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Look Out for Elephants in Green Bay

The “elephant” position, now three years in development in Dom Capers’ defense in Green Bay, will get its most thorough test with the Packers in 2016. The label refers to a player who plays outside linebacker on some plays and defensive line on others. The ultimate goal is to generate a great pass rush.

From 2010 through 2012, the Packers linebackers were all about the same size. Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, and Brad Jones all weighed from 240 to 255 pounds.

In 2013, however, Mike Neal started 10 games as a linebacker. Neal had been a 294-pound defensive end, but dropped 35 pounds in an effort to switch positions. He started 15 games in 2015, sometimes listed as a defensive end and sometimes as an outside linebacker. Things didn’t pan out for Neal though, as he is unsigned as a free agent.

In 2014, Julius Peppers came over from the Bears as a 6’7” 287-pound defensive end. Peppers indicated he was excited to play linebacker for the Packers. The plan has worked well, as Peppers had 10.5 sacks in 2015, after getting seven sacks in each of the prior two years.

Datone Jones, who came out of UCLA as a 6’4” 285-pound lineman, started playing the hybrid role in 2015, with the majority of his snaps being as an outside linebacker during the latter half of the year. Early in 2016, Mike McCarthy made clear that Jones would be utilized as an “elephant” edge rusher in this final year of his rookie contract. Success as an elephant is do or die for Jones.

The Packers have adopted this strategy in part because the team has had so many “tweener” body types on its defensive roster. Nick Perry (6’3”, 265) and even Carl Bradford (6’3”, 250) have also become part of the conversation.

Primarily though, Capers points to its flexibility: “You’ll see an elephant align in a lot of different spots (along the line). When you have a number of different schemes, you could see a number of different elephants on the field in different spots based off what those schemes are.”

Another useful aspect of the scheme, according to Capers, is that it provides “a lot of flexibility because what you play one week you might not be able to play the next week because you have a couple of guys banged up.”

In 2016, the Packers are going to have to let their elephants loose more than they ever have.

Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”



  1. Tucson Packer July 7, 2016

    I hope it works out for the “Bear Killer”.

    I also hope no parents let their children wonder into the Elephant cage.

  2. Draymond Green July 7, 2016

    Me and my bros Steph Curry Klay Thompson are coming to Green Bay when it’s training camp and me and my boys will go on July 31st, 2016 and we will enjoy family night. I can’t wait to kick Mike McCarthy in the balls and trip Datone Jones to the ground and believe it or not, it will be exactly how I handled Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. I am not lying or trolling. I am the real Draymond Green. 74-8 for the Warriors here we come! Go Dubs!

    1. Klay Thompson July 7, 2016

      Yeah man I am ready as hell too Dray. Cant wait to see you and my brother Stephen Curry there.

    2. Stephen Curry July 7, 2016

      Me too Dray.

    3. Chad Lundberg July 7, 2016

      I can’t tell what would be worse. That you are be the real Draymond Green or that you honestly believe that you are the real Draymond Green. This is really just sad at this point.

      1. Tucson Packer July 7, 2016

        Either way, he is an absolutely colossal idiot.

        More than that, check out his awesome time stamps on all three of those completely different and totally real athlete’s “posts”

        We have had trolls like him before, even more annoying because they knew about football and could literally talk some shit. That is always entertainment, this Lil’ Draymond kid is just pathetic however. “This too shall pass”

        1. Packers fan July 7, 2016

          Bingo Tucson Packer!

        2. Packers fan July 7, 2016

          Question Tucson Packer, other than Draymond Green, can you name me a troll we had in the past?

          1. Tucson Packer July 8, 2016

            “DD”, “SEAHAWKSOWNYOU”, “KILLER”(at times) thats all that comes to mind off the top of my head. All have come, all have gone

          2. Packers fan July 8, 2016

            Don’t forget Anti-McCarthy Fan and PACKATTACKINMPLS as well.

          3. Packers fan July 8, 2016

            Tucson Packer, are you excited for the Packers season?

  3. Phatgzus July 7, 2016

    Dom Capers on safari.

  4. Tucson Packer July 9, 2016

    @ PACKERS FAN Oh C’mon man, am I excited? White Chocolate is back in the fold, talk of Janis and his talent continue to escalate, Jared Cook is gonna give us ammunition like we haven’t seen in years, Lacy has a new lot in life and in his job. Besides that, it is most likely the last year for Peppers. All those guys on the D side of the ball have probably watched Peppers their whole life growing up, and now they get the chance with his leadership to bring him and themselves a title for Title-town? Un-real how much energy must be flowing through hallowed Lambeau.

    1. Packers fan July 9, 2016

      I’m excited man. Let’s get Peppers the ring so he can ride off in the sunset.