Linebacker is arguably the Packers’ best position, with four legit NFL starters, two special-teams standouts and one player hungry to show he’s not finished at the ripe old age of 25.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Packers’ defensive ends entering training camp. For a more in-depth story, check out the story available only to PackerReport.com subscribers.
Dynamic duo: Nick Barnett is a Pro Bowl-caliber player and tackling machine. His speed makes him hard to block, yet his physicality belies his 230-ish pounds. A.J. Hawk has yet to deliver on his talent — or No. 5 draft billing in 2006 — but may have a breakout season if the Packers’ scheme turns more aggressive.
The battle: No battle will be more hotly contested than Brady Poppinga vs. Brandon Chillar at starting strong-side linebacker. Regardless of who emerges with the job, the other will find a role. The Packers might go with four linebackers on occasion to get them all on the field.
The battles: With Barnett, Hawk, Poppinga and Chillar assured spots, Tracy White, Desmond Bishop and Abdul Hodge will fight for the final two roster slots. White is the team’s special-teams leader but not a factor on defense. Hodge was the star of training camp as a rookie in 2005 but last season was ruined by surgery on both knees. Hodge says he’s as healthy as he’s been at any point of his pro career. Bishop, however, enters camp ahead of Hodge as the backup middle linebacker and is a standout on special teams. Spencer Havner could make a run at that trio, as well.
Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org