Mike Neal is Now a Linebacker

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Mike Neal sacks Jake Locker

Mike Neal sacks Jake Locker

Just when we were about to label defensive end and former second-round pick Mike Neal a never-was, he came on and registered 4.5 sacks down the stretch, last season. That won’t stop the Green Bay Packers from experimenting with Neal at outside linebacker, though.

That’s where the fourth-year player has been lining up early in OTAs. It’s certainly not the ideal position for a guy who’s 6-3, 295 and the move was as much of a surprise to Neal as anyone.

“From my standpoint, I’m a football player,” Neal said. “Coaches ask me to do one thing and that’s what I do. I don’t ask any questions. I just go along with the role they present. So as of right now, if that’s what it is, that’s what it is. I don’t know plans going down the future. I don’t know what’s going on tomorrow. I just know this is where I lined up today. I’m just lining up where they tell me to.”

How the hell the Packers think Neal is going to be able to cover a tight end or running back is beyond us, but maybe they’re only looking at him as a situational pass rusher. After all, this is a guy who registered just 11 tackles last season.

Then again, maybe Neal will be back at defensive end, where he probably belongs, come training camp. The Packers have experimented with position changes in OTAs before only to scrap them later in the summer.

Or, the Packers could be about to give up on Neal. He played a total of nine games during his first two injury-plagued NFL seasons. He played 11 last year, but was suspended for the first four for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Obviously, the Packers can’t trust Neal to stay on the field and his 17 total tackles in 20 NFL games tell us he can’t play the run. So that question might come down to whether Green Bay can afford the luxury of a situational pass rusher.
[schema type=”person” name=”Mike Neal” orgname=”Green Bay Packers” ]

About The Author

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

22 Comments on "Mike Neal is Now a Linebacker"

  1. Kyle

    Maybe he is going to be used in their 1-5-5 psycho package along with perry clay bishop brad jones and Terrell manning with datone jones and the single lineman

  2. Brian Urlacher

    …I mean…
    If you guys are looken for an old, washed-up linebacker…

    I mean…i can still play on 1st Downs… =D


  4. GBslacker

    I could see him dropping back in an obvious passing situation, not necessarily to cover someone man-on-man, but maybe occupying a zone — to tip a ball, or mess up a passing lane.

    Don’t know that he’d be particularly good at that, though.

    The coaches may be trying to get a feel for how athletic he is now, after surgery and time to recover — to see if he has a future in Green Bay.

    I’m pretty sure I read that he had cartilage removed from the knee, and — despite the good intentions of posters describing potential cures — that stuff does not grow-back, re-form, etc. So that means tendonitis, arthritis, you-name-it-itis…

    While he may not play up to the goals of Packer fans, he’s likely doing the best he can. Face it: he was a late 2nd round pick… perhaps a reach. And he’s playing in a brutal game. Despite crack medical teams, sometimes when you get injured you’re not ever the same. Just look at Adrian Peterson, sure he’s a beast, but watching him run in the open field is painful.

    Do you re-sign Neal?
    I doubt it.

    What about Wilson?
    Do you re-sign him?
    He could be more limited than Neal.

    Worthy didn’t show much before a major injury.
    Daniels is situational, at best.
    Pickett is winding down.

    And who is it? Boyd? a DL guy?
    I thought I read there were questions about his motor.

    Geez, this means that Raji holds us hostage.

    Any reason to hope that Jordan Miller or Gilbert Pena are the answer??

  5. Iltarion

    Mike Neal was clearly your best pass rushing DL last season. So, I don’t think they are doing this to screw with him.

    This could be a special package specifically designed for the read-option. The 49ers especially like to have their TE or FB block down on the DE and put the MLB in the option. If the TE or the FB are trying to block Mike Neal, that is a mismatch, which makes running the read-option on that side more difficult.

  6. David

    That’s the first thing I said after the draft/Aug training camp is this guy moves so quick for a lineman that TT might be thinking linebacker with him.

    And everyone laughed at me.

    Now do I think he’s going to be an every down linebacker… no but I think they are thinking he might be a good fit against read option teams with safety help over the top of the TE.

  7. FITZCORE1252

    Meh, probably just getting him some OTA looks in space. If we see him standing up with any regularity in the regular season, that would definitely be something to discuss.

  8. Savage57

    This is getting good.

    Mix up the whole fucking OL. Check.

    Turn DL’s into LB’s. Check.

    Have OL’s line up as WR’s. Check

    Get AR killed. Check.

    • Iltarion

      AR has a simple solution to that, Savage. Throw the damn ball.

      Brett did it for 16 years. Worked pretty well for him.

  9. Vijay

    This is why we don’t win the big one every year…another example of a “ted” guy who’s a good ‘ol boy but who is clearly on the wrong team. I think he’d be comfortable playing a DE/DT in a base 4-3 just like Datone. Could you imagine us playing a sub 4-3 package with Neal and Jones on either side of Raji, Pickett for example? We’d stop the run for sure then.

    This standing him up idea…I do not like because he’s not fast or athletic enough to make it work. He proved that when his slow ass couldn’t tackle AP or CK.

  10. Clev

    Ok, I don’t believe the Packers will really have a 295 lb linebacker, but Capers is going to have to become unpredictable somehow. Dropping into coverage or rushing the passer from a two point stance are just basic skills Neal will have to learn if the Pack gets back to Capers zone blitz package. This is getting blown way out of proportion!

  11. Iltarion

    Ah… the Steelers have been a 3-4 team for the last decade, and they typically lead the league against the run every year.

    Neal could have a big year this year. He is healthy and a great athlete.

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