Saying the Green Bay Packers don’t have much depth at outside linebacker is an understatement. They kept only four players at the position.
Saying their starters are injury-prone is an even bigger understatement. When healthy, Nick Perry and Clay Matthews can be a formidable duo. However, Perry has never played a full season. Matthews has missed games in all but three of his nine seasons.
Behind those two are a seemingly up-and-coming Reggie Gilbert and a pretty average Kyler Fackrell. So what is the Packers’ plan here? Other than there being some sort of rotation, no one really seems to know.
“I know it’s a position in which you don’t see a lot of guys playing 99 percent of the snaps at that position,” Matthews said. “So I’m sure there’ll be a rotation. Coaches and ourselves will put us in the best position possible to make plays.”
Perry seems to think he and Matthews are going to carry a heavy load, which would mean a huge amount of snaps. It would also mean more chances to get hurt.
“That depth thing,” Perry said, “it’s nothing to us. We can handle the load, that’s what we’re here for. Just moving forward, we have what it takes to continue to push the envelope.
“At the end of the day, the big guys have got to kind of take the big load. That’s what they pay us for. I think as we move forward, we’ll get into a groove and rhythm of things.”
Gilbert has definitely earned some snaps through his play late last year and throughout training camp and the preseason this year. It’s telling what Matthews had to say about the two backups, though.
“… obviously with what Reggie’s been able to do and Kyler knowing the system as well.”
He pretty much feels the same way that we do. Gilbert has been able to develop and make plays. Fackrell… well, at least he knows the system.
The point is, the Packers might be okay if Matthews or Perry goes down. They will decidedly not be okay if both guys go down at the same time. And it’s not as if that hasn’t happened before.
One option, when this scenario seemingly inevitably plays out, would be bringing Kendall Donnerson up from the practice squad. He was one of the team’s seventh-round picks and although he didn’t show much in the preseason, that seems like the obvious move.
But can you imagine a rotation of Gilbert, Fackrell and Donnerson?
It makes me shudder thinking about it. In that scenario, is there any other option than for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to dial up the blitz on a regular basis? A good quarterback with a quick release could pick the secondary apart, regardless of how improved it might be.
My feeling was that general manager Brian Gutekunst had something in the works during roster cutdown day and perhaps after to address the position. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a trade for an outside linebacker last Saturday. That didn’t happen. Perhaps a waiver claim the following day? The prevailing suspicion is that Gutekunst likely did make a waiver claim and maybe several. However, the league still goes by last year’s standings for that order, so last year’s crap teams still get all the best (of the worst) players.
It’s possible the Packers may have terribly miscalculated at outside linebacker. It’s possible, although totally unlikely, that Matthews and Perry stay healthy — let’s go with “for the most part.” They don’t play positions, nor have the history, that it’s likely they’ll make it a full season. And surely, not if they’re playing 80, 90 or more percent of the snaps.
So are the Packers crossing their fingers? Either that or there has to be another move coming, if not now, then at some point.