Training camp opens on July 26. To prep for that I’m going to take a look at 5 players that “have to be good”. The reasons can be varying but because of whatever circumstance it is either vitally important to the 2013 season or the teams foreseeable future that the investments made in these players pay off. When a team is run the way that the Packers are, players have to step up every year. Often times a popular veteran is allowed to leave via free agency or released outright and unproven players have to become useful NFL contributors.
When the Packers decided to give Brad Jones a 3 year deal making starter’s money, it set off a chain reaction. It became possible all of a sudden that one of AJ Hawk, Jones, and Desmond Bishop would not be on the opening day roster. While there is a large contingent of Packer fans that would have liked to see AJ Hawk released, all signs pointed to Desmond Bishop being the one that the team was willing to part ways with. Rumors surfaced during the draft that the Packers were willing to part with Bishop for a late round pick, sending reactionary fans (read: me) into quite a tizzy.
I couldn’t help but remember all the things that Bishop did for the Packers in the Super Bowl run of 2010. I couldn’t help but remember that he was one of the best 2 or 3 defenders for the 15-1 team in 2011. As the summer progressed, talk on the radio was that Bishop might not be in the teams plans, and soon after Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com released a story that Bishop’s release was impending. My initial thought, which was immediately tweeted, was “Welp, Terrell Manning better be good.”
Manning was a 5th round draft pick by Green Bay in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was selected when Ted Thompson traded up in that draft for the 3rd time (something that almost never happens). I had a little bit of knowledge of what type of player Manning was, and I definitely knew that he was in the conversation to go much higher than 163. Even though he played outside at NC State, Manning’s 6’2” 237 lb. was an ideal fit for ILB in Green Bay’s 3-4. His attributes included being a solid tackler and an exceptional blitzer, two qualities that made him a very exciting prospect.
The fans that were excited about Manning’s talents were disappointed in training camp and the preseason. There were few impact plays in practice, and fewer yet in game situations. Manning didn’t look all that athletic or all that physical, and no one understood why. It was later released that Manning had a parasitic infection that caused him very serious intestinal problems and eventually the loss of 20 pounds. He felt weak and was not the type of presence that anyone saw in his time playing in the ACC.
Manning is back up to 237 pounds and needs to prove that he is the playmaker that the Packers thought they were getting when they traded up to take him. Not only that, but the inside linebacker depth behind him is not that pretty. Robert Francois was decent in spot duty in 2011, but is really more of a special teams demon. DJ Smith is gone. Jamari Lattimore is an undrafted unknown. It is very reasonable that if either Hawk or Jones go down with an injury this season, that the first man up to spell them in the LB corps would be Manning.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing the Packers allow Hawk to walk after his contract is up following the 2015 season. I prefer it when the Packers ILBs have a coverage guy (Jones) and a blitzer (formerly Bishop, could be Manning, is not Hawk). Having a 5th round investment start at ILB in a 3-4 defense is not a strange concept. Bishop was a 6th round pick. High picks in this defense are usually spent out on the corner or on the 5 guys that line up on the LOS (OLBs and the 3 DL).
Terrell Manning has to be good.