Frank Zombo looks like he might be the real deal.
The Green Bay Packers signed Zombo as an undrafted free agent and converted him to outside linebacker after he played his college career as a defensive end at Central Michigan. He tallied 25.5 sacks as a Chippewa and has been generating some pressure for the Packers this preseason.
Zombo notched only the Packers second sack of the preseason in Saturday’s win over Seattle and has three quarterback hits and six tackles.
This week, Zombo saw some time with the No. 1 defense. The move is primarily because of Brad Jones’ shoulder injury, but the Packers moved Brandon Chillar, who had been competing with Jones for a starting spot, back to the inside — an obvious sign they want to see more of Zombo.
“He’s a high-effort player,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Zombo after Monday night’s practice. “Tough kid, played through injuries. He’s had a nice camp up until now. He’s earned every opportunity.”
The Packers will likely keep eight linebackers and Zombo seems like a good bet to be one of four outside linebackers. Robert Francois and Cyril Obiozor appear to be his chief competition and neither has done anything outstanding this preseason.
If you’re wondering if Zombo has any chance to make an impact with the Packers, you have to look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison.
This isn’t to suggest Zombo will immediately turn into Harrison, but there are a lot of similarities.
Harrison was also undrafted coming out of Kent State. After bouncing on and off the Steelers’ practice squad for a couple of years, Harrison turned into a hell of a 3-4 outside linebacker. In 2008, he registered 101 tackles, 16 sacks and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Last year, he had 79 tackles and 10 sacks.
The Packers and Steelers run a very similar defense, where the outside linebackers’ primary responsibility is to get to the quarterback. In other words, the guy doesn’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer or have the prototypical NFL body, as evidenced by Harrison’s success.
At 6-3, 254, Zombo is bigger than Harrison (6-0, 242) and although he may not be quite as fast, if he continues to show he can generate pressure, the Packers may have a real find on their hands.
Keep an eye on No. 47 in tonight’s preseason game against the Colts. Zombo will get plenty of action and it will be interesting to see what he does with the opportunity.