Green Bay Packers: Frank Zombo's Injury Creates Opportunity at Linebacker

J FCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2011

There's not much worse for an athlete than to suffer a serious injury that could threaten their season. When that injury occurs in the preseason, it increases the pain.

However, when that injury strikes in the pregame warm ups of a preseason game, then the hurt is almost intolerable and utterly unbearable.

Now I'm not a sports psychologist and I can't tell you exactly how the Packer's Frank Zombo is feeling now, but what I do know is that the Super Bowl champs find themselves in an interesting situation at linebacker after he went down with a fractured scapula.

Clay Matthews has a vice grip on the left outside linebacker position and he isn't likely to loosen his fist anytime soon. However, following the 2010 season, one of the Pack's projected areas of need was opposite of Matthews at the right outside linebacker slot.

Brad Jones, who had started at ROLB last year until he moved to the IR, may not even make the roster in 2011, leaving Erik Walden to be Zombo's only obvious replacement.

Walden probably would have won the position battle in camp, but now he will undoubtedly be the starter against the Saints on September 8. What is uncertain is the depth behind Walden.

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According to linebacker coach, Kevin Greene, Zombo won't reach the IR and has an excellent chance of playing meaningful minutes this season. If he does return, it won't be for at least a month and a half. So who will step in if Walden is injured?

After Friday night's match up with the Colts, it appears undrafted rookies Vic So'oto and Jamari Lattimore are the men for the job.

So'oto, a converted defensive end out of BYU, racked up four tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack while Lattimore, the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, had two tackles and a sack.

Thus far, these two linebackers have excelled with their unlikely opportunity to play a significant role on the Packers this season as rookie Ricky Elmore has struggled in camp.

The coaching staff hopes that the UFAs will be able to fill the void where Zombo stepped in last year and they won't have to search for a replacement in free agency or the waiver wire.

There is a great confidence in camp that they can play at a high level; however, they need to continue to improve. Coach Greene and fellow OLB Clay Matthews will help them greatly in doing just that.

Nobody expected Erik Walden or Frank Zombo to be major contributors in 2010 and nobody was even sure So'oto or Lattimore would even make the team.

Now the question is, "Will one of them be the desired perfect pass-rushing compliment to Clay Matthews on the opposite edge?"

Sources: Rotoworld.com, jsonline.com, cheeseheadtv.com, ESPN

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