One of the key areas of need that Ted Thompson glossed over during the 2010 draft was the need for an outside linebacker to complement Clay Matthews’ aggressive play. While Thompson did pick up a couple new linebackers from the unrestricted free agent pool, few of them would be expected to even make the team, much less start. So, where will the Packers turn for some OLB pressure on quarterback in 2010? Initially, Mike McCarthy and his staff will continue to hang their hat on Brad Jones. In a draft weekend press conference, McCarthy said the coaching staff was pleased with Jones’ progress in 2009. But, Obiozor could surprise everyone this coming season.
Getting Lean and Mean
When Obiozor arrived in the NFL he weighed 270 pounds. At that time he thought he would be playing defensive end. Since his conversion to OLB, Obiozor has dropped 15 pounds and now weighs in at 249, just a shade under Clay Matthews weight. Shedding the extra weight will give Cyril a much quicker edge on his rush, which wasn’t too bad to begin with. Just how much quicker Cyril is, we don’t know. He was clocked at 4.72 at the combine. If the reduction in weight shaves even a tenth of a second off that time, he’ll be running a 40 that’s nearly as fast as the 4.58 run by Clay.
Getting a Grasp of the System
Obiozor also had some hefty problems with the elaborate Dom Capers system. The monstrous playbook was a lot for him to absorb in a short time. Figuring out which gap to play, and doing it on the fly, turned out to be a rather big challenge for Obi. However, he spent the offseason pouring over the playbook and reviewing tape. The system should be much more familiar to him and his reactions to certain situations should be more natural. Last year, despite the fact that Obi was getting pressure on the quarterback in 11-on-11 drills, Kevin Greene was chewing him out almost every play. This year, he’ll be getting chewed out less and getting pressure on the quarterback more.
The Rise of Obi
Whether Obiozor will take the starting position away from Brad Jones, or not, is in question, because Jones (also a rookie) has had more time to study film and immerse himself in the playbook. Still, in 2010 we should see a highly improved Obiozor giving depth to the OLB position and maybe serving as a fresh set of legs in crucial downs.