severely diminished.

Dom Capers did a good job introducing the 3-4 to the Packers last season, and is expected to do more with a full season under his and the players belts. Training camp will help determine the best sports for the newest members of the Packers, including Outside Linebacker. If I was a betting man, Brad Jones is your starting linebacker opposite Clay Matthews for game 1.


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