GREEN BAY – Brady Poppinga had been doing a good job at training camp in the brief amount of time since it began. To that end, it was somewhat surprising to see the Packers place Brandon Chillar at right outside linebacker while sliding Clay Matthews over the left side.
Nobody could have blamed Poppinga for being perturbed with the move. After all, he had been backing up Brad Jones and even spent some time during the offseason Organized Team Activities and minicamp back during May and June with the "ones" on defense. But he seems unfazed by the switch.
"This is where my focus is at: I'm focused on developing the fundamentals, the skill set that will carry me to be an elite dominant pass rusher," said Poppinga. "That's where my focus is and everything else really doesn't matter. It doesn't really play into that."
The move occurred after Jones went down with an injury by taking a helmet to the back on the first day of practice. The Packers have since gone through two consecutive practices with Chillar taking nearly every repetition with first-string defense on the right side of the defensive formation.
Chillar had previously taken snaps as an outside linebacker both during the offseason and earlier in training camp, but not to the extent of the past two practices.
The news came as a surprise to Chillar when he learned of the move on Monday morning, but he thinks his ability to play multiple positions played into the change.
"I think at outside linebacker you have to be versatile, but I've played inside linebacker and safety too," said Chillar. "I just consider myself a versatile player, and like I said, I like showing that off and I go out there and have some fun."
Head coach Mike McCarthy echoed the same sentiments and pointed back to when the Packers originally pursued Chillar in free agency. They thought he was a good blitzer and runner as well as the talent to play at varied spots on the field.
"Brandon Chillar is definitely a player that has the ability to play a number of different positions," said McCarthy. "As far as the outside linebacker position, he gives you flexibility, both in the base and the sub packages because he has rush ability."
Chillar said he weighed somewhere between 235 and 240 pounds, which is a little light for an outside linebacker. His talents seem to translate well to the nickel package where he can do a good job both rushing the quarterback and dropping into coverage. However, he would seem less effective in the base defense where the offense is more likely to run, and Chillar may have a hard time anchoring for the oncoming rush attack.
But Chillar has been an integral part of the base defense the past two practices and acknowledges he'll face a steep learning curve adjusting to defending the run as well as trying to get after the passer.
"On the nickel defense, I rush a lot from the outside [as in inside linebacker] so it's pretty similar," said Chillar. "I'd say the bigger difference is just sitting down there and just being down there in a standing position and playing the run whereas when I'm off the ball, I get a little speed before I could hit people."
One possibility the Packers haven't yet explored is putting Chillar on the right hand side and leaving Matthews on the left where he played all last season.
Meanwhile, Poppinga continues to work on the left side, now behind Matthews and insists he'll do whatever is in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers.
"I'm comfortable with my progression," said Poppinga. "I feel like I'm making some strides, and like I was just mentioning, my skill set and the fundamentals that it's going to take to where I want to be, and that's going to help our team collectively be a championship-caliber team. That's what I'm comfortable with."
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