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Can Perry, Elliott & Company Step up to the Plate?

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Can Perry, Elliott & Company Step up to the Plate?

Just this past Saturday, news broke that NFL officials had finally gone through the NFLPA and scheduled interviews for players linked to performance-enhancing substances in the Al-Jazeera America report. Among those players, Packers outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. 

Although Matthews was linked to painkillers, Peppers was tagged with the PED usage - reportedly a drug by the name of Delta-2. 

Needless to say, Matthews wasn't happy discovering this information.

"I work hard on my reputation, and really that's all I have," Matthews said back in December to ESPN. "For seven years, I've worked my ass off. For this guy to say those type of things, it's just not true, and especially for him to recant everything that he said, too, I think it really just goes to show the type of source he is, as well. The truth will come out, and I'm not worried about it, because I carry myself a certain way, and that is the right way."

The report and its happenings is currently a flurry of rumors and anxiety circulating around the NFL. Oh, offseason.

It's crazy, and chances are even if any kind of consequences cracked down upon the two stars, they likely wouldn't even be in place for the upcoming season.

But what if Matthews and Peppers did get nabbed with a punishment administered from the league? What if the duo who currently help anchor the Packers' front seven were suspended for an indefinite amount of time? Can Green Bay's defense still prosper in its efforts to crack the ranks as a top 10 defense in 2016?

Behind the helm of Matthews and Peppers rests two outside linebackers heading into contract years - Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott. 

Perry, whom the Packers declined to pick up his fifth-year option just a year ago, recently inked a one-year deal to stay with the Green and Gold through 2016. Although he's shown a variety of health complications through his tenure in Green Bay and not as much production as you'd expect from a first-round draft pick, his momentum has never been stronger.

Only missing three of the last 32 games, his pass-rushing tendencies were amplified to culminate the 2015 campaign, getting to the opposing quarterback for three - nearly four sacks in the playoffs. 

Elliot is somewhat of a dark horse entering the final stretch of the offseason. Of all the outside linebackers occupying the Packers' depth chart, Elliot played the most special teams snaps in 2015 - 71.7% of them to be precise. It's a portion of the game where he has proven his worth. After a strong start to the season on the defensive side of the ball, a quad injury eventually caught up to Elliot and sidelined him for several games. 

From a three-week internship at the Arizona State athletic department to racing up to 220 miles-per-hour with Mario Andretti at the Kohler Grand Prix, Elliot has stayed busy through the offseason. Somewhere in-between, that includes becoming a more versatile player.

"One thing I've always struggled with is consistency," Elliot told senior writer Mike Spofford. "I have to get myself stronger. I have to get ready to play whatever is needed."

An ideal scenario for the Packers would be exactly that - a flexible outside linebacker to bulk up the depth.

Flexible and versatile is precisely what Datone Jones is - the "elephant" defensive end and hybrid outside linebacker, and another player who would likely see a significant snaps increase with or without suspensions being handed down. Jones showed flashes in 2015 as he gradually shifted into this new role of his, and Mike McCarthy as well as the rest of the coaching staff is well aware of that.

Besides Jones, third-round pick Kyler Fackrell is another bright spot with potentially tremendous upside for the outside linebacking corps. Coined as an agile, quick player, Fackrell brings to the weakside something the Packers have lacked for quite some time - coverage ability. The most important trait as a weakside linebacker.

Fackrell's purpose will likely be to replace the 36-year old Peppers who is also entering the final year of his contract, and if so, that process would take some time. 

Other players to watch through training camp include Reggie Gilbert, an undrafted free agent and Lerentee McCray, a former linebacker with the Denver Broncos whom the Packers picked up in April in hopes of providing more depth.

If such scenarios arise that require the second-level defense of the Packers to rise to the occasion, chances are they'd need to hinge on a pass-rush from Mike Daniels and an unproven Kenny Clark as well as a strengthened secondary. In other words, inside linebacker wouldn't be the only notorious weak spot in Green Bay's defense - outside would join the club. 

The talent is there as shown above, but despite this ragtag group looking good on paper, the few bright spots wouldn't be much of a tall task for opposing offenses to dial in and rip apart. Matthews and Peppers are the unamious leaders of the front seven, and without the duo leading the charge, the young and inexperienced linebacking platoon may be in shambles.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (55) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

Yeah, you're still pretty far out in front of the horse. Put your lube away until something actually develops. All the NFL has right now is a newspaper story where the source recanted. As long as these guys "cooperate" by showing up when asked and don't get caught in a lie they are fine.

MarkinMadison's picture

You're saying the cake is already baked. So what are the ingredients?

dobber's picture

Do you?

