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Thursday, June 09, 2005

A look inside Bates' Cupboard: LB's, Ist section of Part III LB's

by Bruce
For PackerChatters

We will read much about the LB we drafted & we have a couple of kids in NFLE but let's look first to the Veteran cupboard and see what's inside ...

Nick Barnett is 6-2 and 240 lbs. This 23 year old (not a typo) is very fast and athletic. To get an idea of his athleticism consider his numbers back at the combine before his rookie season Barnett ran a 4.6 40 at the combine, bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times at the combine, tops among linebackers and his shuttle time, indicative of ability to change directions, was 4.08, tied for second among linebackers at the combine.

Barnett had an outstanding rookie season as a starter and improved in his sophomore season despite playing in a defense that had less coordination than a Chinese fire drill. He can make a lot of plays in pursuit, and is ideal for Bates' system – in fact this system make Zack and will make Nick an annual visitor to the Pro Bowl. His speed allows him to drop into coverage and handle most running backs without any help. He knows how to catch the ball, when given a shot at the ball. He has good instincts; and nothing but huge upside that should continue to help him develop into something very special.

In two seasons:
2004: 123 Tackles, 31 Assists, 3 Sacks, I fumble recovery, 1 interceptions
2003: 112 tackles, 26 assists, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 3 interceptions

Na'il Diggs has great size at 6-4 240 lbs. He is still only 26 years old, yet a smart veteran LB who probably will benefit from being moved back to the strong side, but has the quickness and agility to play weak side too - runs the 40 in 4.57 seconds He can rush the passer – but came up empty too often last season along with a very disappointing 2004 defense. He has learned to shed blockers, as he has developed as a Pro player. Na'il can be counted upon to be a 'stop them in their tracks' sure tackler, something the Packers did not have enough of last season. He plays hurt and always plays with intensity. His height and speed does allow him to cover, but his interceptions dropped off in last year's Slowik scheme -- which is troubling because you need your WLB to make plays. The same is true of his sack total, which is another reason I believe he is likely to be moved back home to the Strong-side with Raynoch Thompson taking over the weak-side.
2004: 80 Tackles, 19 Assists, 1 Sacks, 0 fumble recovery, 0 interceptions (out for two games injured)

Last two seasons
2003: 87 Tackles, 11 assists, 1 Sacks, 0 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions
2002: 83 Tackles, 18 Assists, 3 Sacks, 2 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions

Raynoch Thompson has run a 4.45 40 yd dash. Which is pretty impressive for this 6-2 1/2 235 lb. Raynoch is a superb athlete with terrific movement skills. Very quick, fast and agile, Thompson has cat-like movements, which helps him get quick depth on his pass drops or to get after the QB when the Blitz is called. He has the speed to run with backs and makes plays all over the field. Seems to fly to the ball at times. Very, very tough and does an amazing job of playing through pain and healing quickly. Has a mean streak. Long arms come in very handy, especially vs. the pass. His biggest flaws are he can get caught in traffic when blockers latch on to him and is has a strike against him in the drug program. He has made 331 tackles in the 64 games he has played in since his rookie season and has 7.5 sacks. He also had a 109 tackle season as recently as a couple of years ago. If he comes to Green Bay with a chip-on-his-shoulder attitude to showDennis Green and others he is back with passion for the game -- the pack will have gotten quite a steal and a play-maker in this very talented WLB.

Hannibal Navies, 6-2 250 lbs, is a man who can play all three linebacker positions (and has in his career). He ran 4.62 40-yard dash coming out of college -- which is impressive for a man his size. He will fight and push to retain his starting job, but is most likely destine to back up all three LB spots in 2005 -- if he is healthy, can fight off the competition and if he can convince Bates he is the right man for the job. Hannibal, who after a solid 2003, where he garnered 87 tackles and 17 assists was once again bitten by the injury bug in 2004. He may benefit from being a back-up and situational player rather than a full-timer. He has been and should continue to be outstanding on special teams. He has a very good size-speed package and can get after the passer. Has some games where he's always around the ball. Holds the point of attack and can cover most TE's in coverage.

Paris Lenon is a LB who hangs on every year despite being written off each season. At 6-2 245 lbs he makes the most of what God has given him. He is a warrior who out works the competition. He is the last to leave the workout room and the last to leave film studies. Because of his dedication, he can play all three LB positions, which adds to his value. And to list him only as a MLB is a misrepresentation of his spot on the depth charts where he is a first line back up. He is also a premium special teams player -- among the team leaders each season and posting the 4th best total in Packer history. When he was called upon to start against Detroit for example, he responded with 10 tackles. I know we want all of our backups to be potential All Pros, but realistically Paris Lenon is the kind of Veteran leader who pays back way more than the value of his contract every day.

I will close by letting Paris speak for himself -- "What motivates me is going out there and playing football," Lenon explained. "I just love playing football."

A second section of Part III A Look in the LB Cupboard covering Rookies and NFLE players will be added later.

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