Packers consider Poppinga’s worth : Packers Insider

Packers consider Poppinga’s worth

June 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The Green Bay Packers are going to need nine or 10 linebackers for their new 3-4 defense, but do they need one who’s making $1.9 million as a backup?

That’s a question General Manager Ted Thompson will have to ponder when it comes to determining Brady Poppinga’s worth this season.

A year after he signed a four-year, $13.4 million contract extension then retained his starting spot during a 2008 training camppoppinga battle with Brandon Chillar, Poppinga will head into training camp this season as a clear-cut backup with little or no chance at a starting spot unless there are injuries. With Aaron Kampman entrenched as the left outside linebacker and second-year pro Jeremy Thompson seemingly in a battle with rookie first-round draft pick Clay Matthews for the right outside spot, that leaves Poppinga as no higher than No. 4 on the depth chart at outside linebacker.

Since the switch to the 3-4, Poppinga has worked mostly as Kampman’s backup on the left side and hasn’t taken any snaps at either of the two inside positions, where Nick Barnett and A.J Hawk are the likely starters and Chillar and Desmond Bishop are the top backups.

Among the nonstarters in the linebacking corps, Poppinga has the highest base salary for this season at $1.9 million, although Matthews hasn’t signed yet. The very contract that Poppinga was so thrilled about last season could work against him now.

“That’s something you’d have to ask the front office,” Poppinga said during last week’s mandatory minicamp when asked whether his salary could make him expendable.

“I don’t know how they budget things out.”

For what it’s worth, the Packers’ new defensive coaching staff has raved about Poppinga and how he has adjusted to the new scheme.

Then again, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene’s fallback phrase all offseason has been, “I like all my guys.”

Greene, whose intensity defined him during his 15-year NFL career, has found a protégé in Poppinga in terms of his attitude. A try-hard, passionate player, Poppinga resembles Greene in that way.

“Brady’s a glass eater,” Greene said. “He’s a head-buttin’, coconut-buttin’ guy. I like Brady. He’s got a great work ethic.”

It didn’t take long for new defensive coordinator Dom Capers to notice Poppinga’s approach.

“Brady’s an intense guy,” Capers said. “One thing about him is he has a real defensive temperament. He’s going to go 100 miles per hour, and you know you’re going to get everything he’s got, which I like.”

In terms of production, Popppinga’s first four seasons were marked by inconsistency. A former pass rusher in college at BYU, the fourth-round pick in 2005 has had little success when used in a pass-rushing role in the NFL. He has only three career sacks, and none of those came in the last two seasons.

As a strong-side linebacker in the old 4-3 scheme, he struggled at times in coverage. In fact, by midseason last year, Chillar had replaced Poppinga as the primary backer charged with covering the tight end.

Part of a 3-4 outside linebacker’s job is dropping into coverage when he’s not rushing the quarterback, but Poppinga said it’s far different from the man coverage he has played his first four seasons.

“It depends on the coverage, but most of the time it’s just (covering) the flat,” Poppinga said. “It’s not anything like what I used to do. There are various times where I will take the tight end, but taking the tight end 80 percent of the time like in the old scheme — no, it’s not that. The coverage responsibilities that we have are not extremely difficult, which allows you to play fast and physical at the point of attack and allows you to play without thinking.”

Poppinga is one of the few outside linebackers on the roster who has experience both as a pass rusher and in coverage. By comparison, Kampman almost never dropped into coverage as a defensive end in the old scheme.

“I think it really fits my strengths and abilities to a ‘T,’” Poppinga said.

The Packers have 12 linebackers on their offseason roster, so if they keep nine or 10 and don’t make any significant personnel changes this summer, it’s a good bet Poppinga will be back. However, backups making close to $2 million are expendable at times.

“I know when I signed my contract that it was pretty clear I was signing a contract to be a member of the team,” Poppinga said. “Whether or not I was a starter didn’t really come up. I understand the conditions in which I was operating when I signed the contract, and that’s fine with me.”

Help Us! Comment about this Packer Article

This is a community of fanatical Packer fans. Please tell us what you think about this post....