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Packers Have No One Opposite Matthews

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Packers Have No One Opposite Matthews

Erik Walden has been serviceable playing opposite Clay Matthews in 2011.

That pretty much sums it up.

Walden has given way to Frank Zombo and Brad Jones (and then Vic So'oto) the last two weeks, first due to poor play and then due to illness. Before that, Walden had played, if not well, then well enough.

The problem of course is that in Dom Capers' version of the 3-4 defense, playing "well enough" at one of its premiere positions simply won't help yield a top-flight defense.

I admit, after the season he had last year and coming out of training camp, I thought Walden would emerge as, if not a force, then a real compliment to fellow starting outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Instead, Walden has played well in spurts but been pretty pedestrian overall.

So...enter Frank Zonbo? Or Brad Jones? Or (gulp) Vic So'oto?

Well, sure. If only because variety is the spice of life.

The truth, sadly, is that the Packers have been rotating the outside linebacker opposite Matthews on and off for the past two years because they don't have a real answer at the position. Funnily enough, as awkward as Aaron Kampman looked standing up, he played as well if not better than most of the guys that have paraded through since his departure.

Obviously, this is not some major revelation. However, Packers fans expecting general manager Ted Thompson to start deviating from his normal draft and develop routine should be ready to be disappointed, unless a Conor Barwin-type outside linebacker happens to fall perfectly on Thompson's board, a big move for a pass rusher a la Matthews is unlikely.

No, Thompson will no doubt continue to trust his draft board. If the help that's needed falls into the Packers' lap, he won't hesitate to make the pick. But don't expect some grand move to help bolster the defense and/or the pass rush.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Morli's picture

I am not so sure, how critical a second dominant OLB is to this "Capers-defense". The situation was pretty much the same last year, but this defense created enough pressure. With the way Jenkins and Raji had to be accounted for, it made life so much easier for Capers, Matthews and whomever started opposite of him. And I know you don't want to hear it anymore, but the pass-defense of last year was pretty darn good. My point being one more passrusher, regardless of position, would probably turn this defense around.

Nerd's Laptop's picture

We have the same guys we had last year, except that instead of Jenkins, we have Neal. Maybe he'll get stronger as he plays more.
So'Oto and Lattimore are wildcards. I think an offseason will benefit these guys, as well as guys like Zombo and Shields. They missed the offseason last year.

AJKUHN's picture

I think your right about the off-season work. Considering that Zombo is a converted DE I don't think we have seen everything from him yet, same may be the case for Sooto. Would still like to see a Matthews type drafted though. TT did trade up to get him, so you never know what he will do.

Nerd's Laptop's picture

Keep in mind, I think alot of defenses are playing weak, out of fear of getting flagged for illegal hits. Dom's smart to tell his guys to focus more on stripping the ball than on hitting in this day and age.

Evan's picture

I couldn't disagree more.

How many fumbles have the Packers caused this year? I don't know the answer, but I can guarantee that it's a minute fraction how many tackles have been missed trying to strip the ball instead of wrapping up the ball carrier.

It drives me insane seeing guys swapping for the ball while the runner breaks free.

aussiepacker's picture

I understand TT has a draft day strategy and it has served the pack extremley well. But surely he would not go offense in the first 3 rounds again. I tottally trust him but would be surprised.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think a lot of what TT will or won't do with respect to drafting for D or recruiting a quality free agent will depend very much on if this D is not a stumbling block on the way to the Super Bowl. I get that he won't over-react, but he also has not stood pat when there was a glaring need. He brought in Woodson and Pickett as quality free agents, and both of those guys are near the point when they will ride off into the sunset. He grabbed Raji and traded up to get Matthews just a few years ago to give the Dom the tools he needed. If the need is apparent, don't assume that he will simply play the hand he is dealt in the draft.

Jeremy's picture

"Erik Walden has been serviceable playing opposite Clay Matthews in 2011."

39 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 0 int's and 0 forced fumbles in 15 games at ROLB in a 3-4 defense.

I think serviceable is a generous label for that. I would call it a step above useless.

Aaron Nagler's picture

You do realize the outside linebacker's job is more than just posting numbers, right? Of course you do.

Jeremy's picture

Of course, it's on display every time a QB uses a fake or play action to "freeze" Matthews. Either way I don't think we'll be hearing any love stories about the job Walden's done with contain or coverage.

I also get the irony of the role reversal ; )

Evan's picture

It's hard to knock the Sherrod pick in terms of value, but I was really hoping for Brooks Reed there.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

I was well documented on this site hoping the exact same thing.

PackersRS's picture

That illness explains a lot. And that's why you criticize the play and not the player.

Really, really hard to set the edge minus 7 pounds due to a stomach virus. It's amazing he even got to play.

The OLB, together with more DL help, is the position I really want to see addressed in the draft. Of course, I know what TT's MO is.

But with Zombo getting healthy, as well as Walden, it gives me hope for improved performance come the divisional game.

We really need those 2 weeks of rest... The front 7, the OL and the receiving corps all figure to be improved when it's time to play again.

Ruppert's picture

I thought Zombo was a healthy scratch last week. If that's true, I'd love to know why. I can't believe it's something like poor practice habits...I mean, he played a whole game with a broken shoulder blade.

PackersRS's picture

I'd read somewhere that he had re-injuried himself. But maybe it was after the game.

Because I don't see other motive to keep a sick Walden on the team and not use a healthy Zombo.

Ken's picture

Not to be a draftnik when my team is 14-1 with a bye but there is little doubt of the direction we should go w/ our first round pick, maybe trading up higher to get a premium guy.

Not to be the guy who tries to tell T-square how to do his job.

PackersRS's picture

I agree with that, I think we have enough talent to afford moving up to pick specific players.

However, who'll be there? Who are the prospects worthy of such consideration?

Brian? Who're the 3-4 OLB prospects for next year's draft, and what's the info on them?

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

There's not a lot of buzz about OLB coming out like in years past. I know what must be done... Put a package together and grab Jerry Hughes off Indy's bench where he is rotting and being misused! That sounds like something Ted would do.

fish/crane's picture

How nice to have these discussions- without questioning the ultimate ability of the King. Now that's a system that works.

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