Green Bay Packers: Joe Thomas

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on Saturday, we will break down each position group.

Next up, linebackers.

Returning players: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington

Gone from last season: Victory Aiyewa, Robert Francois

New this season: Julius Peppers (free agent), Carl Bradford (fourth-round pick), Jake Doughty (undrafted rookie), Joe Thomas (undrafted rookie), Jayrone Elliott (undrafted rookie), Adrian Hubbard (undrafted rookie), Shaun Lewis (undrafted rookie)

Position coach: Winston Moss (ninth season)

Biggest issue: The Packers are banking on the 34-year-old Peppers to give them another pass-rushing threat. To do so, they plan to play him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. It's the first time they have had a bona fide pass-rushing threat opposite Matthews. What does that mean for Neal and Perry, who combined to play nearly 1,200 snaps at outside linebacker last season? Defensive coordinator Dom Capers might be wise to find a healthy rotation between Peppers, Perry and Neal in order to keep them fresh and effective.

Player to watch: The Packers gave Lattimore the lowest restricted free agent tender offer ($1.431 million), but that does not mean he's an afterthought. Capers would like to get the fourth-year pro more involved in certain packages even if he sticks with Hawk and Jones as his starting inside linebackers.

Medical report: Matthews sat out all of the offseason practices while recovering from the second of two surgeries on his broken right thumb. Perry, who missed time last season because of foot and ankle injuries, also did not practice at all this offseason.

Help wanted: While there may not be any starting jobs up for grabs, the competition will be heated, especially at outside linebacker. In addition to Peppers, Matthews, Neal and Perry, the Packers have two other players -- Palmer and Mulumba -- who saw playing time last season. Combine that with the addition of Bradford and Hubbard, and it looks like a loaded group.

Quotable: "There’s only two guys on the field at a time, and it'll be the best two," Moss said of the outside linebackers. "Those other guys are going to have to fight for it. That's why we have an offseason. That's why we have a process. That's why we have a training camp. The guys that prove themselves and are reliable and make plays, they'll be the guys that are going to play."

Previous installments

July 14: Quarterbacks

July 15: Running backs

July 16: Receivers

July 17: Tight ends

July 18: Offensive line

July 21: Defensive line
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After looking at the Green Bay Packers' offensive depth chart on Monday, it's time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

Remember, this is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

Defensive line: Ends -- Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton, Jerel Worthy, Carlos Gray, Luther Robinson. Tackles -- B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel.

Notes: Raji, who returned on a one-year, $4 million contract, will move back to nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans to pair Jones and Daniels together as the inside rushers in nickel and dime situations. Guion should provide some run-stopping bulk up front that was lost when the Packers chose not to re-sign Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.

Outside linebackers: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Carl Bradford, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Adrian Hubbard, Jayrone Elliott, Shaun Lewis.

Notes: The Packers plan to move around Peppers, but he played almost exclusively out of a two-point stance during OTAs and minicamp practices that were open. Matthews and Perry did not practice all offseason because of lingering injuries. Bradford, a fourth-round pick, flashed some pass-rush ability, while undrafted rookie Hubbard brings some added size (6-foot-6, 257 pounds) to the position.

Inside linebackers: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Jake Doughty, Joe Thomas.

Notes: Linebackers coach Winston Moss insisted this offseason that Brad Jones remains one of the two starters despite an inconsistent 2013 season, and there was nothing in the offseason practices to suggest Jones' job is in jeopardy. However, the Packers want to get Lattimore more involved, so look for them to carve out a role for him.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson, Ryan White, Jumal Rolle.

Notes: The importance of Hayward's return from the hamstring injury that limited him to just three games last season was evident during minicamp, when the third-year cornerback picked off a pass in the end zone. The Packers remain high on House, who stepped in for Shields in the playoff game against the 49ers and performed well. Goodson, a sixth-round pick, brings athleticism to the group.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo, Charles Clay, Tanner Miller.

Notes: Hyde, who played as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, has looked natural in his conversion to safety and played ahead of Clinton-Dix, the first-round pick, with the defensive starters. Richardson also had a strong offseason.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers return to work on Tuesday to begin their longest week of organized team activities with four workouts scheduled.

The first two weeks included three sessions each.

Tuesday's practice at 12:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. CT) will be the only one this week open to fans (weather permitting) and reporters.

Here are some things to keep an eye on:

1. Undrafted rookies: It will be another couple of months before we have a solid feel for which undrafted rookies -- if any -- have a real shot to make the roster, but a few of them already have done enough to warrant some early consideration. While players like tight end Colt Lyerla of Oregon and outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard of Alabama have gotten the most publicity so far among the undrafted free agent class, it's worth watching how a few others progress. Among those who have stood out early on are North Carolina State defensive end Carlos Gray and a pair of inside linebackers, Jake Doughty of Utah State and Joe Thomas of South Carolina State.

2. Lyerla's return: Lyerla was excused from at least one of last week's OTA sessions. He was not present when reporters and fans were last allowed to watch last Tuesday, but the controversial rookie tight end was expected to return and should be on the field for this week's sessions. Because of his past troubles and transgressions, just about everything Lyerla does will be scrutinized.

3. Worthy's return: Third-year defensive end Jerel Worthy understandably was absent last week after his grandmother was accidentally shot near Dayton, Ohio. She died a short time later. It's not clear whether Worthy will return this week or not, but the reality of the NFL is that it waits for no one and Worthy has much to prove. He returned late last season from reconstructive knee surgery but so far has not lived up to his billing as a second-round pick in 2012. This is a big offseason for him.

