Packers looking for depth behind Matthews, Perry at OLB
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, the Green Bay Packers feel great about their starting outside linebackers.
The depth hasn’t quite developed, though, which is why the team hosted free agent Ahmad Brooks on Tuesday. Brooks, a two-time second-team All-Pro, was released by the San Francisco 49ers last week.
Brooks is 33, which would make him the third-oldest player on a Packers roster that perennially has been one of the youngest in the league under general manager Ted Thompson.
However, Kyler Fackrell, last year’s third-round pick, and Jayrone Elliott, a key special teams player, haven’t seized the opportunities created by the free-agent departures of veterans Julius Peppers (Carolina) and Datone Jones (Minnesota).
“It’s time for one or two of those guys to step up and really show what they can do,” outside linebackers coach Winston Moss said on Tuesday.
“At our position, you would like to see them in a playmaking mode, a disruptive mode. We’re being more assignment-conscious. I want them to cut loose a little bit.”
Moss has been after Fackrell to be less “assignment-conscious” and more of a playmaker throughout training camp. Last week, Matthews used a baseball analogy in making the same point: “You can’t steal second with a foot on first.”
Fackrell has no sacks and only one tackle despite seeing significant action in all three preseason games.
How does he get himself into attack mode?
“I don’t really know how to answer that, how to flip that mindset,” Fackrell said. “I think just playing a little bit more free, a little bit more loose and not so rigid within the scheme.”
Rookie Vince Biegel, a fourth-round draft pick, remains sidelined following foot surgery in May. It’s possible he will open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, which would keep him out for the first six weeks.
Having missed all of training camp, Biegel will face a “major challenge” to work himself into the rotation once he passes his physical, Moss said.
“If Vince Biegel was to be placed on the (53-man roster) and we were in position get him ready to play, we wouldn’t call upon him to do something out of his range, out of his comfort zone,” Moss said. “We would all love for him to be in game-ready, be in season-ready condition, but that’s not the case.”
The Packers will count on Fackrell, Elliott and the rest of their young backups in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
Matthews (groin tightness) and Perry (ankle) were knocked out of Saturday’s preseason game, didn’t practice on Tuesday and won’t play on Thursday. Speaking before Tuesday’s practice, coach Mike McCarthy said he didn’t have any “long-term” concern about either of the injuries.
That’s crucial because of the uncertainty behind that duo. Peppers and Jones played more than 1,100 snaps last season and Thompson added only one major piece to the position in the offseason in Biegel.
“It’s too close to the final cut to do much retrospecting,” Thompson said. “We’re getting ready to play a season and you don’t have a lot of time to come back over what you think were mistakes or ... good moves or bad moves. You just keep going.”