Best & Worst Case Scenarios: Inside Linebackers

From a potential Pro Bowl appearance by either A.J. Hawk or Desmond Bishop to D.J. Smith languishing on the bench, we take a look at the best and worst possible outcomes for the inside linebackers in 2011.

It's time for the fifth annual Best and Worst Case Scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster, a feature that goes back to the days when Railbird Central had its own domain.

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.

As one final note, 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.

A.J. Hawk

  • Best-case scenario: A.J. Hawk appeared to finally put it all together last year, and more of the same can be expected this year. He'll only have a handful of sacks and turnovers, but that's not where he'll provide the most value. Hawk will lead the team in tackles, and he'll be a steadying influence for the whole defense. He enters his first season taking over playcalling duties from Nick Barnett, and he's viewed as the leader of the defense from Week 1. With his name recognition, a second consecutive Pro Bowl could happen.
  • Worst-case scenario: A more active Desmond Bishop kind of steals the spotlight away from Hawk when he puts up better numbers in pretty much every defensive category: tackles, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles. Hawk regresses back to his 2009 level of production when he didn't have nearly the impact he did in 2010. Still, he's the unquestioned starter and at least he can be counted upon to be both durable and reliable.

Desmond Bishop

  • Best-case scenario: In his first full season as starter, Bishop catches everyone by surprise. He not only leads the team in tackles with easily over 120, he's surprisingly effective on the blitz with around five sacks by season's end. Combined with several impact plays via interception, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, Bishop is a dark horse candidate for the Pro Bowl.
  • Worst-case scenario: Bishop becomes one of those solid but not spectacular players. As long as he's healthy, there's no chance he's not in the starting lineup. But like A.J. Hawk in the past, the impact plays aren't there. The sacks, interceptions, fumbles forced and recovered just aren't there. That being said, he's still a productive tackler and a stalwart on the Packers defense.

D.J. Smith

  • Best-case scenario: Smith makes the 53-man roster and is active for all 16 regular season games. He doesn't see much time on defense, although he gets a little bit of playing time in blowout games. His biggest contribution is on special teams where he plays on almost every unit and is one of the leading teams tacklers by the end of the year.
  • Worst-case scenario: Smith makes the 53-man roster but is rarely active. With Robert Francois being the primary backup in case either A.J. Hawk or Desmond Bishop gets hurt, there aren't many times he's on the 46-man game day active list. He'll still account for a few tackles by season's end, though.

Robert Francois

  • Best-case scenario: Francois is the top backup to both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. If they're ever injured or need the occasional breather, Francois is the guy to replace them. He's also a regular on special teams and is active for all 16 regular season games. Francois can also provide depth at outside linebacker in a pinch.
  • Worst-case scenario: Thanks to his experience over the rest of the backup inside linebackers, Francois begins the year as one of the top backups, but the year doesn't end that way. D.J. Smith impresses so much that by winter, he's the one that comes in the game if Hawk or Bishop ever have to come out. Even so, Francois' roster spot is secure.

Cardia Jackson

  • Best-case scenario: If there happens to be an injury between now and the start of the regular season, Jackson has a chance to make the 53-man roster, but that's about the only way. If will be a success if he can do the same thing he did last season, be a part of the practice squad. That way if there's an injury mid-season, Jackson will be available for a call up.
  • Worst-case scenario: Jackson takes the Super Bowl ring he earned as part of the practice squad last season and departs from Green Bay. He's not as to be part of the practice squad again.

Elijah "Peanut" Joseph

  • Best-case scenario: There's no chance for him to make the 53, but Joseph shows enough upside to be asked to be part of the eight-man practice squad. He's signed to a futures contract at the end of the season to try again in 2012.
  • Worst-case scenario: The end is near at hand. Joseph is cut when the Packers are required to trim their roster down to 53 and not asked to be part of the practice squad.

K.C. Asiodu

  • Best-case scenario: After getting a shot to be a core special teams player shortly after being signed, Asiodu hasn't been part of any of the first-string units for several days now. He avoids the first round of cuts to extend his audition one week longer.
  • Worst-case scenario: He's released shortly after the third exhibition game when the Packers have to cut down to 80 players.
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