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The Linebackers Are A Mess

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The Linebackers Are A Mess

Heading into this season, pretty much everyone from the Packer coaches to the media to the fans were in agreement that the linebacking corps for the Green Bay Packers would be the strength of thier defense in 2008. Fast forward to the present and you find a unit in shambles, somewhat due to injury but mostly due to inept play, both from starting 'stars' such as AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett, and backups thrust into more prominent roles.

Needless to say - it's now a complete disaster.

Andy over at PackerGeeks highlights a truly troubling Desmond Bishop quote from today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regarding how playing time is being divvied up amongst the linebacking unit:

I don't think it's about what you do...I think it's beyond that. It's something else. I don't know what it is, but it's definitely something beyond what you do on the field.

And Andy has a point in response to this when he says:

If there is any truth to Bishop’s comment here, and I am really beginning to worry there is, this is getting ridiculous and my concerns re player over-loyalty are increasing. Who makes the decision re starting LBs?

It's a good question. One would THINK it was Sanders, but McCarthy's fingerprints are on these decisions as well. What Andy misses in the thrust of his post (that Poppinga should be benched in favor of anyone else in the linebacking corps) is that Bishop and Chillar don't play the strong side. I know, I know - what's so hard about blowing assignments and jumping on piles after the play is over? (A not-too-far-off-the-mark assesement of Poppinga's play from PackerGeeks). It's not as easy as plugging a guy into a position he's never played before. It's not Madden. His steps are different, his reads are different, his responsibilites are different.

I do agree with Andy that it has to be maddening for Bishop to watch Poppinga continue to screw up but never get replaced. And I also agree that Bishop in for Poppinga makes a lot of sense, ability wise. The strong side linebacker isn't asked to cover very much and when they are, its usually on bigger tight ends or fullbacks. Bishop has simply been abused by pass catching tight ends and halfbacks this year. That's why the coaching staff has Chillar in front of him.

What is more troubling/interesting is this piece from Greg Bedard yesterday concerning A.J. Hawk and his disappointing season/career up to this point. Bedard does a good job of getting some honest quotes (no small task in this disappointing season) out of linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Moss doesn't mince words when he says:

A.J. needs to get going...We need to get some more production out of him. I think his talent-level and the position that he's in right now, we can expect more, we're demanding more.

That may not sound like much, but for an assistant coach to say those things on the record with a reporter speaks to how frustrated the organization must be with the former 5th overall pick. Hawk has been average up until this point of his career - and now he's slipping. That's got to be a shock for both him and the coaching staff. And the fact that Bishop could come in off the bench and play Hawk's old position and play it pretty well, making more plays in one game than Hawk has made the whole year - well, let's just say it's going to be a very, very interesting offseason...

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Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Nice post. At the end of last year, I thought Bishop would replace Poppinga in 2008. Chillar was a good acquisition but Bishop needs to be on the field more. He needs improvement in a few areas for sure, but he's a play maker and that's a word that is not often used in the same sentence with 2008 GB Packers. If there truly is a over-loyalty issue, that shit needs to stop now.

Donald's Designated Driver's picture

An interesting question (or at least a provacative question) is "who has been the bigger disappointment Hawk of Harrell"? When you select a top 5 pick, you expect them to be a franchise player. Hawk does not appear close. Whereas when you pick in the low teen, your expect to land a solid starter occasional pro bowl candidate (Harrell does not appear close).

A toss up?

packeraaron's picture

DDD - I was thinking that very thing this morning. I think Hawk is what he is - an assignment sure LB who will never be 'special', which is very disappointing considering where he was selected. You want those picks to be players that change the entire make-up of your team. The reason I think Thompson fell in love with Hawk is that Hawk reminded him of himself - team first, assignment sure, lives for the game of football. Unfortunately, those qualities don't make you a playmaker.

As for Harrell - He has one more offseason to turn it around. If he does not come in next year and just absolutely tear it up on the defensive line - he will have achieved colossal bust status.

Donald's Designated Driver's picture

In full disclosure, I wanted the Packers to draft Vernon Davis instead of Hawk. In hindsight, I think 2006 was just a weak draft at the top.

packeraaron's picture

DDD - Too funny - I was very vocal about wanting Davis over Hawk...

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