PackerAaron's picture

The league has absolutely nothing. That's why the PA never responded to their requests until finally sending a letter in reply last week. It's also why James Harrison said he'll meet with the league, but only in his house and only with Goodell present.

The whole thing is a total farce.

PackerAaron's picture

Here's the PA's position. I'll be surprised if the interviews ever happen:

Nick Perry's picture

They HAVE to look into Cow. The NFL is going to look into just about any "Story" from just about any source, it;s the nature of today's NFL. They don't have dirty tests or evidence in the the sense they normally do. They have a story from a News Outlet some respect and some don't and that story was later recanted.

You live to stir the pot here but you're coming to the kitchen without a spoon this time.

MarkinMadison's picture

You asked the question and then answered it correctly. Without Pep and CM3 opposing offenses will have little to fear out of the Packers' front seven.

RCPackerFan's picture

With or without Peppers/Mathews. I think Elliott is going to take off. He has shown in the preseasons that he can play. Last year he started to play well in the regular season and then got hurt and wasn't used as much on defense. With Neal gone, i think they will find more ways to get Elliott on the field, which last year he showed when he plays he makes plays.

And my darkhorse break out player is Perry. I think he is going to having a really, really good year.
This is the first time that Perry has been able to participate in the offseason. If Perry can stay healthy I think he is going to surprise people. Also Capers seems to have figured out how to best use him.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

I'm excited to see Jones in his hybrid spot and ecstatic to see what Elliott can do with an increased amount of snaps. Should be fun to watch the two develop further through camp.

I've also never spoken as highly on Perry as I do now, so I'm with you on that. We know what he can do when he's at 100% and full force. Toughest part for him would just be staying that way.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, I left Jones off, but I am really looking forward to seeing him play the Elephant End role more. He started to play that role a lot more towards the end of the year and he really started to play his best football of the year.

I really am excited to see our pass rush this year. We have accumulated a really nice group of pass rushers. With Peppers, Mathews, Perry, Jones, Elliott, Daniels, and Guion who all have the ability to get to the QB. Also add in the uknowns of Clark, Fackrell and Lowry.
I think we could see one of the better defenses that we have had for a while.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, i agree. Perry and Elliott are who i'm the most excited in seeing. I think both are going to really play well.

Fackrell I am looking forward to seeing but what I'm hoping to see him do is work in a rotation to start. They are pretty deep at the position so if he is in the rotation that will likely mean he is playing well.

At the end of last yeah Jones really played well. I know Nagler has posted Vines showing his skills while standing up. I think he is much more suited for that role. IMO, he will be as good if not better then Neal in that spot.

I really like our depth. Hopefully everyone stays healthy this year.

Tundraboy's picture

Thinking the same NP. Looking forward to watching Perry and Elliot this year along with all the new picks on D. Couldn't bear to see another year of watching Neal and expecting different results. Should be interesting.

RCPackerFan's picture

I thought Neal was 'ok'. But there was a few times last year, I did wonder if they had Elliott in there instead of Neal, if he would have made the plays that Neal didn't.
Also, Jones to me is an upgrade over Neal. So I think our front 7 defense is going to be a lot better.

Tundraboy's picture

I think we will be much better. Time to give these guys a shot, some more playing time, ok is just that, ok. Lets find out what we have.

Bearmeat's picture

The young guys and unproven guys are exactly that - young and/or unproven. If GB can get a "C" performance from any of the Perry/Datone/Fackrell/McCray/Gilbert crowd, it'll be a banner day.

DrealynWilliams's picture

We gotta expect more. 2 of those 5 are 1st rounders.

dobber's picture

Perry and Datone are in contract years...I expect them to be suddenly healthy and productive.

...and then walk.

Bearmeat's picture

At this point in their careers? No I don't think we should expect more Drealyn. Perry and Jones have been disappointments and by year 3-4, they've shown who they are. There's no other way to spin it. Fackrell is a rook. McCray is a career backup. Elliot has potential but has never put it all together. We have projects at backup OLB. If either CM3 or Pep is out for any amount of time, our pass rush is probably going to severely suffer.

Look, I'd be VERY happy if one of these guys busted out to an 8 sack and 25 pressure year. But I doubt it happens. At least we have the quality and depth at the DL and ILB to make our front 7 a strength anywa.... oh wait. Sonofa...

#TTSucksAtTheFrontSeven :(

DrealynWilliams's picture

Lol @Dobber...wouldn't that be f'd up?


I'm not saying the two haven't been disappointments. I'm just saying we should expect more than a C performance from Nick Perry (who TT brought back and really showed up when it matters most [post season]) and Datone Jones (who's most likely going to see the most snaps of his career).

