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Thompson Appears Fit For New Position


When the 2008 season ended, the initial evaluation of Jeremy Thompson was that he'd need to add 10 to 15 pounds to his 270-pound frame to become a more all-around player at defensive end.

But with the switch to the 3-4 defense, and a position change for Thompson to outside linebacker, the weight issue shifted gears. During the offseason strength and conditioning program, Thompson dropped roughly 10 pounds to help with his speed and agility, and ever since then a trimmer, leaner Thompson has been No. 1 on the depth chart as a starting outside linebacker opposite Aaron Kampman.

"I have a big frame, but I'm pretty lean, pretty athletic," said Thompson, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and said after really strenuous workouts might weigh 255. "So I think body-wise I'm a pretty good fit. I just have to get my mentality to be an outside linebacker. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that right now."

Thompson didn't shy away from the position switch in the slightest. Called a "natural fit for this defense" by Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Thompson used the one-on-one time with outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene during the offseason program to dive right in and learn everything he needed to.

As a defensive end in college at Wake Forest, Thompson had on occasion been assigned to drop into pass coverage like an outside linebacker does. So adding that to his duties defending the run and rushing the passer wasn't a foreign concept for the 2008 fourth-round draft pick.

But as a pure 3-4 outside backer, the additional pass coverage skills are needed more than just sparingly, and Thompson knew that in addition to shedding a few pounds, he would have to not only learn the techniques for dropping into coverage but also master them.

"He's been very conscientious along those lines," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Which always makes an impression on me, because I think a big part of a guy developing in any scheme is what type of time he's willing to commit and do all the little things that maybe some guys won't do, and he's certainly done all those things.

"He's made progress and, through just a short period of time we've been around him, has been encouraging. I think he has the ability to play the position."

Capers cautioned not to read too much into who's taking snaps with the No. 1 unit during this month's OTAs, because there's expected to be significant competition for the job in training camp. Veteran Brady Poppinga and rookie first-round draft choice Clay Matthews, who are currently working with the No. 2 defense, will be in the mix and get their chance.

But to this point, more than halfway through OTAs, Thompson has stayed with the first unit, and that has its benefits. On Wednesday with the defense working on several pressure packages, he knifed through for what likely would have been clean sack of the quarterback during team (11-on-11) work.

"I think in terms of knowing the plays, it's pretty much the same -- the 1's and 2's get the same reps," he said. "But just working with the 1's, you kind of develop a chemistry with the other guys out there, and I think that will be good for me.

"They gave me the opportunity early, and I just tried to bone up on all the plays, know what I'm supposed to do, know where I'm supposed to be, and just try to do my best out there."

Thompson's rookie season at defensive end had its ups and downs. He was a healthy inactive for the first four games but then started to flash his ability at midseason, totaling eight of his 13 tackles on the year in back-to-back games against Seattle and Indianapolis.

But three weeks later he injured his groin, missing two games, then injured his knee and ankle upon his return and sat out another contest. Between the injuries and limited snaps the rest of the way, he didn't record a tackle over the season's final seven games.

That prompted the evaluation from then-defensive ends coach Carl Hairston that Thompson needed to bulk up a bit to become more effective and also endure the long pro season. But with the change in defensive scheme he was immediately pegged by the new coaches as an outside linebacker candidate, and thus far he's made the transition relatively smoothly.

{sportsad300}"Through practice there's going to be two or three plays, all right, that things (won't go well) just because he's never seen them before," Capers said. "But I think he's one of those guys that once he sees them, he normally responds to it, and you learn from it.

"He's working extremely hard at it. He's doing a good job mentally. I think he can be a physical presence out there, and I think when he gets in situations where backs have to block him, it will be tough duty for them because of his size and athletic ability. Once we get the pads on him, hopefully we feel the same way."

So does Thompson, who would love nothing more than to go from such a limited role as a rookie to a starter in his second year. That would be a dramatic leap, to say the least, and while there's a long way to go before anything is decided, Thompson's quest has begun as well as anyone could have hoped.

"They've giving me an opportunity to compete for the starting job, and I want to take that opportunity and try and run with it," he said. "For whatever reason last year things didn't click for me, but now it's a new year, and I'm ready to look forward and do things the right way this year.

"Right now I see myself as a work in progress, but by the time camp comes I want to be one of the best."

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