Greene Readies Young Group Of Outside Linebackers For Super Bowl

Kevin Greene has done an admirable job guiding a unit of young outside linebackers and turning them into a productive group of players.

DALLAS – With Erik Walden and Frank Zombo nursing injuries in advance of Sunday's Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the outside linebackers of the Green Bay Packers are seemingly getting more inexperienced by the minute.

Led by position coach Kevin Greene, a five-time Pro Bowler and Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate, he's not keeping the 'kid gloves' on his players despite their novice status.

"My job is to show them how to do it right, show them how to be a pro," said Greene. "I can't hold anything back; I can't change anything the way I'm coaching just because these kids are 22 and 23 years old or whatever it is. I'm giving them the best I got, my 15 years of experience, I'm bringing it to the table.

"I'm showing them every pre-snap read I possibly can. I'm trying to do everything I can to make sure they're highly productive on gameday. So no, I'm not holding any punches; I'm giving everything I can to them, the full enchilada."

Clay Matthews is the star of the group and a first-team All-Pro. But even so, he's only a second-year player.

Opposite Matthews has been a revolving door of bodies this season. Five separate players have started at the right outside linebacker position this season from Brad Jones to Brady Poppinga to Zombo to Walden to Rob Francois.

Jones and Poppinga have been placed on season-ending injured reserve, leaving Walden the unit's most experienced player in his third year in the NFL. Yet for all of those three years, Walden has a grand total of five starts to his name.

According to Walden, all that matters is that the outside linebackers are playing at a high level as of late.

"We've been playing our best football right now, so it aint' really no time to look back as far as experience," said Walden. "[Opponents] may have the gauge on that, but at the end of the day when the ball's snapped, that experience is just thrown out the window."

Walden said he expected to practice today after sitting out all last week with an ankle injury sustained during the NFC Championship game. Meanwhile, Zombo is also back at practice after having missed the past six games with a hamstring injury dating back Week 15.

The prognosis for Walden and Zombo may be encouraging, but guys like Francois and Briggs have to be ready just in case.

Francois made one start this season during Week 15 and also stepped in for Walden once he went down in the NFC Championship game. He may or may not Super Bowl, but he at least has to be ready for the possibility that he'll be called upon.

"Each week you have to prepare as if you'll be in the game," said Francois. "If it happens, it's not going to be a shock to me."

Whether it's Francois, Briggs or anyone else for that matter, Greene is confident in his charges.

"Rob Francois started a game for me," said Greene. "I'm good with Rob, I'm good with anyone I have. I've got a good group of kids, and they're really, really tuned in. And they want to play, and they want to play well.

"They want to make game changing plays. And so I think I started five guys at right outside linebacker, and everyone of my kids played well. I'm good with whoever is in there."

To Greene's credit, most of his players have overachieved in 2010, at least compared to expectations.

Zombo went from being undrafted to recording four sacks in his rookie year. Walden was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in the regular season finale against Chicago when he tallied a team-leading 16 tackles and three sacks all in one game.

Thus far, he's handled his young unit about as well as can be expected.

"These kids, regardless of how young they are, are playing a grown man's game," said Greene. "And they need to know, 'Hey, we expect you to be a true pro at what you're doing and you can' cut corners.'"

Especially in the Super Bowl.

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Comments (8)

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pittpackers's picture

February 02, 2011 at 04:37 pm

Another great article, Brian. It is articles like this that keep me checking cheeseheadtv every twenty minutes. Thanks!

Go Pack, go!

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MadJam's picture

February 02, 2011 at 05:11 pm

"The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual". Vince Lombardi

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Kathy W's picture

February 02, 2011 at 05:43 pm

Very nice piece!
I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when the Packers hired Greene - he was one of the very best "beasts" to play linebacker...EVER.
To have his unit produce so well under his watch is just gobs of icing on the cake. BRILLIANT move to bring him in.

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asshalo's picture

February 02, 2011 at 06:28 pm

Saw a "Pro's versus Joe's" episode where kevin greene was on. Oh boy, he was intense.

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jeremy's picture

February 02, 2011 at 07:59 pm

By my count the Packers have 8 sacks from the LOLB by committee; Zombo 4, Walden 3, and Poppinga 1.

I'm pretty happy with 21.5 total sacks from OLB's this year.

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Nick's picture

February 02, 2011 at 09:12 pm

great article!!!!

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dgtalmn's picture

February 03, 2011 at 09:44 am

Sure hope no other organization are looking to hire away Greene. He sure brings alot to the position.

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jeff hanson's picture

February 04, 2011 at 09:29 am

ive said all season long that kevin greene deserved more credit for the work the linebackers have done than capers...

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