Rekindling a Flawed Defense: Why Moving Mike Neal to OLB Makes Sense

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIFebruary 7, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Mike Neal of the Green Bay Packers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Look, the Packers had a solid defense last year but they didn’t perform up to par. They gave up too many big plays and didn’t get enough pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. All things considered, they did have a good year and most of their success was due to one individual in particular.

Michael Jamel Neal A.K.A. Mike Neal.

Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said in an interview that he likes the idea of moving Mike Neal to outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. The Packers need someone to replace Erik Walden now that he is a free agent, and Neal seems like the kind of player to do that.

Neal’s zero sacks last year shows how big of a threat he is rushing the passer. If he is able to drop 40 pounds and learn to play standing up, then he could be the Packers’ best defender next season.

If he is able to take advantage of Clay Matthews’ double teams, then Mike Neal can really build on that one tackle he had in 2011. With Neal’s play from his first two seasons in the NFL, the Packers know he will be a good option at OLB in 2012.

Another thing we all love about Neal is his accountability. Yes, he did miss some time due to injury in 2010 and 2011. Yes, he has only played in 10 games in his career out of a possible 37. Yes, he was put on injured reserve during his rookie season. Yes, he’s already had two major surgeries in his first two years in the league. However, there is no player I want to count on more than Mike Neal at OLB next season.

Neal didn’t play until Week 10 last year, but did you see what happened after that? He didn’t miss another game. Neal is obviously learning how to combat injuries in order to remain a part of his team on Sundays. The fact that he played in seven games last season after knee surgery is a testament to how durable he really is.

When Aaron Rodgers went on injured reserve during his three year stint on the bench, did everyone give up on him? Yes. But look what happened after that. He became an NFL icon and won the NFL MVP last season.

Mike Neal might not be an NFL icon just yet, but he will clearly be an NFL MVP candidate next year if he can post his usual 20 sacks. Just because he hasn’t done that yet in the NFL doesn’t mean it’s not business as usual for Neal. He has all the talent in the world and more than enough weight. He could really be able to compliment Matthews next year on the Packers’ line backing core.

Or will Matthews compliment Mike Neal? More than likely that will be the case, which is really scary for opposing offensive coordinators next season.

Dom Capers is a defensive minded genius and with Mike Neal trucking offensive tackles next year, Capers can really put his coaching skills to good use. Capers’ schemes work much better when there is consistent pressure on the quarterback. This is why Packer fans have been clamoring for them to draft a DE or OLB that can rush the passer in 2012. Well, with Neal as a bookend for defensive end already, most fans want to see an OLB drafted. That’s why this article is good news for Green Bay fans.If Neal moves to OLB, then the Packers have no glaring weaknesses on their defense anymore! The Packers will have an elite talent at DE in Mike Neal and an even better player at OLB in Mike Neal.

Mike Tice is already banging his head trying to figure out this Packers defense for 2012. Let's hope the Packers can get this done next year. They sure need it.