Brandon Chillar and Clay Matthews were on the move, and Desmond Bishop hopes he gets to come along for the ride.
The Green Bay Packers addressed their lack of depth at outside linebacker by moving Chillar to Matthews’ spot at right outside linebacker in the nickel package for Monday’s practice. Matthews moved to the left side, where Brady Poppinga is filling in for the injured Brad Jones. And the two inside linebackers in that package were Nick Barnett and Bishop rather than A.J. Hawk.
The versatile Chillar has 7.5 sacks in his first six NFL seasons. Two of those came last year, including one in the opener when he acted like Superman by leaping over Bears running back Garrett Wolfe in a single bound and sacking Jay Cutler.
Chillar laughed when reminded of that highlight-reel play.
“Now, it’s more running into tackles and backs, so that’s new to me,” Chillar said. “I’m going to have to learn some new moves on those tackles.”
That mentoring started in the morning, when he found out that he’d be adding outside linebacker to last year’s roles of inside linebacker and safety. During the “screens and deception” period early in practice, Chillar intercepted a deflected pass. Then it was off to position drills with coach Kevin Greene, where Chillar worked with Matthews, the Pro Bowler who had 10 sacks last year.
“He’s not your prototype outside linebacker, but we’ve seen the guy hurdle a running back and sack the quarterback. I think that speaks volumes for his athleticism,” Matthews said. “That’s what we need out of an outside linebacker. It’s not just a big guy, you know what I’m saying? It’s a guy who can do much more than just rush the passer, whether it be drop into coverage, hold the edge, blitz underneath, so on and so forth. I think he brings that to the game and he’s such a great athlete that we need to get him in there more than just playing nickel.”
Chillar tackled the challenge with a smile.
"I had some fun out there,” Chillar said. “I obviously have a lot to learn. It's the first day. I messed some stuff up, but I think that goes along with a new position. I think it's fun to try something new, and I look forward to trying to get better at it. I think they just wanted to give me some reps just in case, later on in the year. And as I've showed them in the past, I can play different positions. I take it as a challenge and it's fun for me."
Having Chillar as option at outside linebacker rectifies whatever issues the team has with depth. It also could help Matthews, who has the team’s only proven pass rusher figured to see a steady diet of double teams while lined up at his main spot at right outside linebacker. By being able to switch to the left side, that might alleviate some of those double teams or could give Matthews a better matchup against a particular offensive tackle. Generally, the right outside linebacker would battle the offense’s best pass protector. If lined up on the left side, Matthews would face a right tackle that typically is a better run blocker.
“If I continue to move around, hopefully it can present some new looks,” Matthews said. “Hopefully they won’t get accustomed to going against one single guy and give them a different look and use some different moves and whatnot and techniques. But I don’t know, I guess that’s really a question you’ve got to ask the opponent. But hopefully it presents some problems and we can capitalize on some mismatches or what not. But for the most part, I think its more so beneficial to our team and we can put people in different spots and play different positions.”
While Chillar was thrilled and Matthews hopeful, Bishop was in wait-and-see mode. A couple of days ago, Bishop used his words carefully when talking about the prospect of another training camp of strong play on defense leading to yet another season relegated to special teams. With this new alignment, his prospects seemed to be looking up.
“Definitely looking up but I’m not going to get my hopes up about this because I don’t know how permanent Chillar’s role is on the outside,” Bishop said. “I know Brad’s hurt, and they’ve moved A.J. (Hawk) to dime now, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. I’m going to go out there and make plays and have fun and hope I get it. But at the same time, just keep grinding and let the chips fall where they may.”
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