Erik Walden vs. Frank Zombo
Three players have been waging a battle for the Green Bay Packers starting right outside linebacker spot — [intlink id=”1335″ type=”category”]Erik Walden[/intlink], [intlink id=”1058″ type=”category”]Frank Zombo[/intlink] and [intlink id=”443″ type=”category”]Brad Jones[/intlink].
The contest appears to be down to two men.
Maybe they’re watching two different practices or maybe one source doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Either way, Jones has done nothing to distiguish himself and appears all but formally eliminated from the competition.
Since July 30, the first day of training camp, the Packers have overseen a three-way rotation with Zombo, Walden and Jones alternating day by day as the starter on the right outside opposite Clay Matthews.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Walden was No. 1, the first time any of the three had been the starter two days in a row. Jones took more snaps behind Walden on the right side than Zombo, who worked behind Matthews most of the time.
It’s quite possible that the starter won’t be determined until after the third exhibition game. Zombo started Saturday night against Cleveland; it would appear he and Walden are the leading candidates.
As noted, Zombo started the Packers first preseason game and we expect Walden to start Friday’s game. The Packers could give Jones a start next week if they haven’t made up their mind by then.
As far as the players’ primary strengths, Zombo is said to be better against the run and more assignment sure than Walden. That’s to be expected, since he was with the Packers all of last season.
Walden is more explosive and a better pass rusher. He’s capable of making the big play, but also suffers errors in judgment from time to time. As a 2010 midseason pickup without the benefit of an offseason with OTAs and minicamps, it’s probable Walden is still learning the defense.
Walden, who’s entering his fourth season, had 25 tackles and three sacks for the Packers in nine games last season, including two starts. Zombo, a former undrafted free agent in his second year, had 38 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games last season, eight of which were starts.
Both players should continue to improve and may have only scratched the surface of their potential. It’s likely both players will get snaps on defense this season regardless of who starts.
One of them will get the nod, though. Walden appears as if he might have pulled ahead in the race.
Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.