Green Bay Packers: Why Terrell Manning Will Take AJ Hawk's Starting Job
Expectations were at an all-time high for North Carolina State's standout linebacker Terrell Manning.
After an All-American type season with the Wolfpack, Manning was projected by many, including draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., as a third-round talent at inside linebacker.
Like all prospects, Terrell had high hopes for where he was going to be drafted. After putting up some solid combine numbers (4.7 speed, 22 reps on the bench), Manning thought he was solidified as second- or third-round pick.
However, as the first two days of the draft came and went, Manning remained on the board. He continued to slip on Day 3 as well, waiting out the entire fourth round and a good chunk of the fifth round.
This draft day free fall was finally put to rest, however, when the Green Bay Packers traded back into the fifth round to grab the talented linebacker.
While many other teams clearly didn't believe in Manning due to some injury concerns and lack of elite size (he's 230 pounds), the Packers grabbed a player who will contribute on defense as a rookie due to the outstanding versatility he has at the linebacker position.
At NC State, Manning was a jack of all trades who had a combination of skills that most college linebackers don't possess.
Last season as a junior, Manning was a dominant playmaker for the Wolfpack, as he racked up 76 tackles, six sacks, 15 tackles for loss and three interceptions in 13 games.
He showed quality explosion as a pass rusher (even playing some defensive end), is a tackling machine with good range in the run game and can drop back into coverage over the middle of the field and defend backs and tight ends.
Who will start opposite Desmond Bishop for the Packers at Inside Linebacker?
In today's passing league, linebackers need to be able to do more than just be a thumper against the run, which makes Manning's multifaceted game extremely valuable.
There's a mighty large chip on this young man's shoulder after his draft day slide (he was quoted saying he thinks he's one of the best linebackers from this year's draft class), and I believe Manning's desire stick it to everyone that passed on him will quickly move this kid up the depth charts.
It's easy to love the attitude and ability Manning brings to the field, and that will be enough to win himself a starting role at inside linebacker over AJ Hawk at some point during the season.
It was a poor year for Hawk in 2011, as he was consistently beaten in coverage and didn't make a huge impact in any other area of the game.
Hawk simply isn't the playmaker the Packers hoped he would be when they drafted the long-haired linebacker fifth overall in 2006.
While he has experience as a play caller on the Packers defense and has had some decent years in the past, Manning's ability to rush the passer and cover in space will give him a significant advantage over AJ right off the bat.
It may seem like a long shot for a fifth-round pick to come in and unseat an established veteran, but Manning has the aptitude and mindset to push Hawk for his starting spot.
I anticipate Manning to take over at inside linebacker before Week 10 and never look back from there.
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