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Offline MintBaconDrivel  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, July 9, 2013 6:28:47 AM(UTC)
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Jason Wilde said:
GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy would have loved to have kept it a secret. So much for the best laid plans of mice and NFL head coaches.

In a perfect world, the Green Bay Packers head coach would have been able to keep the experiment of working defensive end Mike Neal at outside linebacker under wraps. But from the moment Neal lined up there in the team's first open organized team activity practice — an open-to-the-public, open-to-the-media workout at Clarke Hinkle Field on May 21 — there was no hope of surprising the San Francisco 49ers with it on opening day Sept. 8.

But subterfuge aside, the move makes Neal an intriguing player in the Packers' grand defensive scheme. It was a clear signal that the coaching staff sees potential in the fourth-year player, who has battled injuries but has flashed when healthy.

"Schematically, we're going to do some different things and we're going to expand Mike Neal's role," McCarthy said in a slightly annoyed tone when asked about the experiment after practice that day. "All the specifics of that I'm sure we can wait until Week 1 to get in to all of that."

Neal, a 2010 second-round draft pick from Purdue who missed 26 of the first 28 possible games of his NFL career (including playoffs) because of injuries, finally blossomed last season once he was able to play consistently.

During his disappointing rookie season, Neal strained an abdominal muscle during training camp and missed the first three regular-season games, then missed the final 11 regular-season and four playoff games with a right shoulder injury that required surgery after he tore his rotator cuff and partially tore the labrum. In the two games he did play, though, Neal forced a fumble against Detroit and had his first NFL sack against Washington.

Neal then missed the first half of the 2011 season after suffering a knee injury in an August training-camp practice and was a non-factor upon his return to the field.

But last season, after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances — Neal said he was suspended for taking Adderall, for which he actually had a prescription — Neal was a different player. In only 10 games and 323 snaps, Neal registered 4.5 sacks, plus four quarterback hits and 17 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. His 7.2 grade from PFF was one of only four positive pass-rushing grades on the team, and second only to star outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who had 13 regular-season sacks, three postseason sacks and a 15.2 overall pass-rush grade.

Neal, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 294 pounds, seems awfully big to be playing outside, where 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry was viewed as big at 265 pounds last year. But at the very least, he gives the Packers another intriguing pass-rushing option for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to use in his game plans, in addition to Perry, Matthews, Dezman Moses and defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Datone Jones, the team's first-round pick.

"All these doggone quarterbacks that can run around, you've got to have guys that can run and catch 'em. You want to put your most athletic guys out there," Capers explained. "Datone Jones, Mike Neal — those are two nice-size guys who are athletic. With Perry and Clay, that's a pretty athletic group.

"I think the more (Neal) can do, the more versatile it's going to make us. It'll make it harder for the offense to identify some of the things we're doing. He's been primarily an inside rusher for us. We liked the way he rushed inside last year. We just are trying to look to expand his role. If he can be both an inside and outside rusher, then that's an asset to us. ... The more versatile a guy is, the more flexibility he gives you on defense. And Mike's a guy that has a combination of strength, size, speed, quickness, power that we're trying to get him work."

For his part, Neal had no idea of the team's plans when he showed up for the offseason program. But it appears this will be more than just a spring experiment. Even though Neal figures to work primarily at defensive end and may only line up at outside linebacker for a handful of snaps each game, he will clearly be given the opportunity to be a difference-maker on a defense that registered the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last year (47).

"From my standpoint, I'm a football player. And there are football coaches. And the coaches ask me to do one thing, and that's what I do. I don't ask any questions I just go along with the road they present to me," said Neal, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. "So as of right now if that's what it is, that's what it is. I don't know any plans going down in the future. Heck, I don't know what's going on tomorrow. I just know that if this is where I lined up today, that's where I line up at. If it may be elsewhere then that's elsewhere but I'm just playing whatever they tell me to.

"(This) just gives me more opportunities to use what I've got. You look at an outside linebacker in our defense. They've got to be athletic. They've still got to be strong. They've still got to be able to move. They've got to have agility and I think I possess all of those skills, so for me it's no different, it's just learning a different position."
User is suspended until 4/29/2043 11:56:55 PM(UTC) texaspackerbacker  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, July 9, 2013 11:50:35 AM(UTC)
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I don't see Neal being that high on the list. It's hard to say without seeing all the names above him and who is left out of the top 20, and I HOPE Neal makes a great leap forward, but I think there are way more than 18 bigger contributors than him.