Bearmeat's picture

If I expected more from them, then I'd be disappointed. TT's front 7 picks (and little to no FA) have been poor for so long that I've just resigned myself to a healthy skepticism at NT, DT, OLB and ILB.

Now - if ARod, Lacy, Jordy and Cobb don't have significant positive regression to the norm, THEN I'll be disappointed.

DrealynWilliams's picture


"TT's front 7 picks (and little to no FA) have been poor for so long that I've just resigned myself to a healthy skepticism at NT, DT, OLB and ILB."

I get where you're coming from and I'm with you on that.

holmesmd's picture

McCray was a career backup on an all world defense last year! Don't sleep, the guy can play and be productive in the OLB rotation. TT won't sign guys strictly just for special team contributions. Defense should be top 10 this season for sure if the core can stay healthy?!

dobber's picture

He will sign guys and then cut them at the end of camp, though.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Few know what the NFL has in terms of probable cause. There is this guy Sly, and his movements. There could be a paper trail, or there may be no trail because this stuff never happened. I'd divide this up:

Losing Peppers: Datone Jones is the replacement at Elephant End. There might be some others who can man that position, maybe Perry or Elliott, but Jones is prototypical. I am interested in Datone but not really excited. I'd have to think losing Peppers would be a blow to the defense. BTW, if Peppers can string this out to next season, it may be that he retires or is not re-signed anyway.

Losing CM3: At OLB, Fackrell and McCray are his logical replacements. Both are new to GB, one is a rookie who perhaps can replace CM3's coverage ability perhaps sooner than later but probably needs a year to develop. I am actually very intrigued by McCray. Of course Perry and Elliott would get a lot of snaps, but I view them as doing some things well but not other things very well at all - i.e. I don't mean to say that these guys can do all the things CM3 does (just not quite as well as CM3), I mean there are things they should not do at all that CM3 can do.

Losing CM3: At ILB, which means that CM3 was still needed at ILB because one or more of Barrington, Ryan, Martinez failed to adequately man ILB, or got injured. I've got nothing. I suppose I'd hope Bradford or B. Brown is a phenom, and Joe Thomas gets another year.

I like the collection of talent as possibilities. The talent at ILB gets thin without CM3.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

BTW, I keep reading that Fackrell was drafted to replace Peppers. I think that is obviously true, but Peppers and Fackrell have rather different skill sets and body types. There is no law that requires a 3-4 defense to have an elephant OLB. Fackrell is unlikely to be an elephant OLB that directly replaces the functions provided by Peppers.

I am betting that McCray makes the 53 and plays significant snaps on defense (several hundred snaps and not including STs). Really just a hunch since I can't find much tape on him, but I liked what I saw.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Mike Neal had 734 snaps last season.

Nick Perry has to get his. (351)
Datone has to get his. (364)
Jayrone has to get his. (174)

3 players who deserve increased snaps and depending on how Fackrell looks early on -- he also might be in the mix of sharing some of those 734 snaps Neal left behind. Now, I haven't seen much on McCray either, but I don't think he's coming in and playing more than Jayrone.

dobber's picture

Not nearly so concerned about replacing Neal's 734 snaps as I am about replacing Casey Hayward's 900+ snaps.

Tundraboy's picture

Good lord is right!!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Dear Drealyn,

I agree with your post: these guys do deserve increased snaps, and should be able to replace Neal's 734 snaps.

But the article is about losing CM3 and Peppers (1020 and 700 snaps, respectively). I don't expect to lose either of them. But Peppers had a violation for using Ephedra in 2002 and drew an automatic four game suspension. A 2nd violation can carry a 10 game suspension (but I am not sure whether there is a time frame - his only other incident was in 2002).

There have been rumors about CM3, but no positives for PEDs, which have automatic suspensions attached as penalties. Now CM3 is alleged to have taken painkillers: these might be under the drug abuse category, and a player gets a couple of strikes under that policy. I believe the first warning is supposed to be secret, but they tend to be leaked. I've not heard of CM3 being in the program. CM3 is also supposed to have taken Torodol, an anti-inflammatory. Not sure if Torodol would be a PED (automatic 4 game suspension) or under abuse.

So, my post is predicated on a worst case scenario of losing 4 games from CM3 and up to 10 from Peppers, which translates into a ton of snap in addition to Neal's snaps.

DrealynWilliams's picture


Ahh, I see. You'd be right then.

dobber's picture

Since when are we required to comment on the article on hand? ;)

DrealynWilliams's picture


We do that here??? Lol

dobber's picture

" But Peppers had a violation for using Ephedra in 2002 and drew an automatic four game suspension. A 2nd violation can carry a 10 game suspension (but I am not sure whether there is a time frame - his only other incident was in 2002)."

