Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy reiterated on Monday at his season-ending press conference something he's already made clear on several different occasions - Clay Matthews' ideal position in the Packers defense is at outside linebacker. Matthews, talented though he may be and capable of playing both inside and outside though he may be, is best suited to a more free-roaming, pass-rushing spot on the outside of Dom Capers' unit. Injuries and lack of capable bodies, unfortunately, have kept Matthews in a kind of hybrid role the past two seasons, shuttling back and forth between the inside and outside.
But thankfully for Matthews, McCarthy and Capers, a report out of St. Petersburg, FL. where players are prepping for the Shrine Game ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, indicates that Packers GM Ted Thompson is paying close attention to the inside linebacker group. And further, it seems Thompson has set his sights on a draft-eligible player that's not at the Shrine Game who is expected to be a fairly high pick come spring.
"Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson spent a lot of time scouting the linebackers during the first Shrine practice today," Tony Pauline of Draft Insider reports. "And while he's not in attendance at the Shrine Game, sources tell me the team really likes Mississippi State junior Beniquez Brown, whom I grade as a third round choice."
That Pauline's sources are already indicating the Packers and Thompson are hot for Brown this early in the process likely means that their interest runs deep. Brown is an instinctive backer who runs about 6-foot-1, 238-pounds according to Sports-Reference.
He finished this season for the Bulldogs with 46 solo tackles, 93 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 1 interception. The season prior, playing alongside Texans second-round pick Bernardrick McKinny, Brown collected 30 solo tackles, 62 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions.
For the Packers, Thompson spent a large portion of last offseason flirting with the draft's better inside linebackers. From Denzel Perryman to Stephone Anthony, Thompson was said to be highly interested in adding to the position in the early rounds. Unfortunately, Thompson didn't end up addressing the position until the fourth when he nabbed Jake Ryan out of Michigan.
Ryan wound up a starter, but the combination of Ryan and Sam Barrington seems questionable at best going forward if the team wants to free up Matthews. In the end, there's ample time between now and the 2016 NFL Draft and Thompson's ardor for one player or another will surely wax and wane, but if Capers and Co. are to take their defense from good to great this offseason, it may require the investment of an early draft pick at inside linebacker, effectively shoring up two positions with one shot.