The Green Bay Packers trade with other teams about as often as pigs fly. Typically they are reserved for only for draft day for either a higher pick or more late-round selections. Jerel Worthy started his brief tenure in Green Bay in such a manner. Ted Thompson traded away the team’s fourth round pick to move up 8 spots up in the draft to take him at 51.
Not a bad little bit of maneuvering to grab the All-American DE from a Michigan State team notorious for its punishing defense. Known for his speed, Worthy was lauded at the Scouting Combine for his speed. Words like thick and powerful were used to describe him. He seemed like the perfect addition to meet the Packers’ defensive needs.
But even at that time there were cautions in his scouting report. He struggled in space and had difficulty translating that power that was such a positive attribute into effort to stop the opposing ball carrier. He could be neutralized not because of lack of strength but rather a lack of effort. Scouts were worried about a break-down of technique.
Yet Thompson weighed the good with the bad and took a gamble on a diamond in the rough.
Unfortunately, things the Packers never saw that gamble pay off, and two years later are trading him to the New England Patriots for a conditional late-round draft choice.
Worthy struggled as a rookie. While he was lauded for 107 tackles and 12 sacks at Michigan State he struggled in the Packers’ defensive scheme. He was a 1 gap penetrator in college. Capers’ scheme involves 2 gaps.
He only managed 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles his rookie year. All of the negatives whispered about during his combine slowly came to fruition.
And then he blew his knee out.
While he tore his ACL at the end of his rookie season, the impact of that injury resonated through the entire 2013 season. While Vikings running back Adrian Peterson seemed to miraculously bounce back from a similar injury that yer, Worthy found himself on the PUP list at the start of last season and lost that opportunity to improve on an anemic first season.
Like most players not named Peterson or Griffin, it took nearly a year before his knee was ready and he could resume play at the end of the 2013 season. But in those two games, Worthy was a non-entity in his limited play. One tackle, no fumbles, no knock-downs, and no sacks. In the end, he was a ghost of that Spartan player that showed so much power and promise.
Needless to say he started this year’s training camp already on the bubble. And like last year he began camp unable to participate. This time it was a back injury sustained in the off season while weight lifting in preparation for camp and beyond. To add insult to injury, it required surgery and once again the preseason was spent watching for the sidelines healing.
Jerel Worthy started off his NFL career as what some described as a boom or bust gamble. He could’ve turned out to be a royal flush and a powerful weapon in the Packers’ defense, and that’s what Ted Thompson had hoped for when he traded up for him. But limited time and effectiveness on the field coupled with one injury too many and Worthy turned out to unfortunately be no better than a pair of twos.
With any gamble, it’s important to know when you’re in over your head, fold your hand and cut your losses before you’re further in the hole. Last night the Packers finally did just that, offering Jerel Worthy a fresh start where his talents and promise may be a worthy fit in New England.