Position Battles, Part Two: Outside Linebacker
Other than running back, the Packers' most frequently mentioned need has been (and will continue to be) outside linebacker. Or, more specifically, an outside linebacker that can provide some pass rush opposite of Clay Matthews.
That's not to say there haven't been contenders through the years. Erik Walden looked like a find near the end of the 2010 season, but he never recaptured the magic we saw in his Week 17 performance that year. Like Walden, Frank Zombo went quietly into the night after a solid 2010 season. Nick Perry was supposed to be the next big thing, but we only caught a glimpse of him last season before a wrist injury knocked him out for the year. Dezman Moses stepped in for Perry, but he was relatively raw after playing his college ball at Tulane and only had a spotty impact.
All that brings us to this year, where a healthy Perry, a seasoned Moses, and an upstart rookie named Nate Palmer will tangle for the lion's share of the playing time across from Matthews. Who ya got? Here are the contenders.
The Favorite - Nick Perry
How can Perry not be the favorite? He's bigger, stronger, and faster than the other two, plus he has the benefit of being a former first round pick. While the Packers can tend to give less favoritism to former first rounders than other teams, you still want your top picks to succeed, and Perry will get every opportunity to do so.
His athleticism, by the way, might be the biggest reason he'll get the best shot at the starting spot. Watch how he keeps contain on this play, then chases down Russell Wilson. Textbook.
The Likely Backup - Dezman Moses
Calling him a probable backup is no knock to Dezman Moses. Given how Dom Capers rotates players in and out of his defensive alignments, a top backup spot is almost as desirable as starting. And after his four sack season last year, you have to think Moses will be hungry for more, especially if he gets the chance to strip Matt Stafford again.
The Dark Horse - Nate Palmer
Physically, Palmer is almost a carbon copy of Dezman Moses (6'2"/248 lbs to 6'2"/240 lbs). He also has big school experience, starting his college career at Illinois before transferring to Illinois State. Like Moses last year, Palmer may be the kind of training camp star that ends up snagging a roster spot. Nobody at Illinois State can find a bad word to say about him, and if he has the talent to match his sterling reputation, the Packers may have found somebody worth keeping around.