Outside Linebackers (9)
The biggest concern for the new-look Packers defense is depth and health issues at the outside linebacker position. With oft-injured stars anchoring the unit, Mike Pettine is looking for someone among the other seven to emerge as a pass-rushing force. There is plenty of athleticism and length, but so far production hasn’t been the result. But there is hope.
The elder statesman on the defense, Matthews comes into Year 10 with numerous Packers records, but needs to bounce back from a lackluster year numbers-wise to get a final contract with the Packers.
- Relentless off the edge, never gives up.
- Strong enough to hold the point and keep the lineman from getting downfield.
- Knack for forcing turnovers remains.
- Still has a tendency to overpursue plays.
- Struggles to disengage from top-flight tackles.
Scale (If 1 is the player has absolutely no chance of making the final 53-man roster and 10 is the player is a surefire lock, where does this player rank?)-10
Matthews is still one of the anchors of the defense and he should be one of the major players in Mike Pettine’s defense. The new defensive coordinator has never really had a pass rusher the quality of Matthews.
After his breakout in 2016, Perry was still productive last year. Injuries again took a toll, but Perry gutted it out more often than not. He’s expected to be the power in the linebacking corps again.
- Excels at setting the edge in the run game.
- Elite bull rush, can drive any tackle backward.
- Tough as nails. Plays through numerous injuries.
- Plays through a lot of injuries, but still has a lot of injuries.
- Inconsistent speed rush, doesn’t show great technique.
- Can get lost in coverage.
Perry is the thunder to Clay Matthew’s lightning and should be a Pro Bowl level player in 2018.
After what was essentially a lost rookie year, Biegel looks to step into the role of top reserve pass rusher.
- A bulldog who doesn’t give up on plays.
- Excellent instincts, is always around the ball.
- Versatile, can play inside and out.
- Foot injury could be a recurring issue.
- Didn’t put up big numbers in college.
- Big expectations with Wisconsin pedigree.
Biegel is a lock for the team, but how productive he is is still up in the air.
In his third year, the Utah State product has shown flashes of being a starting linebacker, but his inconsistency has been maddening. He needs to take a big jump.
- Elite length and athleticism for the position.
- Special teams leader.
- Smart, assignment sure linebacker.
- Play strength is poor, can be pushed around.
- Disappears from games at times.
- Older for a third-year player.
Fackrell’s roster spot isn’t in jeopardy, but his role on the defense is. If he doesn’t develop as a pass rusher, he might be a special teams only guy.
After almost two years on the practice squad, Gilbert got signed to the 53 for the past two games and was productive. He is expected to have a big role in 2018.
- Good strength and bend around the edge.
- Has numerous counter moves once engaged with a blocker.
- Athleticism to set the edge in the run game is top notch.
- No experience in coverage.
- Tendency to overrun plays.
After seeing how productive Gilbert was during the last two games in 2017, he’s drawn high praise from the coaches and appears to have a roster spot mostly on lock.
The final draft pick for the Packers this year, Donnerson is as athletic as it gets, but isn’t likely to see the field much on defense in 2018.
- Athletic marvel. Tested beyond any linebacker in the draft.
- Big time hitter, not afraid to drive through a runner.
- Turns the corner well to get by the tackles.
- Speed-only pass rusher.
- Plays on the border between hard and reckless. Can get flagged for some hits.
- Relies too much on athleticism.
Donnerson is a year away from being an impact pass rusher but he should be a force on kick and punt coverage, using his speed to make an impact.
The Packers annual post-final cut waiver claim, Odom was on the roster for all of last season, but didn’t see the field a ton. Now in camp for the first time, he needs to assert himself to make the team again.
- Has great length and athleticism
- Solid pass rush repertoire.
- Special Teams experience.
- Repertoire is diverse as a pass rusher, but none are dominant.
- No experience in coverage
Odom has a lot of potential to be a solid player, but he could be stuck in a numbers game. He is one of the players most firmly on the bubble.
A productive player in college, Johnson is an intriguing prospect as a rookie. What his future holds depends on his performance in camp.
- Quick twitch athlete who put up big numbers at East Texas Baptist (10.5 sacks in 2017)
- Smart, knows the ins and outs of the position.
- Severely undersized for the position.
- Small school prospect who didn’t face top competition.
Johnson has intriguing tools that can be molded, but his lack of size and the players ahead of him on the depth chart make him a long shot for the roster. He is a great fit for the practice squad, however.
A productive player for Texas, Hughes is a throwback outside linebacker who excels as a run-stuffer. He’s a long shot but a prime practice squad candidate.
- Team Captain his last year at Texas.
- Special Teams experience.
- Big, physical player who set the edge well.
- Not a natural pass rusher.
- ‘Tweener prospect who doesn’t have a defined position.
Hughes was a solid player in college whose special teams experience helps, but his upside isn’t the same as any of the other linebackers.
*Written by Mike Wendlandt