Packers.com is taking a look at the Packers’ roster, position by position. The sixth installment focuses on the linebackers.
GREEN BAY—The Packers’ search for a full-time complement to
The defense has tried no less than a half dozen fellow bookends to Matthews on the outside over the last two seasons, yet, for various reasons no one has emerged as the definitive answer.
After spending 10 games plus two postseason contests in 2012 on injured reserve, Perry missed five more games in 2013 and was limited in several others due to injuries. Perry had three sacks and two forced fumbles in the season’s first five games before he broke his foot – on a sack-fumble play in Baltimore, no less.
Thereafter, he recorded one sack-fumble, in Detroit, and one other sack, against San Francisco in the playoffs. Optimistically, if Perry’s impact plays before the foot injury are tripled, they might represent his production over a full season, but staying healthy is the only way Perry can turn those projections into reality.
Neal had the healthiest of his first four pro seasons in 2013, though a knee injury that knocked him out of the playoff game early was a significant blow to the defense. He played in every game for the first time in his career despite missing a fair amount of practice time due to nagging ailments, and his five sacks were respectable, given the transition he was making from defensive lineman.
Neal’s position switch remains a work in progress, though, and he’s heading for free agency, so there’s no guarantee he’ll return.
It didn’t help the unit, of course, that Matthews missed five regular-season games and the playoff contest with a twice-broken thumb, while playing with various sized casts on his hand in the intervening seven games. Still, his 7½ sacks and three forced fumbles led the team, which speaks to how much the defense missed his playmaking ability when he was sidelined or played at less than full strength.
Undrafted out of Eastern Michigan, Mulumba got the most playing time, as Palmer, a sixth-round pick from Illinois State, was a game day inactive for half the games.
Mulumba had minimal impact as yet another transition project, though he deserves credit for gutting out the wild-card game on a bum knee with the position’s ranks depleted. There’s also a lot to like about his size (6-3, 260) and raw athletic ability, which helped him beat out Dezman Moses for a roster spot in training camp.
In all likelihood, Mulumba would have been strictly a special-teams player in 2013 while learning the outside linebacker position had injuries not struck both Matthews and Perry. The unexpected experience gained should only benefit him moving forward.
At inside linebacker, veteran
Coaches routinely praise Hawk for his communication skills and ability to get the defensive front seven aligned and adjusted properly, traits that will make him hard to unseat if the Packers look to go younger and bigger at that spot.
The tandem inside position will be scrutinized and likely open to competition, too. It was manned most of last season by
Last season might have been the career break
Likewise, rookie seventh-round pick