This news both brings me great joy and increases my staunch support of Green Bay Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson, who is completely brilliant.
You see, the Packers didn’t bother to add a player of note at the left outside linebacker position because they’ve got Brady Poppinga. You know, the guy who has amassed four sacks in his five-year NFL career whose highest sack total in college was eight as a sophomore.
A real untapped pass-rushing dynamo, that Brady Poppinga.
For some goddam reason, the Packers think highly enough of Poppinga that they’ve had him running with the starting unit at left outside linebacker more often than Brad Jones, who started seven games in place of Aaron Kampman last year.
Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy wouldn’t say who the left-side starter was on Wednesday.
“Left outside linebacker, is it base? Is it sub? Brady Poppinga is having a heck of a spring, Brad is having a heck of a spring, and also Clay Matthews is coming off a Pro Bowl season. I feel very good about those three guys right now.”
Of course, McCarthy had similar praise for Poppinga prior to last season.
“I can’t say enough about him from a preparation standpoint,” he said. “He’s taken every snap in training camp, hasn’t missed a practice, and it shows up on the field. He’s very comfortable in the new scheme. He’s done an excellent job particularly in the run defense of taking two defenders time and time again.
“He’s been around the ball a lot, part of the takeaway production that we’ve had on defense. I think Brady is having a heck of a camp.”
Poppinga went on to start three games last season on the right side before giving way to Clay Matthews.
My question to the Packers is, if Brady Poppinga is such a super pass rusher and is comfortable with the defense, as McCarthy suggested prior to the 2009 season, then why the hell wasn’t he on the field?
Either someone isn’t too bright in the Packers organization or Poppinga isn’t really that good and McCarthy is just blowing smoke up our asses. I would normally point to the former, but in this case, I feel it’s the latter.
If you look at the Packers’ playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the defense was exposed because, in addition to having terrible cornerback play, they couldn’t put any pressure on the quarterback from the left side. Matthews was the only member of the Packers’ defense to get anywhere near Cardinals’ quarterback Kurt Warner and he was being double teamed all game.
While Jones wasn’t exactly the answer last season, as the Cardinals loss proved, he’s bound to be better in his second year in the league after a full offseason in the Packers’ program. I won’t even dwell on the fact that Jones has as many sacks in one season as Poppinga has in his career.
And still, even though Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Jones was his starter after the team’s first OTA sessions, the Poppinga talk persists. Hell, ask Brady what he thinks of himself and he’ll tell you just how great he’s going to be.
“C’mon. Is that even a question? Obviously I think I can be more than that,” Poppinga replied when asked whether he can win the starting job opposite Matthews. “It’s about being more than a starter for me. My goal is to be an elite, dominant, relentless pass-rusher in this scheme.
“It’s a matter of allowing the pass-rusher inside of me to re-emerge. You know, I had to kill him off for a couple years because what I did then was in such conflict with being a rusher. It’s a matter of breaking those habits that I developed for four years of playing off the ball in a 4-3 defense and resurrecting like Lazarus from the dead the pass-rusher I came out of college as. That’s really where my focus is at.”
Well, hell. I’m sold!
Once again, Thompson has proven he’s smarter than all of us. The Packers didn’t need to pick up a pass rusher in the offseason. He’s already on the team!
Seriously though, the Packers have given Poppinga an opportunity to rush the passer in the past and those four career sacks tell you what he’s done with that opportunity. Why this year is going to be different is beyond me.
Perhaps Brady had a rocket installed in his ass during the offseason that will magically propel him to the quarterback on every down.
Shit. That would rule, but it seems improbable.
The bottom line is, Poppinga — while he’s proven to be solid against the run, in the past — is no more than a mediocre starter on any NFL team, much like his counterpart on the inside, A.J. Hawk. And while McCarthy may profess his man love to Poppinga every offseason, the results have never transferred to the field in the regular season.
It seems to me the current Packers’ brain trust has an affinity for putting a bow on a pig and trying to tell us it’s a Victoria’s Secret model. While they’ve done it before with the offensive line, it seems to be a recurring theme with the linebacking corp.
We’re going to have to hope the starter at left outside linebacker, whether it’s Jones or Poppinga, isn’t this year’s Allen Barbre.