The Packers made noise this offseason by signing a big name free agent and moving him to a position that he has never played in his lengthy career. Julius Peppers will play outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews this season, and while he will line up on multiple occasions in a defensive end position he will also be asked to drop back in coverage, something he’s never been asked to do.
The pass rush will improve by adding Peppers, and will hopefully feel an upgrade by way of taking attention away from Clay Matthews who has spent much of the last two seasons on the sidelines with injuries. But, whether or not Peppers is capable of being a three or four down outside linebacker remains a question mark.
There is one way that Peppers’ presence could greatly benefit this linebacking corps, and that is leadership. Nick Perry will be behind Peppers in the depth chart which means he’ll have all of training camp to watch Peppers in action and pick his brain, hopefully picking up tips and tricks along the way. This defense was depleted by injuries in the linebacking corps a year ago, and they’ll need to be ready for the second and third stringers to come in and play should it happen again. Training camp will tell a lot about the character of this linebacking corps.
Other linebackers to note are rookie Carl Bradford out of Arizona State (the Packers fourth round selection), Andy Mulumba, and Jamari Lattimore. Bradford is an animal with an unstoppable motor, and he’ll use training camp to hone his skills and adjust to the speed of the NFL. Mulumba and Lattimore have seen the field quite a bit due to injuries and will need a solid training camp to prove to Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy that they deserve a similar spot on the depth chart this season.