The Green Bay Packers addressed a depth problem at outside linebacker on Wednesday, as they signed Ahmad Brooks, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners cut Brooks last week, which gave the Packers a chance to add some sorely needed help at the outside linebacker position.
Injuries have been piling up at the OLB position, as Clay Matthews suffered a groin injury against the Denver Broncos last weekend in Green Bay’s third preseason game, plus Nick Perry suffered an ankle injury the week before playing against the Washington Redskins.
Head coach Mike McCarthy indicated to the media that both Matthews and Perry should be ready to go in the season opener versus the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on September 10.
Still, there is cause for concern, as the team expects the brunt of the pass pressure on opposing quarterbacks to come from Matthews and Perry, who both have had been somewhat injury prone in the respective careers.
In the past five seasons, Matthews has missed 13 games due to a variety of injuries, while Perry has never played in all 16 games in any given season in his career and has missed 20 games in his five years in Green Bay.
Matthews has 72.5 sacks in his eight-year career in Green Bay, but only has 11.5 sacks the past two seasons combined. It’s important to note however, that No. 52 was used mostly as an inside linebacker in 2015, plus also started three games there again last season.
Perry had a career year in 2016, as he had 11 sacks, which is almost as many sacks (12.5) as No. 53 had in the four previous seasons.
In 2016, Matthews and Perry were joined in the outside linebacker rotation by Julius Peppers and Datone Jones. Both Peppers and Jones left the Packers via free agency this past offseason, so the Packers were hoping that both Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott would step up their play in 2017.
In addition, the Packers also drafted Vince Biegel of Wisconsin in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft.
Fackrell has been sort of a non-factor so far in his development, while Elliott has been hampered by a back injury.
Biegel has not been cleared to practice yet due to having foot surgery back in May and will most likely start the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list.
That made the signing of someone with the background of Brooks somewhat imperative. The 6’3″, 255-pound Brooks was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006, but was waived in his second year and picked up by the 49ers. It was in San Fransisco where the career of Brooks blossomed.
In eight years with the 49ers, playing OLB in a 3-4 front like the Packers use, Brooks had 370 total tackles, 53.5 sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), 12 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Brooks was also named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2013, plus was named second-team All-Pro in 2012 and 2013.
I wanted to get the take on the addition of Brooks by the Packers from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.
I had another opportunity to talk with Landry shortly after the Packers signed Brooks on Wednesday, on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.
“Ahmad Brooks has not played real well for the Niners,” Landry said. “He is someone who I expected to get another chance, as they [49ers] are getting a little younger there.
“We’ll see if Green Bay can get something out of him. Situationally on a better team, it makes more sense. They [49ers] were rebuilding and he really wasn’t all that thrilled with being a kind of guy who was going to lead a bunch of young guys in San Francisco.
“So we’ll see if it will work out. I would temper my enthusiasm. Other than getting him spot play, which he can be very effective in doing, his play has regressed quite a bit.”
The Packers plan to utilize Brooks in just the way Landry believes he will be effective. That is getting him on the field on a situational basis.
Before the Packers signed Brooks and he was just in for a visit, associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss said this about the possibility of Brooks playing for the Packers.
“He can do everything that we would ask him to do in our scheme,” Moss said. “He can play to the tight end side, he can play to the open-end side. He can play the outside linebacker, he can play the elephant. If he were to be placed on our roster – however that decision goes down – he could come right in and fit right in.”
Time will tell how things will work out with the 33 year-old Brooks playing for the Pack. Green Bay signed Peppers when he was 34 years-old and got three productive seasons (25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions for touchdowns) out of him.
No matter what happens with Brooks, the Packers still need to get some production from Fackrell, Elliott and Biegel at some point during the 2017 season.
But at least the team now has a solid veteran who has only had less than six sacks in a season once in his career in San Francisco. That was when Brooks had five in 2010. Other than that, Brooks has always had at least six sacks per season in eight years with the Niners.
Brooks also plays the run well, which is also an important asset to have at OLB.
Bottom line, expect Brooks to be part of a four-man rotation at OLB in 2017 for the Packers, along with Matthews, Perry and Fackrell. Matthews and Perry will get the bulk of the snaps. If Fackrell doesn’t step up his play, Elliott will get his shot in the rotation, plus Biegel will get his opportunity as well once he is cleared to play.