And the "switch to OLB", I think that is somehow a part-time or a terminology thing. I can't see Neal as a book end with CM3.
Offline nerdmann  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, July 9, 2013 12:05:42 PM(UTC)
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No way Apete bounces it outside for 200+ against Perry and Neal.

Only thing with Neal is can he stay healthy? Moving him around like this scares me just a little bit. (Not to jinx him of course.)
Offline Zero2Cool  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, July 9, 2013 12:06:23 PM(UTC)
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nerdmann said: Go to Quoted Post
No way Apete bounces it outside for 200+ against Perry and Neal.

Only thing with Neal is can he stay healthy? Moving him around like this scares me just a little bit. (Not to jinx him of course.)


Why would he try when can just run through the middle over good ole #50?
thanks Post received 1 applause.
DoddPower on 7/9/2013(UTC)
Offline Dexter_Sinister  
#5 Posted : Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:18:03 PM(UTC)
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Operation Red Herring is in effect.

Make sure EVERYONE knows the "super secret formation" that the NATIONAL media was invited to watch on the first day of OTAs. So the 49ers can be totally prepared for Neal lined up at LB.

Then hit them with something completely different.
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nerdmann on 7/11/2013(UTC)
Offline DakotaT  
#6 Posted : Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:30:12 PM(UTC)
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Zero2Cool said: Go to Quoted Post
Why would he try when can just run through the middle over good ole #50?


Why do all you fvckers get to rip Hawk, but Buckeye only takes it out on me? I guess I touched him in that ole special way or something. [grin1]
Offline Zero2Cool  
#7 Posted : Friday, July 12, 2013 4:52:03 AM(UTC)
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DakotaT said: Go to Quoted Post
Why do all you fvckers get to rip Hawk, but Buckeye only takes it out on me? I guess I touched him in that ole special way or something. [grin1]


I've made it quite obvious that I only jump A.J. Hawk to get at him. You truly have no clue about football and that's why he focuses on you. He's trying to educate you. Open your eyes. :)
Offline play2win  
#8 Posted : Friday, July 12, 2013 8:26:58 AM(UTC)
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DakotaT said: Go to Quoted Post
Why do all you fvckers get to rip Hawk, but Buckeye only takes it out on me? I guess I touched him in that ole special way or something. [grin1]



[roflmao] That's pretty damn funny.
Offline DoddPower  
#9 Posted : Friday, July 12, 2013 8:40:28 AM(UTC)
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Dexter_Sinister said: Go to Quoted Post
Operation Red Herring is in effect.

Make sure EVERYONE knows the "super secret formation" that the NATIONAL media was invited to watch on the first day of OTAs. So the 49ers can be totally prepared for Neal lined up at LB.

Then hit them with something completely different.


IMO, if the 49'ers are actually that concerned or spend much time preparing for Mike Neal at OLB, then they are stupid, lol. Mike Neal standing up is something that should merit a few moments of attention, but nothing more, until if and when he proves differently. I really don't see it as that big of a deal.

Mike Neal can rush the passer. At this point, he's probably the 2nd or 3rd (maybe 3rd or 4th this season) best pass rusher on the Packers, but he's very inconsistent. He'll disrupt a few plays and then disappear for more. I don't think that will change whether he's playing as a defensive linemen or outside linebacker. Perhaps that could change if a few others step up in the pass rush department, but that's yet to be determined. I think seeing Mike Neal at OLB would be easy to take advantage of, because it's going to be pretty obvious he's rushing the passer. If he doesn't, then it should be very easy for a shifty running back or tight end to shake him for a nice 1st down or more. Someone like Russel Wilson or Colin Kaepernick could easily outrun him, as well.

As I said, Mike Neal can be good, but this whole OLB thing is blown out of proportion due to the slow time of the year in which the news broke. If that's the best wrinkle that Dom Capers has, then Packers defensive will be in trouble. Fortunately, I see many more wrinkles this season with Nick Perry and Datone Jones available (and the effect they can have on others).
thanks Post received 2 applause.
play2win on 7/12/2013(UTC), yooperfan on 7/12/2013(UTC)
Offline DakotaT  
#10 Posted : Friday, July 12, 2013 10:48:03 AM(UTC)
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Zero2Cool said: Go to Quoted Post
I've made it quite obvious that I only jump A.J. Hawk to get at him. You truly have no clue about football and that's why he focuses on you. He's trying to educate you. Open your eyes. :)


Ouch, I guess I'll have to school you more often - but then you get all menopausal too. I guess I'm surrounded by girls in this forum as well as in my house. [grin1]

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