GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If ever anyone needed a reminder that in the NFL it’s far more important to watch what teams do rather than listen what they say, the final week of the preseason in Green Bay reinforced that.
Three months earlier, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy proclaimed -- much to the surprise of anyone who heard it -- that at "the outside linebacker position, this is probably as good a depth as we've had there in some time."
From the decision to bring in free-agent Ahmad Brooks, who agreed to a one-year contract last week, to Sunday’s post-cut-down-day waiver claim of former Falcons rookie pass rusher Chris Odom and the trade of Jayrone Elliott, the Packers will take a much different crew into the Week 1 showdown with the Seattle Seahawks than anyone could have anticipated.
Back in June, McCarthy said: "I think you'll really see some of our guys jump out in training camp as we get the pads on.”
That never happened.
The only backup at the position who remains from the training camp roster is Kyler Fackrell, and he might be last on the depth chart. The third-round pick in 2016 still doesn’t look ready to contribute on defense and at this rate, he might never do so. It’s been a two-summer struggle for Fackrell, who won only one rep out of 19 tries in the 1-on-1 pass-rushing drill this summer. Combine that with a winless mark in his rookie training camp, and his career record in that drill is 1-30.
The Packers kept Fackrell over Reggie Gilbert, who will return for his second year on the practice squad, and Elliott, whose four career sacks are double Fackrell’s career total.
It was always going to be a season of change behind Matthews and Perry after Julius Peppers signed with the Panthers and Datone Jones with the Vikings, but what the Packers are left with -- Brooks, Odom and Fackrell -- no one could have expected.
At least one member of the Packers’ coaching staff raved about Brooks even before he was signed. Linebackers coach Winston Moss described Brooks as a “tough, tough, physically imposing” player.
In Green Bay, Brooks will be reunited with defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois. The two played together with the 49ers from 2010-12.
“We’re getting an athletic linebacker,” Jean Francois said. “He’s an athletic linebacker, a guy who can rush -- a violent rusher. If his speed is still up to par to what I saw when I was there, he’ll give a lot of skill positions a run for their money. He’s a good all-around player. Good dude, family guy. Hell of a football player. To bring him on, he’s going to be a big addition. He’s going to help our defense and he’s going to help the outside linebacker room.”