Whether at the NFL Combine or NFL Owners Meetings, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been asked about many of the key players on the team's roster over the course of the offseason.
It's become commonplace this year and every year for McCarthy to talk about second-year players making a large leap in their methaphorical sophomore season in professional football.
In the past few months, McCarthy has talked about players like Datone Jones making a "huge jump," Josh Boyd taking a "big step" and Micah Hyde deserving the opportunity to be an "every-down player," just to name a few.
After looking through the transcript from last week's NFL Owners Meeting, I saw McCarthy address another player entering his second season that I hadn't seen shared anywhere else in the media and wanted to post here.
McCarthy was asked about outside linebacker Andy Mulumba, who made the Packers roster as an undrafted rookie last season and received an unexpectedly large amount of playing time after injuries to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry sidelined them for long stretches.
"I think Andy was a young man that really grew with his opportunities," said McCarthy. "Special teams was a challenge for him early. I look for him to probably make a bigger improvement on special teams. I really liked the way he developed as an outside linebacker, all the new things he was asked to do there. I think he’s a young player … you know, we make a big deal about players in their second year making a big jump, and I feel confident Andy will be one of those players."
Once again, McCarty referenced the "big jump" that he always seems to make about second-year players, but was it perhaps a bad sign that the first thing McCarthy referenced special teams before even getting to the defensive side of the football when discussing Mulumba?
In trying to come to some sort of conclusion, it's probably important to put Mulumba's life story in perspective. Here's a guy that emigrated from war-torn Congo in Africa to Montreal with his family as a child and had to overcome social and language barriers that make football seem pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Mulumba didn't start playing football until high school and was still learning the game when enrolling at Eastern Michigan University.
The learning curve Mulumba has experienced has obviously been steeper than most, but considering the circumstances, his transition to the NFL has been rather admirable. In 361 defensive snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Mulumba made 30 tackles and a sack in his rookie season.
With the addition of Julius Peppers in the offseason and the potential of the Packers adding another few rookies either during the draft or signed afterward, perhaps the opportunity for advancement for an edge rusher like Mulumba is limited.
As long as players like Matthews, Peppers, Perry and Mike Neal are healthy, Mulumba might find playing time hard to come by, and maybe that's why McCarthy brought up special teams being an area of improvement.
Of couse, with Matthews, Perry and Neal having a rather lengthy injury history and Peppers being 34 years old, the door isn't being closed on Mulumba either.
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