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.
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