GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Green Bay Packers
defensive coordinator Dom Capers suggested the audition of fourth-year defensive end Mike Neal
at outside linebacker in the OTAs could turn into something more.
Neal, an underachieving second-round draft pick who had a breakthrough of sorts with 4.5 sacks last season, has been spending considerable time with the outside linebackers in position drills. Neal has alternated between putting his hand in the ground on the defensive line and standing up at linebacker in team drills.
"The more he can do, the more versatile it's going to make us (and) make it harder for the offense to identify some of the things we're doing," Capers said. "He's been more of primarily an inside rusher for us, and we liked the way he rushed inside for us last year. We're just trying to expand his role. If he can be both an inside and an outside rusher, then that's an asset to us.
"He'll be involved in different packages in different places."
The addition of Jones, a potential opening-day starter, to the D-line no doubt played into the change-up with Neal. If he can make the necessary adjustments to play linebacker -- his ability to drop into coverage raises concern, especially when the 6-3 Neal is maintaining his 295-pound weight to still hold up in the trenches -- then the Packers could have a reliable insurance policy opposite Matthews. Nick Perry
, the team's first-round draft pick last year, opened the season as a starter at outside linebacker but missed the last two months because of a wrist injury that required surgery.
Perry is full go in the spring workouts, but he's not guaranteed a starting spot going into next season.
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