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Zombo Practices With First-String Defense

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Zombo Practices With First-String Defense

GREEN BAY – Several reasons factored into why Frank Zombo was practicing with the first-string defense on Monday's training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field, but above all, his play merited such a decision.

"Frank Zombo has earned some more reps, and that’s a credit to his performance," said head coach Mike McCarthy following practice.

Zombo lined up with the first-string defense at right outside linebacker in both as the Packers began preparation for their third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, historically the exhibition game where the starters see the most action.

Based upon his play through two preseason games, Zombo has been one of the more productive players on defense. He's one of only two players on the team to register a sack, his coming in the third quarter of the Seahawks game when he dropped Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for a 3-yard loss while working against tackle Joe Toledo.

He's also the only player on the team to have a quarterback hurry in both preseason games. In addition, he led the team in tackles against Seattle with five including one for a loss of yardage.

"He brings the physicality that you’re looking for as an outside linebacker," said McCarthy of Zombo. "Everything we start with is speed to power on the rush and how you want to play the runs and so forth. I think he’s done a very good job with that. High-effort player. Tough kid. Play through injuries. He’s had a nice camp so far. He’s earned every rep that he’s been given and we want to increase his opportunities and see what he can do."

Even though his play helped him earn playing time during training camp, the injury situation at linebacker has also factored into the equation as well.

Brandon Chillar, who had been working at outside linebacker basically since Week 2 of camp, moved back to inside linebacker on Monday where he worked with the first-team unit the entire practice.

The Packers have been especially short-handed on the inside seeing as incumbent starter A.J. Hawk recently injured his ankle last Thursday and was held out of the Seattle preseason game. Alex Joseph has also been out of action for the past few weeks with a thigh injury. Plus the Packers have been bringing back Nick Barnett slowly after having an offseason knee scope.

So when Chillar slid back inside last evening, that opened the door for Zombo to start on the right side opposite left outside linebacker Brady Poppinga. Zombo had been playing primarily on the left side prior to last night.

"Since I've played left side for the last couple weeks, you get familiar with it," said Zombo. "And then when you switch over sides, it's a little different. But like I said, with a little bit of practice this week, wherever I play, I'll get used to it."

It also hasn't hurt that the Packers have their fair share of nagging injuries at outside linebacker as well. Clay Matthews has missed the past couple weeks as he recovers from a hamstring strain. A back injury kept Brad Jones out of the Seattle game, although McCarthy categorized him as day-to-day and said he has a shot to play in the Colts game.

Zombo is just trying to adjust to playing linebacker after being a defensive end in college. It hasn't been the pass rush that's been new to him; he's used to that. It's been dropping back into pass coverage.

"I guess the pass rushing aspect is pretty much the same," said Zombo. "The power rushes, I used that a lot in college, collapsing the pocket. But yeah, dropping back in coverage is definitely something new.

"OTAs definitely helped. Getting all that down during the offseason, just going through it. Then when I had to learn it again when it came to camp, it stuck a little better."

Zombo has a golden opportunity to make a lasting impression on the Packers both during practice and in the final two preseason games. He appears to have leap-frogged Cyril Obiozor on the depth chart, but a roster spot is not yet a given.

"It's my goal," said Zombo. "I'm not out there counting helmets or anything like that, but it is my goal. That's what I hope for. There's a great opportunity here. I feel like I'm taking advantage of it, giving it everything I have, and that's all I can hope for. Just hopefully it sticks out in their minds."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tony Wilson's picture

I actually got to follow this guy a lot when I was going to Central Michigan and even once I left.

He was always the fastest of the defensive lineman. They never had the best defense, but they could pressure the QB, and Zombo did that.

They didn't have the best defense, but they were fast (and they were winners, too), and Zombo really anchored them.

dilligaff's picture

Hard to tell what this means with so many injuries to our LBs, they need a warm body for sure, more significant if he replaced Brady or Chillar.

IMO Chillar will be the 6th man if you will for all 4 LBs positions once the season starts.

For me the interesting thing is how the Packers rate Brady P. Once Brad Jones or Mathews is ready, who is the 3rd best OLB? Is it Chillar, Brady, or Zombo?

CSS's picture

Has Obiozor hit his ceiling (i.e. - met his potential)? At this point, are their mental/cerebral limitations? What part(s) of his game are not advancing, thus limiting ihs playing time?

Good for Zombo, he can only progress at this point. The depth will be most welcome.

PackersRS's picture

After last year, I was sure Obiozor would make a splash. After all, even Miami wanted him...

Actually, his promise was one reason I didn't feel so bad for the OLB depth...

stroh's picture

Obiozor has all the physical ability, but even in college he was missing it mentally. He's not dumb, but he has no instincts for the game! Thats why Zombo has already beaten him out! Obi just doesn't seem to be developing!

Franklin Hillside's picture

Zom-bo. Zawwwwm-bo. That's a cool name.

