Much has been made of the switch of Clay Matthews to right outside linebacker and the move of Brandon Chillar to the outside in general.
Not a lot has been made of Brady Poppinga's quietly excellent camp.
Through the first two weeks of camp, I was impressed by Poppinga's concentration and focus while he was taking instruction from Kevin Greene during pass rushing drills. He really seemed to be working on his first step, and could be seen several times asking Greene for some extra coaching on hand placement when it comes to shedding blocks.
I didn't really pay it much mind at the time simply because I'd read the offseason puff pieces about Poppinga going back to his "roots" as a pass rusher. I remember the end of 2008 when the Packers had him lineup with his hand on the ground in passing situations and rush the passer - he looked terrible.
So it was a shock to me when I saw how well he played on Saturday night. He got the edge a few times, including the play below where he is clearly held - of course, it went uncalled:
Brady does an excellent job here of keeping his momentum going and shedding the attempted block of John St. Clair. I don't know if he would have gotten the sack but St. Clair clearly grabs him after getting beat. But what is such an encouraging sign is that once he gets by the block, he flattens out to the quarterback. This is something he never used to do and its a sign of progress. Rather than fly by the offensive tackle and continue on the same trajectory, he actually squares the edge and makes a bee-line for the quarterback.
Poppinga later had the only sack by a Packer defender later in the game as well, though that came against backup competition. But for all the press Brandon Chillar has gotten, Brady Poppinga was the more impressive player on Saturday night. Now, Chillar is by far the better athlete and he is much more fluid in coverage than Poppinga will ever be. But for a team in desperate need of pass rushers, any flash from Poppinga is a welcome surprise.
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