Welcome to the fourth annual best and worst case scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition. Think Charles Woodson last year.
I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not what’s best for the team. For example, parting ways with Justin Harrell may eventually be what’s in the best interest of the Packers. I’m more interested in looking at what’s in Justin Harrell’s best interests (or worst interests for that matter).
Yesterday we looked at the defensive line. Today we're onto the inside linebackers...
- Best-case scenario: Considering the type of season Barnett put together in 2009 less than a year removed from an ACL tear and playing on a "pitch count" early in the season, an even better season is in store in 2010. Given those factors, it's amazing that Barnett played as well as he did last season when he accumulated 122 tackles, four sacks and eight passes defensed. One year more healthy, a year more experienced in Dom Capers' system, and head coach Mike McCarthy's comments to use Barnett as a pass rusher more often, he should be able to improve in every statistical area compared to last year. A Pro Bowl berth isn't out of the question.
- Worst-case scenario: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. That might not be the best football metaphor, but it's typical of Barnett's career where he's overshadowed by other playmakers on the team and other inside linebackers in the NFC when it comes to earning post-season honors. Barnett has his typical 100-plus tackle season, but doesn't have enough sacks, interceptions and fumbles (either forced or recovered) to put him in the same category as Patrick Willis or even Brian Urlacher.
- Best-case scenario: With behemoths like Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins keeping offensive linemen off of him, Hawk has the best year of his five-year professional career. He may not ever live up to that No. 5 overall pick label, but Hawk is worthy of being a solid NFL starter and stops any speculation whether he's earning the money on his contract. He has a handful of turnover-creating plays, which works wonders for a defense now in its second year in the 3-4 scheme. Hawk shows he's worthy of signing to a long-term contract extension.
- Worst-case scenario: Hawk has a below-average season when he typically only plays in the base 3-4. Whenever the Packers go to nickel or dime, which is up to 60% of the time, Hawk just doesn't see the field a ton. Brandon Chillar is simply a better choice when it comes to pass coverage where he doesn't get exposed as often in zone coverage. You can count the number of sacks, inteceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries Hawk has in 2009 on one hand. Maybe with digits to spare. He's not re-signed as a free agent.
- Best-case scenario: He may not play in the base defense, but between nickel, dime, Psycho and Big Okie, Chillar is actually on the field more often than A.J. Hawk. He's used as an occasional outside pass rusher and also does a good job shutting down opposing tight ends in pass coverage. He's not Pro Bowl material, but he's worth every penny the Packers spent on his contract extension last season.
- Worst-case scenario: Chillar continues to struggle in pass coverage like he did in 2009. He's not reliable in a nickel linebacker and the Packers are no better off with him in the game as they are A.J. Hawk. Chillar's playing time decreases to the point Desmond Bishop is a better option in nearly every down-and-distance or scenario you can think of. Ted Thompson won't admit signing Chillar to a multi-million dollar extension was a mistake, but that's the sentiment of much of Packer Nation.
- Best-case scenario: Whether it's in the Psycho package or spot duty, Bishop impresses every time he steps foot on the field. More importantly, he's not making mistakes that lead to opponent touchdowns. Through dedication and a never-give-up attitude, Bishop sees his playing time increase slowly over the course of the season. If there's an opportunity for extended playing time due to an injury ahead of him, Bishop seizes the moment and makes it difficult on the coaching staff to put him back on the bench. He's a nuisance to opposing offenses when used as a blitzing linebacker. He also continues to be on the of best special teams players on the team.
- Worst-case scenario: Bishop impresses in the preseason once again, but never gets the chance to prove himself on an lengthy basis during the regular season. A victim of a deep inside linebacking corps, he only plays in the Psycho package and on special teams, a lot like 2009. Worst of all, whenever he's given the chance, he seems to miss a tackle that leads to a touchdown or gives up a completion to his man in coverage that leads to a first down. He just can't get over that hump.
- Best-case scenario: When a serious injury occurs to one of the four players ahead of him on the depth chart, the Packers have a tough decision to make. Do they keep only three inside linebackers or do they keep the undrafted rookie out of Temple? If not on the 53-man roster, he's asked to be a part of the practice squad.
- Worst-case scenario: If it wasn't for there being only four inside linebackers ahead of him, Joseph probably wouldn't have made it his far. He's overwhelmed as a rookie and doesn't have what it takes to play in the NFL. A better option would be for him to play in the UFL, the CFL, or the Arena League.
Tomorrow we look at the outside linebackers.