According to PFW’s Packers sources, this year’s team could pack the most potent punch in some time at outside linebacker.
A blazing start by ROLB Clay Matthews — who by all accounts has looked like a man possessed since the start of a training camp devoid of the injuries that nagged him last season — is certainly a major reason the expectations are so lofty.
But a less obvious factor worth noting is the underrated efforts of No. 3 OLB Erik Walden, who had a terrific training camp after the Packers decided to keep him around despite a domestic altercation late last November that resulted in a one-game suspension to start the season.
There was a widely held feeling that Walden’s play tailed off after his off-the-field incident, but while he did have one really bad game in which he was pulled from his starting ROLB role, our sources who watched him on a daily basis believe he got a bit of a bum rap.
Fast and tough off the edge with good lateral movement, we’re told Walden really benefited from a full offseason working with defensive coordinator Dom Capers and is playing well enough to seriously challenge first-round draft pick Nick Perry for playing time at left outside linebacker.
Considered a major work in progress with tremendous natural tools and great size, Perry made some definite strides matched up against Bears ORT and fellow first-rounder Gabe Carimi in Week Two. But team insiders think one of the most interesting things to watch in the short-term is the division of labor between Perry and Walden.
Completing the impressive mix at outside linebacker is undrafted rookie Dezman Moses, whose physicality, subtle quickness and ability to play on both sides made LB coach Kevin Greene take special notice from the get-go.