PresidentRaygun's picture

I'm rooting for Zombo, no doubt.

Bad Knees's picture

From another source. "Besides treatment from the medical staff, Harrell said he is receiving adjustments three times a week from Michael Zoelle, the team chiropractor. He also is receiving a massage each week."

Looks like I have to keep my mouth shut this year. The medical staff has been upgraded. I don't know Michael personally, I'm sure he is very good.

PackersRS's picture

Don't jinx it, man.

jeremy's picture

Zombo earned big points with MM for coming back early from a twisted ankle that had swollen to the size of a melon. Hopefully he can cover a bit too and the Pack have a prospect on their hands.

From what I remember hearing about Obiozor, he's smart. He's just not real strong/explosive, and gets swallowed up by linemen.

stroh's picture

Just the opposite actually... Obiozor has all the physical ability, but has no instincts for the game and can't read the action and adjust to it.

Tarynfor12's picture

Well Indy comes to town and the first half is a schemed game,yes or no? Here is what I'm looking for on defense.Have we the depth to move deeper into Capers defense or are we going vanilla again because our depth players aren't true players.Will we cushion ourselves out of the "SuperBowl or Die" theme?Will we continue to believe that pre-season means nothing?Who is going to step up from promising to real deal(Rookies and Vets)?

PackersRS's picture

No way it's a schemed game. The only thing that will change is that the starters will play more. Indy ALWAYS plays strickly vanilla, and it's why it loses every single preseason game. And this year, it looks like we're really not forcing it (resting any starters that show any kind of minor injury), and we're not calling intricate plays. Some blitzes, but that's it.

jeremy's picture

High School simple blitzs, and very little disguising of coverages. I expect vanilla plain and simple for the entire preseason.

I think Capers is pissed he got burned by showing his whole hand to Arizona, and I expect him to keep his cards close to his chest this preseason.

sammer's picture

You want the coaches to spend time game planning for a meaningless game instead of coaching and evaluating players? That's ridiculous. They play these games vanilla for a good reason - the coaches are trying to evaluate talent, not win the Preseason Bowl.

packeraaron's picture

Bingo.

Lionsfan1980's picture

I thought zombo was a tight end? I know the Lions wanted him for a tight end postion that he turned down I guess for the packers? Any insight on this anybody?

sammer's picture

If I remember correctly, he caught some passes for LeFevour at TE during workouts for scouts, but never played there.

Mr. Bacon's picture

I dare say it, but I have to. Zombo sorta reminds me of Aaron Kampman. Kinda looks like him as well. Plus his name is Zombo. Thats a good reason to keep him...

Seriousness, he is showing the most heart of all the backups and he wants to be on this squad and not working at a grocery store until next season.

Rockmolder's picture

He still has nothing on Stryker Sulak in the naming department.

pat fermanich's picture

capers good coach its the players arnt shining zzzzzzzzzzzzzoooooooommmmmmmmmmmbbbbbbbbaaaaaa .css can you be my teacher o please o words of wisdom speak of greatness.

PackersRS's picture

You are my favorite troll. Well, Pack66 (a.k.a. JJ) was also funny, but he got repetitive.

pat fermanich's picture

(arnt)one of bull shit sorry o great (css) practice practice practice to many for such few jobs arch a trade is coming soon.

thepretzelhead's picture

Packers have nothing to prove on defense in the dang preseason. Last year yes. Not this year.

Rockmolder's picture

Zombo actually had a pretty decent college career, but just didn't seem to translate well to the NFL. You get him standing up at OLB and things change a little. It's so hard to project whether a prospect will succeed in the NFL. Having to project a change of position next to that only makes it harder. You can find some real talent in the later rounds or even after the draft.

James Harrison comes to mind.

That said, Brad Jones was last year's great revelation and I wasn't that impressed. Obiozor has been a fan favorite but he hasn't really done anything. He's actually getting beaten now by this same guy Zombo.

One last thing, if he makes the final roster, I hope they change his numbers. 47 is no LB number. 58 is still available. For an OLB, numbers in the 90s are pretty cool. We still have 97 and 99 open.

Nononsense's picture

I believe the Aaron Kampman comparison is a valid one. Zombo does look like a slightly more athletic version of him. Neither guy was highly touted coming out of college and both have tremendously high motors. Kampman acually played LBer for a while in college and then became a DE whereas Zombo was a DE who is learning to play LBer.

I am thrilled that MM finally made a move to replace Bush with Sam Shields and that Zombo is getting a real chance to work with the starters.

These guys may not have much of an impact this season but in the future these guys will be impact players for the Pack. You can take that shite to the bank.

PS, Just want to give a shout out to Maurice Simpkins again. He hasn't beem used much since hes signed but when they do start to use him more hes gonna impress. STs is about his only chance to have an impact though, so watch for him in the next 2 games on the coverage units.

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