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Packers: Clay Matthews (LOLB), AJ Hawk (LILB), Desmond Bishop (RILB), Erik Walden (ROLB)
Eagles: Moise Fokou (WILL), Casey Matthews (MIKE), Jamar Chaney (SAM)
Again with this slide, I will try to be very conscious of the differences in roles and expectations between the 3-4 system of the Packers and the 4-3 system of the Eagles.
The Packers will certainly miss departed LB Nick Barnett's leadership and skill, but this group has already overcome his loss during the team's run to the Super Bowl last season. The unit is led by All-Pro and freak-of-nature LOLB Clay Matthews and veteran LILB AJ Hawk. The unit might actually get better during the 2011-2012 season, as Matthews will finally be fully recovered from a fractured shin, an injury that hampered him for much of the 2010 season. In terms of depth, the Packers have an impressive collection of young talent with Brad Jones, DJ Smith, Robert Francois, and Frank Zombo.
The Eagles, in contrast to the Packers, have a young and unproven group of LBs headlined by Clay Matthews' younger brother, Casey. The younger Matthews will be expected to lead the Eagles defense and provide all-around playmaking as a rookie—no small task in Juan Castillo's complex and aggressive system. Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou will flank Matthews and will be expected to provide excellent all-around play as well. Backing up the Eagles' young starters are more young players, with Keenan Clayton, Greg Lloyd, and Akeem Jordan all expected to contribute.
Overall Verdict: Packers.
Right now, this isn't close. The Packers have one of the best defensive playmakers at the LB position in Clay Matthews and three solid, veteran starters alongside him. The Eagles have a lot of talent, but there is a huge lack of experience that is impossible to ignore. One day, this Eagles' unit might be something special. But right now, they have less than a full season's worth of NFL starts combined.