The release of former starters Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith made one thing clear — the Green Bay Packers are expecting Terrell Manning to step up during his second season.
Strangely, while the Packers have spent their offseason creating competition at a lot of positions, they decided to hand the starting inside linebacker spots to Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk. Why? Your guess is as good as ours.
As is wont to happen, inside linebackers get injured, at least with the Packers. In recent seasons, Nick Barnett, Bishop and Smith all missed extended periods of time. If Hawk or Jones were to go down this year, the Packers are left with the choice of Manning, Rob Francois or Jamari Lattimore (or a rookie).
Francois was re-signed in the offseason and has started before, but Manning should be at the head of the backup group. The Packers wouldn’t have given up three draft picks last year to move up and draft him in the fifth round if they didn’t think highly of him.
Problem is, Manning was invisible as a rookie and it seemed questionable if he’d even make the team coming out of training camp. He ended up being active for only five regular-season games and never played a down on defense.
There appears to be good reason for that. He had colitis and his weight dropped to 218 pounds, but the disease went undiagnosed until August. He says he wasn’t 100 percent at all last season.
Now Manning is back up to his normal playing weight of 235 and he sounds like his goal isn’t just a backup spot and a role on special teams.
“Everything to me is all about me. Obviously, I look to learn from those guys, but I really don’t take anybody as a threat.
“I say that not to offend anyone, by any means. It’s just that right now the system I’m in is all about focusing on me and executing my responsibility and learning every day. From there, I think the coaches will see I can also play just as well as these other guys, too.”
So maybe Manning can replace the playmaking ability the Packers threw away when they released Bishop at some point. Maybe he can end the A.J. Hawk nightmare. At any rate, he can’t have any less of an impact than he did last season.
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