Like the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” that could be what Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson was thinking when the San Francisco 49ers decided to ditch last season’s 3-4 defensive alignment and move to a 4-3 defensive alignment. With the move, the 49ers decided to part ways with veteran outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive lineman Quinton Dial, making them available for the Packers and Thompson. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been wanting veterans for his complex 3-4 defense for a long time and it appears he is finally getting just that. The late additions should help bolster the Green Bay Packers 3-4 Defense.
Late Additions Should Help Bolster the Green Bay Packers 3-4 Defense
As LWOPF recently discussed, the addition of Brooks should help provide depth at the outside linebacker position for the Packers behind starters Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. With both Perry and Matthews battling injuries throughout their careers, it could be argued that it was vital to bring in depth, especially somebody who has experience playing outside linebacker in the 3-4. This will be Brooks 11th season in the NFL and he has been productive throughout his career. Brooks started his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and has spent the last eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He has just over a five sack average for his career. But Brooks isn’t just a pass rusher. While with the 49ers, he was utilized in pass coverage and given the task to cover the opposing team’s tight end. During his time in San Francisco, Brooks helped make up one of the best linebacker corps, teaming up with now retired linebacker Patrick Willis and current 49er Navorro Bowman.
Thompson overestimated his outside linebacker depth entering this season, which is probably causing him to regret allowing former outside linebacker Julius Peppers to depart via free agency this offseason to the Carolina Panthers. There is a major step down in regards to pass rushing from Peppers to Brooks, but Brooks should help offset with his ability against the run and the pass. The Packers are hoping that Perry and Matthews can stay healthy, which is a big if, so that Brooks doesn’t have to be over utilized.
With Dial, the Packers are getting a big, physical, long levered defensive lineman who should be a perfect fit for their five technique in their 3-4 defensive alignment. Dial isn’t much of a pass rusher (he only has 4.5 career sacks) but he uses his imposing size (6’5” 318 pounds) and long arms to clog up the inside of the line of scrimmage. Although not the same type of pass rusher, Dial compares well to former Pittsburgh Steelers 3-4 defensive end Aaron Smith. Smith was also a long levered 3-4 defensive end who had a solid career with the Steelers. Most experts believe that Smith was the prototypical 3-4 defensive end, so the Packers are hoping they are getting a player that can be just as effective.
Along with his four seasons in the 49ers 3-4 defense, Dial played his college football at Alabama, a team that also utilizes the 3-4. Dial will join the Packers five technique rotation along with defensive linemen Dean Lowry and free agent pickup Ricky Jean Francois.
Rookie Joins Brooks and Dial
When Thompson and the Packers decided to trade special teams standout and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott last weekend to the Dallas Cowboys, they quickly searched to find his replacement. Chris Odom, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons in the last cuts of training camp, was quickly picked up by the Packers. Odom, a rookie from Arkansas State, will be asked to pick up the slack on special teams now that Elliott has departed and provide depth at outside linebacker behind Matthews, Perry, Brooks, and Kyler Fackrell. Although Odom will have to do some on the job training to learn how to play without his hand on the ground, the Packers believe his pass rushing ability should be an asset. During his last season at Arkansas State, Odom registered 12.5 sacks.
A Change in Philosophy
Some media that cover the Packers have speculated this past week that the late additions of veteran players, something Thompson has been stubbornly against during his tenure, has more to do with director of football operations Eliot Wolf than Thompson himself. It has been rumored that Wolf will take over for Thompson as the Packers general manager whenever he finally decides to retire. Wolf’s father, Hall of Fame and former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, was more of a risk taker in regards to signing veteran free agents and it could be that the younger Wolf’s voice is being heard more. Whatever the reason, Packers fans who have been blasting Thompson for years on message boards for his lack of free agent movements, could actually start being happier now that the Packers are starting to bring in more outside help. The Packers defense has been the weak link of this team for many seasons, so seeing reinforcement that isn’t coming from the NFL Draft has been long awaited.