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Offline LMG

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5 Best Options to Replace A.J. Hawk This Offseason - Bob Fox
« on: March 02, 2015, 07:07:08 AM »

 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


The Green Bay Packers have been cleaning house as of late, as the team gets prepared for the beginning of free agency and the 2015 NFL draft.

Three of the players that the Packers have released were talked about in an article I wrote about a month ago. I said that inside linebacker A.J. Hawk, inside linebacker Brad Jones and tight end Brandon Bostick would all receive their walking papers in the near future in that story.

And that is precisely what happened.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote about the release of Hawk on Wednesday and how it will affect the Packers and the predicted salary cap for 2015.

With the release of Hawk, the Packers will be around $33 million under the expected $143 million salary cap, which the NFL Players Association forecast last week.

Hawk had a solid career with the Packers over nine years, but his play started to go south in 2014, which is why he saw his playing time severely diminished in the second half of the season.

The Packers began to move outside linebacker Clay Matthews to the inside on running downs starting in Week 10 against the Chicago Bears, plus second-year inside linebacker Sam Barrington received most of the snaps that Hawk used to get.

That maneuver worked well, as the Packers improved their ability to stop the run in the last eight weeks of the season.

Now with Hawk gone, not to mention Jones, the Packers need to shore up the depth and talent at inside linebacker. The Packers might continue to utilize Matthews on the inside at times in 2015, but that probably isn't their preference.

Barrington looks to be one of the inside linebackers for the Packers in 2015, but who will be the other inside linebacker?

Besides Barrington, the Packers have Jamari Lattimore, Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas on their roster to play inside linebacker. Lattimore is an unrestricted free agent, and I would not be surprised if the Packers release him.

I expect the Packers to do what they always do when they are looking to stock their roster with talent: use the NFL draft. In fact, I would not be shocked at all if the Packers selected two inside linebackers in this draft.

While the Packers have a lot of cap room in free agency, I expect them to use the bulk of that money to re-sign their own key free agents—players like offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and wide receiver Randall Cobb.

If the Packers do decide to sign a free-agent inside linebacker, two players might interest them: David Harris of the New York Jets and Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Maualuga played with Matthews at USC in college.

But when it's all said and done, general manager Ted Thomson will do the same thing he did in terms of upgrading the safety position in 2014. He used the draft and selected Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round.

That decision worked out well. Not only did Clinton-Dix have a solid rookie year, but the other starting safety for the Packers, Morgan Burnett, had perhaps his best year in Green Bay.

I expect the same approach in 2015—that Thompson will utilize the draft to fill the void at inside linebacker. In this article, I'm going to list five inside linebackers who all have a real chance of being selected by the Packers in the 2015 NFL draft.

Denzel Perryman (Miami)


Height: 5'11"

Weight: 236 pounds


Denzel Perryman had a nice senior season for the Hurricanes with 110 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.

Perryman also played at the Senior Bowl and interviewed with the Packers, according to Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com.

I was able to talk with scout Chris Landry earlier this month, who told me he liked what he had seen from Perryman.

Quote
"I love Denzel Perryman," Landry said. "When healthy, and he's not completely healthy right now, he is outstanding. He's got great range and has cover ability. He's got the ability to blitz, and he's a big-time playmaker.

"He looks like one of the old Miami defenders of yesteryear."

Perryman is a hard-hitting linebacker at the point of attack, but his ability to cover will also be important, because whoever plays next to Barrington will most likely be the cover linebacker when the Packers run their nickel and dime schemes defensively.

At the NFL Scouting Combine last Sunday, Perryman looked OK. He put up 27 reps in the bench press and had a 32-inch vertical jump, but his 4.78 40-yard dash was a bit disappointing. He plays faster than that on tape.

Eric Kendricks (UCLA)


Height: 6'0"

Weight: 232 pounds


Eric Kendricks won the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy for his play in 2014. The former UCLA Bruin led the country in solo tackles with 149 overall. He also had 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and three interceptions in 2014.

I also talked to Landry about Kendricks, and he was impressed.

Quote
"Kendricks is another good player that I like a lot," Landry said. "I think he's a physical point-of-attack guy and a downhill run defender, and I think he plays well in space."

At the NFL Scouting Combine last Sunday, Kendricks ran a quick 4.61 in the 40 and had a 38-inch vertical jump.

Kendricks showed that he needs to get stronger, as he only recorded 19 reps in the bench press.


Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State)


Height: 6'4"

Weight: 246 pounds


Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State has excellent size and might end up moving to the outside at linebacker when it's all said and done, at least according to the comments from Landry.

Quote
"I really like the Mississippi State kid a lot," Landry said of McKinney. "He's more physical. He's not as good in space. But I think he's really physical at the point of attack.

"To me, he's more of a 'Sam' (strong side) guy who can play over a tight end. He's a really good run defender. And I think he has some ability as a rusher off the edge. I think he has some versatility in the 30 (3-4) or 40 (4-3) front."

In 2014, McKinney had 71 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three sacks and one forced fumble.

He had an up-and-down workout at the combine. He ran a 4.66 40, which is great for his size, plus had an outstanding 40.5-inch vertical jump.

That is all good. What was bad was the 16 reps in the bench press. He will definitely be going to the weight room in the NFL.


Paul Dawson (TCU)


Height: 6'0"

Weight: 235 pounds


Paul Dawson had a nice 2014 season for the TCU Horned Frogs. He had 128 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.

That looks nice on paper, but Dawson also had issues away from the football field—things like being late for team meetings and not being a real student of the game.

Dawson didn't help himself with his performance at the combine either. He ran just a 4.93 in the 40 and only leaped 28 inches in the vertical jump.

In the bench press he didn't fare much better with only 21 reps.

I plan to get Landry's opinion regarding Dawson in the near future.


Stephone Anthony (Clemson)


Height: 6'3"

Weight: 243 pounds


Stephone Anthony had a solid season for the Clemson Tigers in 2014 with 69 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles.

Anthony also played in the Senior Bowl.

At the combine, he had a very good outing, as he ran a blistering 4.56 in the 40, which is excellent for a player of his size. He also leaped 37 inches in the vertical jump and had an exceptional 4.03 time in the 20-yard shuttle.

Anthony also put up 23 reps in the bench press, but he will need more strength in the NFL.

Like with Dawson, I plan to get Landry's take on Anthony as well.


*****************************************************************************************************

Bob Fox always had the itch to return to the media, and he became a writer at a Packer website called ThaPack for a couple of years, before he joined Packer Report, where he was for several years, before joining Wisconsin Sports Online (PackerChatters) writing about the Packers, Badgers and Brewers.  Bob also occasionally writes for JoeBucsFan.com which covers the Tampa Bay Bucs, and also used to write for JoeBoltsFan.com which covers the Tampa Bay Lightning when the site was operational.


Bob also has an article in the 2012 Green Bay Packers Yearbook that profiles the 2012 draft class for the Packers.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2015, 07:10:22 AM by LMGAdmin »
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Re: 5 Best Options to Replace A.J. Hawk This Offseason - Bob Fox
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2015, 08:06:16 AM »
Good article...especially for me as I dont have background knowledge of college kids.