Packer Update

Neal Has No Real Position

The coaches can say whatever they want, but it’s pretty obvious that Mike Neal is taking snaps at outside linebacker because he didn’t get the job done at defensive end last season. Despite being built like The Incredible Hulk, the former Purdue star got pushed around more often than a middle school kid wearing sweater vest and a pocket protector. Moving Neal away from the line of scrimmage is a last-ditch attempt to find a position for a player, who in all reality, probably doesn’t have a position in this defense.

Now down to 275 pounds, Neal at least looks like a prototypical outside linebacker. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the physical skills to play that position either. He has tight hips and lower-body stiffness, and his 40 time (4.87) is pedestrian. The thought of using him in coverage is laughable, and while he should be able to set the edge in the run game, forget about him changing directions or getting to the perimeter.

Perhaps Dom Capers will use Neal as an “elephant” – the position Tony Bennett, Tim Harris and Bryce Paup helped make popular decades ago. Essentially, it’s a 3-4 outside linebacker who rushes the QB about 75 percent of the time. The elephant lines up on the open side, away from the tight end. I could see Neal being used in that role for 10 to 12 snaps a game, but I’m not sure if that’s the spot for him either.

Whether the coaching staff wants to admit it or not, Neal really isn’t an end or a linebacker. He’s an interior pass rusher. And he won’t be anything more than that until he leaves Green Bay and joins a team that employs a 4-3. Until then, the Packers need to keep him healthy and hope he can contribute alongside Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels in the nickel and dime packages. That might not sound like enough of a payoff from a player picked 56th overall, but that’s probably all they’re going to get.

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8 Comments to "Neal Has No Real Position"

  1. Nerd says:

    Seems almost like they prefer 4-3 type dudes. Mike Daniels and Nick Perry for instance. How long did Jarius Wynn stick around? Even Datone Jones is “undersized.”

  2. Michael Rodney says:

    Agree. Jones and Perry at end and Raji and Pickett at tackle would be a potentially outstanding D-line.

  3. Tangysizzl says:

    Can’t understand why Dom Capers hasn’t come up with a legit 4 man defensive line with the types of players we have there. Trouble stopping the run get some more big guys in there, need a 4 man rush put Perry. Daniels, Raji, and Neal/Jones on the line . Seems simple enough the fact that he hasn’t done it for anything besides goalline situations makes me scratch my head.

    This defense is too cookie cutter, he makes the players try to fit his scheme when he should be playing to the strength of his players, No reason not to let Nick Perry put his hand in the dirt from time to time. Even Matthews could benefit from a wide 9 look with him in a 3 or 4 point stance. Ever watch Matthews in his 4 point stance on the goalline, he fires out of his stance like a cheetah, too low for a OT to get his hands on him, why can’t they do that in obvious passing situations or against those really tall tackles..

    • Nick Perry says:

      I totally agree with that! Instead of these 1 or 2 down linemen with the other 9 or 10 guys standing up all over the place, try a truer form of a 4-3 line. Either that or Michael’s suggestion of bringing back the elephant position. George Seifert was also very successful using Charles Haley that way. That long 33 yard pass to Cook by the Rams last weekend showed just how horrible Neal can be in coverage. Neal is a pass rusher, plan and simple. Use him that way and i think you’ll have success. He’s not good against the run and the rest of the NFL knows this. Peterson would get 85% of his handoff’s and run right at Neal every time. Perrys hand in the dirt isn’t a bad idea either. I have a feeling Capers has tinkered with this defense this off season and we’ll see some of that week one in San Fransisco. NO WAY does he tip his hand in the slightest in the preseason.

  4. Mike says:

    The only thing I can come up w is that this is their answer for the zone-read offenses and teams w a solid ground game and no QB (Vikings). Packers aren’t physical enough? Watch me put a 275 lb beast in at LB and see how physical we are.

    I think it has possibilities but don’t think it’s worth a valuable roster spot unless nobody else is deserving (looking as you Dezmon).

    • Nick Perry says:

      I think having Datone Jones (if he stays healthy) and Nick Perry will go a long way in defending the option. Both are extremely strong and fast. I’ve been saying it since last season, the Packers have the Players to be a awesome 4-3 defense. Worthy and Daniels are both better suited for a 4-3 IMO. If Capers defense melts again this year a switch to a 4-3 wouldn’t be a bad thing. The Packers already have the players to be very successful. Thanks Michael, nice write up!

  5. […] Jack of all trades but master of none? Neal Has No Real Position. […]

  6. Archie says:

    I’m waiting till a few games into the real season before I make up my mind on Mike Neal. If however, he proves to be a bust and TT has drafted 4-3 DL to play in a 3-4, that would be a serious indictment of TT’s ability to build a 3-4 defense. (As I recall, SEA signed about 8 defensive FAs as soon as TT left and those guys took them to a SB.) As a former LB you’d think TT would know how to build a defense but his forte seems to be finding WRs. As I’ve said all along, IMO, TT got lucky on two picks, Rodgers and Matthews, other than that, his drafting record at all positions not named WR has been mediocre to sub-par. I will say that his 2013 draft looks to be his best draft as a Packer GM. Right now there doesn’t seem to be a bad pick in the bunch with the possible exception of Jonathan Franklin.

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