GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Green Bay Packers opted not to select an inside linebacker in the draft, it prompted two questions:
Was the right player not available at the right time?
Or does general manager Ted Thompson feel better about the position than most do when they look at the Packers' depth chart?
In a post-draft edition of its "Plugging the Holes" feature, Football Outsiders identified that spot as the Packers' biggest remaining personnel need.
Noting that the Packers filled several needs in the draft with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round plus receivers Davante Adams (second round) and Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) after adding a key free-agent piece in pass-rusher Julius Peppers, Football Outsiders clearly is not sold on the combination of A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the starting inside linebackers.
Here's how Football Outsiders viewed the situation:
A.J. Hawk has been hanging around as a starter for years, despite not bringing much of anything to the table. If there's ever a zombie attack in Green Bay, Hawk will be the lone survivor. Brad Jones signed a huge contract before the 2013 season, but was replacement-caliber after the first month of the campaign. Backup Jamari Lattimore was a special-teamer for most of the season. While the trio found their way into 10 sacks last season, most of them came in zone blitz situations. Their lack of range was a key factor in the Packers' last-place finish in run defense DVOA. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.)
Of course, this is par for the course for general manager Ted Thompson. Thompson doesn't believe in investing in inside linebackers as a general rule. Fair enough, Ted. I hope you're investing some of the savings in your medical staff this year. The Packers could make another strong playoff run if they could just keep their core healthy for more than four games at a time.
One player not mentioned in the report was Sam Barrington, a seventh-round pick last season. He played sparingly as a rookie before a hamstring injury in Week 9 ended his season. But the Packers like his athleticism, and he could be a factor at the position.