I thought older transgressions were wiped under the more recent CBAs. Certainly -- if they were relevant -- people would be talking about it.

holmesmd's picture

Toradol is a prescription NSAID that's essentially prescription Advil or Alleve. No one is getting suspended for using that. If it was an off label opiod, all bets are off!

dobber's picture

I think people latch onto Fackrell's height and immediately lump him in with Peppers. I don't think there's anyone on the roster that is really a good comparison for him. He has some of the same traits as Matthews, but he's not physically as well-developed. I hope this means he'll develop into something that will diversify the defense rather than providing a redundant piece.

al bundy's picture

My guess is the league has something. I mean they arent going to question people just on some story thats been recanted. Ghere has to be a trump card here?

lucky953's picture

That's exactly what the league does. It's about their image. Because the story was printed, some people will see a smoking gun so the league has to make a show of investigating. If they had actual facts, they wouldn't be making a big deal of just talking to guys. They'd send them a private letter detailing the evidence and require them to be evaluated by the PEDS disciplinary arm of the league as outlined in the CBA.

Bearmeat's picture

You are SUCH a turd. Go away.

4thand1's picture

That's an insult to turds everywhere.

EdsLaces's picture

Elliot has all the freakin ability in the world....just let the kid play!!!

4thand1's picture

The defense will only have to hold opposing teams to 24 points a game. The offense will put 35 a game this year. Then we can put the cow to pasture.

4thand1's picture

Why the hate? I'll still try to talk you off of the ledge when the Packers steamroll the div. and rest of the NFL this year. Keep hoping for the worst, maybe then you'll find some happiness when the mighty Pack kicks ass.

dobber's picture

"I'm seeing it all over the place.

I see average offensive personnel.

Overrated OL - although there is some depth here now.
Below league average RB group.
Declining QB.
Average at best WR group.
Below average TE group.
Unimaginative play-calling."

Come on, cow. Your reasoning for decline aren't any different than other people's reasoning for hope. It's personal interpretation....instead of "hoping" you're "Eeyore-ing".

No reason to call people dumb...

dobber's picture

Just the same way you're so confident that 2015 was the real thing...compared to years to the contrary?

It's all interpretation. YOu're welcome to yours, and I welcome it here because it makes people think on what they believe and why they do (hopefully). I'm hoping that others arguments do the same for you.

Bedrock's picture

Overrated OL? The guards are arguably the best tandem in the league. How bad do you believe the other three to be to make this group overrated?

Your rants on Rodgers are poorly grounded. Poor decisions are made with too little data. With how much data can you point to as "decline"?

Unimaginative play calling? That's a pile. Imagine all you want. That's not how winning teams are successful. I'll just imagine this will trick the other team. Whatever. How 'bout this okay works not kick their butt?

I have but one question that I'd really like for you to produce a logical argument. How has GB produced their record with such mediocrity?

Bedrock's picture


dobber's picture

""How has GB produced their record with such mediocrity?"
1. Garbage division (until now)."

Actually, over the Packers playoff streak, only one year (2013) were the Packers the only NFCN team in the playoffs. That means two of the four teams in the division have been making the playoffs pretty much every year except that one.

Is that garbage?

stockholder's picture

Cow I think I can explain the production. 1. They have a very good coach in MM. 2. The OL was so banged up. (Age and injuries) But they still hold their own in the playoffs. 3. TT has made some pretty bad picks that never developed. Also he never filled the roles of woodson, finely, Bishop, or Collins. These guys were All-pros. 4. A-rod kept trying to go to Adams. And the media kept forcing Adams down our throats. The Tandems that could catch the ball, were hurt, or gone. 5. Winning players know how to win! And this team is good enough to win. What you don't like is the status Quo. (offense sells tickets) Mediocrity is a good word to describe the Defense. It's lost people that TT did not replace. The defense is headed back in the right direction. This team can win.

Lphill's picture

Why is COW even here? I don't even get upset at his stupid comments , all he does is hate on Rodgers who he claims is not good and on the decline , but praises Bridgewater whenever he can , this ASS COW is a Viking fan true and true , nobody can tell me different . I feel bad for him , Viking fans are a sad bunch.

4thand1's picture

He's gets off pissing in our Wheaties.

Tundraboy's picture

He's here for the occasional comic relief. In a bizarre way I look forward to seeing what he'll come up with on any given topic or post.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I think it's funny how some people here take him so seriously.

4thand1's picture

A healthy Pack wins SB 51 it. AR MVP again, reg season and SB.

Tundraboy's picture

Works for me. Just like the his 8 and 8 prediction and promise to go away, AR having an MVP season alone should send him away for awhile again.

Lphill's picture

4thand1 I agree with you.

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