Chillar Standing Out On Special Teams


The Packers' punt and kickoff coverage units have been an area of strength thus far this season, and one of the key contributors has been fifth-year linebacker Brandon Chillar, who is seeing significant time on special teams for the first time since early in his career.

Chillar, who was Green Bay's lone acquisition in unrestricted free agency this past offseason after playing four seasons for the St. Louis Rams, leads the team with 10 special teams tackles through the first six games.

"He's been fantastic," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. "He's got great athleticism and skill in the capacity of diagnosing plays and getting to the ball fast.

"I had him when he was a rookie at St. Louis and knew he was going to be a big-time player in this league and he's done a heck of a job. We're really happy to have him here. He's helped us on special teams big time."

The Packers' special teams units have shown marked improvement during the past three seasons, and that strong play has continued in '08. In 2007, the Packers finished seventh in the Dallas Morning News' annual special teams rankings after a last-place finish in '06.

This season Green Bay ranks fourth in the NFL in opponents' punt return average at 5.8 yards and the team is sixth in the league in opponents' average starting field position after kickoffs at 24.1.

Chillar's strong play has taken on even more importance due to the absence of some of the top contributors on the coverage units. Defensive end Jason Hunter, who led the team last season with 25 special teams tackles, has been inactive the past two games because of a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play again this Sunday.

Linebacker Tracy White, who finished second last season with 16 stops, was released Oct. 7, and fullback Korey Hall, tied for third in special teams tackles last season with 12, was sidelined for three games with a knee injury before returning last Sunday at Seattle.

"We are very happy about Brandon's leadership ability," Stock said. "He's not a yell-yell guy or a holler guy or anything like that, but he is a guy who will lead by example and people will follow because he does things the right way.

"I think most guys who play in this league as long as he has understand that no matter whether they are a starter on defense or a starter on special teams, they are a significant factor in the outcome of football games in those two elements."

The role of special-teams standout is one that Chillar, like many young players in the league, became familiar with during his first two seasons in the NFL. He posted a career-high 13 special teams stops as a rookie in 2004 and followed that up with 11 more tackles in '05.

Chillar moved into a more prominent role with St. Louis in his third season, playing in all 16 games with 14 starts on his way to a career-high 77 tackles. Last season he also started 14 contests as he posted career-highs in tackles (85), sacks (2.5), forced fumbles (3) and passes defensed (4), developing a reputation as a linebacker with strong coverage skills.

In training camp this season Chillar was in competition for the starting strong-side linebacker position with incumbent Brady Poppinga, but to this point has contributed primarily on special teams with some occasional snaps in the nickel package.

"Any time you are on the field you've got an opportunity to show what you have," Chillar said. "Right now special teams are my role so I just want to shine in that area.

"They signed me and I competed and it worked out how it did. I'm happy and I'm just trying to play ball basically."

{sportsad300}Chillar saw his most significant time on defense against Dallas in Week 3, when he got his lone start as he was matched up with Cowboys Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten for much of the evening. Chillar posted a season-high six tackles with a pass breakup, and also forced a fumble on a reception by running back Marion Barber in the second quarter that was recovered by Dallas.

With the Colts' high-powered offense visiting Lambeau Field Sunday, it may be an opportunity for Chillar to be on the field more against another talented pass-catching tight end in Dallas Clark.

"I really have no idea but I'll be ready if it is," Chillar said. "It's basically up to the coaches, but whenever they call I'm going to try to be ready. I've still been watching my film and preparing like I am going to play every game, so hopefully when my number gets called I'll be successful.

"It's a little tough, but it's part of being a pro. I pride myself on that and I've been in the league a little while. I know what it takes to be successful."

Chillar said even though his defensive opportunities have been limited, he is excited about being a part of a team that expects to be in the playoff hunt all season. For someone who has yet to play on a team with a winning record in his career, it is a welcome change.

"We were 0-8 the first part of the season (2007 in St. Louis), and obviously that is tough on everybody," Chillar said. "It's trying on the players and the coaches. Personally I just tried to stay positive with everything and keep getting better.

"It's just exciting to be here. We definitely have a chance to win every game, and we just got a win at Seattle and I hope we can get on a roll."

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