Is the LOLB position still a concern for the Packers?

While it hasn’t even been a month since the Patriots released him, it’s becoming clearer by the day that Packers GM Ted Thompson isn’t interested in signing free agent Adalius Thomas. With Green Bay’s apparent need at outside linebacker, one would think that Thompson would have reached out to Thomas (who has lost a step over the years, but is still an effective pass rusher) by now.

But maybe Thompson is right when he says that the left outside linebacker position isn’t a dire need like many people believe it is. Maybe Brad Jones is the answer to replace Aaron Kampman (who signed with the Jaguars earlier this offseason) on a full-time basis.

When Kampman (who wasn’t an ideal fit at OLB in a 3-4 anyway) went down with an injury after Week 11 last year, it was Jones (a 2009 seventh round pick from Colorado) and not former starter Brady Poppinga who was placed into the starting lineup. With a playoff berth on the line, the Packers went with an unproven seventh round pick in Jones over a player with starting experience in Poppinga.

The move was either a testament to Jones’ abilities or a total slap in the face of Poppinga. Considering Thomas hasn’t received a call from Thompson, the former is probably more appropriate. The Packers obviously feel as though Jones is ready to become a full-time starter after he registered 27 tackles and four sacks in limited action last season. And considering Jones played in a 3-4 at Colorado, it’s apparent that his learning curve wasn’t that big when he went from college to the pros. He earned the starting position last season and barring a complete meltdown in training camp, it’s clear that he’ll have the same role in 2010.

If Jones blossoms into a reliable starter, then Thompson should be hailed for not only finding a late round gem, but also resisting the urge to sign Thomas. If Jones fails, then the Packers could be left with a gaping hole at the LOLB position and Thompson will be scrutinized for not addressing the need when he had a chance in the offseason.

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The Packers would be a great fit for Thomas

It was only a matter of time before the Patriots gave outside linebacker Adalius Thomas the boot. He was already stealing money from them with his poor play before he became a distraction last season, thus leading to his release on Monday.

One team’s trash is sometimes another team’s treasure, as the Packers could emerge as serious contenders for Thomas’ services. Even though GM Ted Thompson insists that the left outside linebacker position in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense isn’t a dire need, it is.

2009 seventh round pick Brad Jones saw a fair amount of playing time last year when Aaron Kampman went down with an injury. But while he was decent against the run, he’s not the pass-rusher that Clay Matthews is on the other side. And in Capers’ system, both outside linebackers have to be able to get after the quarterback.

That’s where Thomas comes in. While the 33-year-old has lost a step over the past couple of years, Thomas can still get after the quarterback when he’s motivated. And seeing as how Thompson did nothing to upgrade the outside linebacker position during the draft, the Packers could use someone to push Jones for the starting job.

The Packers could upgrade their LOLB spot by adding Thomas to a one-year deal and still groom Jones for the future if they wanted. If Thomas turns out to be a bust, then Jones has already shown that he’s a capable starter and the team could rid themselves of Thomas after the season.

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Bears the front-runners for Peppers?

The latest in the daily Julius Peppers-rumor mill is that the Bears could be the front-runners to land the hot ticket free agent.


Well, the Bears didn’t make the “Final Eight,” and they appear to be one of the front-runners for Peppers, given the fact that they have no picks in the first two rounds to find a new pass-rusher; in other words, any big personnel improvements will have to come from free agency. Bears LB Brian Urlacher seemed very pleased with the possibility of adding Peppers in comments to the Chicago Tribune, and we’re not sure how much import will be assigned to his feelings by management, but he is the leader of the defense.

The Bears have always been among the cheapest organizations in the league, although they did pay dearly (both in terms of money and draft picks) to bring Jay Cutler to Chicago last offseason and they might be willing to open their wallets again to nab Peppers.

That said, if history is any indication then GM Jerry Angelo isn’t going to spend recklessly, if at all this offseason. Every year the Bears have gapping holes to fill and every year, Angelo does his shopping in the bargain bin. When the Bears needed to bolster their offensive line last season, Angelo signed Orlando Pace and Frank Omiyale on the cheap and he got what he paid for. Now he has to figure out how he’s going to address his needs along the O-line without having draft selections in either of the first two rounds.

One player I could see Angelo making a play for, however, is Aaron Kampman. Kampman wasn’t a fit in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense in Green Bay last season and he knows the NFC North. He would come cheaper than Peppers and assuming he hasn’t lost his ability to rush the passer from a 4-3 end position, he makes sense for the Bears.

Packers win, but Kampman and Harris suffer injuries

With their 30-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers leapt back into the playoff hunt in the NFC. But unfortunately for them, they may be without two defensive starters for the rest of the season.

According to beat writer Greg Bedard, outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris have torn ACLs and both will likely miss the remainder of the 2009 season.

At 35, Harris’ could be a career-ender. He was carted off the field Sunday and couldn’t walk in the locker room, and chances are he’ll need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage. Tramon Williams will start at right corner in Harris’ place.

Kampman was in the midst of having a horrible season while trying to convert from defensive end to outside linebacker. Given that he’s a free agent at the end of the year, it’s doubtful that Green Bay will re-sign Kampman. And even if the team had interest, it’s more doubtful that he’d even be interested in coming back to play outside linebacker. He just isn’t a fit for the 3-4.

Save for a brutal effort against Tampa three weeks ago, Green Bay’s defense had been playing well over the past month. Given how poorly Kampman was playing, the Packers defense might not suffer much in the long haul. But it remains to be seen how Williams will hold up when teams start attacking his side of the field more frequently.

As for the game, the Packers held off a late 49ers’ rally to secure victory. Green Bay jumped out to a 30-10 fourth quarter lead, but Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 10:37 remaining to cut the Packers’ lad to 30-17, then running back Frank Gore hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass with 5:56 to make it a 30-24 game.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an outstanding game, throwing for 344 yards on 32-of-45 passing and two touchdowns. Ryan Grant rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

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2009 fantasy football is coming aoon—a look back at 2008 defenses

Last month we started looking at last season’s statistics for position players in fantasy football land, and today we’ll look at a position many often overlook. That’s fantasy defenses, which can sometimes put up just enough points to earn your team a victory once in a while. It’s always smart to try and grab one of the top units, although as we’ve seen before, things change, sometimes drastically, from year to year with fantasy D’s. Me? I like to grab my defense before my kicker. This list is based on point totals from one of my leagues, so keep in mind that stats vary from year to year.

1. Baltimore Ravens—The Ravens’ defense is perennially awesome, and we’ll find out for sure how much of that was due to former coordinator Rex Ryan, who is now the head honcho for the Jets. Ryan took plenty of players with him too, like LB Bart Scott and S Jim Leonhard, but the Ravens still have Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Reed just keeps getting better every year, and his sick nose for the ball is one reason the Ravens had a league high 26 picks. They will keep scoring low as always, but their 34 sacks last season isn’t much to get excited about. Bottom line: The Ravens won’t be a number one this year, but are still top 10.

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