Green Bay Packers: Who stays in crowded linebacker group?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers defense is still a work in progress, but they must determine who stays and who goes from a crowded linebacker group

The linebacking corps of the Green Bay Packers is pretty full. There are currently 15 linebackers on the Packers roster. Even the clueless grandparents that go to your game and cheer for the wrong team could to tell you that’s a few too many.

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With so many linebackers on the roster, the question becomes how do you figure out who’s safe and who isn’t. Clearly no one is 100 percent gone already, just as no one is guaranteed a spot. Nevertheless, there’s some pretty safe bets in there.

Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas are the one seeds. It would take an incredible upset to see them not make the cut. After that, Jake Ryan and Vince Biegel are the closest to a sure thing.

Then there’s the three “veterans”. I use that term loosely because while they’re still extremely young, they have much more experience than the mound of rookies.

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Jayrone Elliott looked extremely promising in 2015, but took a step back in 2016. Still, he brings a lot to the table and the Packers might not want to give up on him yet. Kyler Fackrell played sparingly in 2016, but showed promise and picked up two sacks. They’ll find a role for him. Jordan Tripp seems to be the odd-man-out in this group. He appeared in two games for the Packers and seven for the Seattle Seahawks last year. He picked up just two tackles.

Reggie Gilbert and Derrick Mathews were both undrafted free agents not long ago. Despite both having time on NFL rosters, neither has appeared in a game yet. It’s an uphill battle for both.

That leaves the four other rookies (Biegel was drafted in the fourth round this year). These four were all brought in after the draft though. Johnathan Calvin and Cody Heiman were signed on May 5. Meanwhile, Josh Letuligasenoa and David Talley were signed on May 8.

Calvin’s combination of size and athleticism give him the best chance of making the roster. Talley is more athlete while Letuligasenoa is just a tank. Heiman on the other hand is a prototypical type of linebacker

It would be odd to see the Packers keep too many undrafted rookies on their roster at one position though. Due to that, the practice squad will be littered with these guys. That being said, they all bring something to the table that could make them find a way onto the roster.

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In the end, there’s only so many linebackers you can have on a roster. With the first six named, the Packers have a solid rotation already in hand. Thanks to that, they can look for specific things in their depth. This could be potential, athleticism, knowledge, or anything else they deem necessary.