4. Guion's role: Defensive tackle Letroy Guion was almost an after-thought signing in free agency. He received only a one-year deal with a signing bonus of just $100,000, but the former Minnesota Vikings role player is off to a good start with the Packers. Last week, with B.J. Raji absent, the 6-foot-4, 317-pound Guion took some meaningful snaps with the defensive starters.

5. Other receivers: While much of the attention has been on draft picks Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, there have been some other receivers who have stood out so far in OTAs. Chris Harper, a waiver-claim addition last season, had a strong practice last Tuesday. So did Jarrett Boykin, who at this point remains the No. 3 receiver behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Second-year pro Kevin Dorsey, a seventh-round pick who spent all of last season on injured reserve, is healthy again and has shown signs of being productive. So has Myles White, who played some last season when injuries hit.

Note: This is the final week of OTAs. The Packers hold their mandatory minicamp next week. Exact practice times for the June 17-19 camp have not been announced.
Each week, I ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then answer the best ones. Here's the latest edition, which comes after the Green Bay Packers' rookie orientation camp over the weekend:

Demovsky: Having only gotten the chance to spend a couple of days around the rookies during last weekend's orientation camp, it's hard to gauge where the rookies are at in terms of their readiness to compete. But there were several who made a good first impression, especially from a personality standpoint. Sometimes, it's easier to get a read on a player's personality than his football ability during the rookie camp because the brand of football is so new to them. In that regard, it was hard not to be impressed by how second-round pick Davante Adams comes across. He was very much a look-you-in-the-eye kind of guy. So was sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson. Maybe that won't mean much when the pads go on, but I'll be especially interested in seeing how both of those guys progress just because they seemed outgoing and ready for what's ahead.

Demovsky: It's not the only way to measure what the team thinks of an undrafted rookie but you can tell a little bit about who the top ones are coming in based on the size of their signing bonuses. Last year, offensive lineman Lane Taylor got the largest signing bonus ($7,000) among the Packers' undrafted rookies and sure enough he made the team. This year, the top bonus was $5,000, and five players got that. Four of them -- Utah State's Jake Doughty, Toledo's Jayrone Elliott, Alabama's Adrian Hubbard and South Carolina State's Joe Thomas -- were linebackers. The other was Washington State guard John Fullington.

Demovsky: It's hard enough for late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents to make a 53-man roster, so imagine how much more difficult it is for a guy who comes into the NFL with only the promise of a two-day tryout? That said, Colt Lyerla's situation is not the norm. From a pure talent level, he probably would have been at least a mid-round pick if not higher. But his highly-publicized off-the-field issues scared everyone away. If Lyerla even makes it to training camp and if he can stay out of trouble, he's got a chance. How good? It still has to be considered a long shot.

Demovsky: The easy answer is we'll see in Week 1 at Seattle. And at this point, that may be the only answer that we're able to give because there are too many ifs at this point. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix becomes the play-making safety the secondary needs, if Julius Peppers adds a spark to the pass rush, if second-year defensive end Datone Jones makes a big jump … You get the idea. The Packers need those ifs to turn into certainties in order for anyone to even begin to think they have closed that gap.

Demovsky: I wouldn't count on that, especially if they are as committed to their special teams as they say they are. Plus, Jarrett Bush probably had his best season on defense in 2013. He does have the third-highest salary-cap number ($2.033 million) among the Packers' cornerbacks this season, but that's not prohibitive from keeping him for another year.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's not the only way to measure what a team thinks of an undrafted free agent, but one way to gauge it is by the size of the signing bonus the player received.

Looking at the Green Bay Packers' list of undrafted rookies from that angle, it appears five players stand out from the rest.

Utah State linebacker Jake Doughty, Toledo outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, Washington State guard John Fullington, Alabama outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard and South Carolina State linebacker Joe Thomas all received $5,000 signing bonuses as part of their three-year, minimum salary deals.

As we wrote on Monday, Hubbard was one of the top undrafted rookies.

Last year, the highest signing bonus the Packers paid to an undrafted rookie went to guard Lane Taylor ($7,000). The next group consisted of quarterback Matt Brown ($5,000), defensive tackle Gilbert Pena ($5,000), tight end Jake Stoneburner ($5,000) and outside linebacker Andy Mulumba ($5,000). Taylor and Mulumba made the Week 1 roster, while Stoneburner started the year on the practice squad but was elevated to the roster.

It's worth noting what a former agent pointed out this week when he said the undrafted free-agent process moves so fast that teams will sometimes tack on an extra thousand or two in the heat of a conversation just to get a deal done so they can move on to their next target.

With that in mind, here's a list of the signing bonus money the Packers paid out to their undrafted rookies, according to salary data from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Players Association contract files.

(Note: there are two additions to the original list – Fullington and Iowa safety Tanner Smith).

Jake Doughty, LB, Utah State
Jayrone Elliott, OLB, Toledo
John Fullington G, Washington State
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
Joe Thomas, LB, South Carolina State

Carlos Gray, DE, North Carolina State

Jordan McCray, G, Central Florida
Mike Pennel, DT, Colorado State-Pueblo
Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College

LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State

Rajion Neal, RB, Tennessee
Justin Perillo, TE, Maine
Ryan White, CB, Auburn
Tanner Miller, S, Iowa
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you're looking for a hidden gem among the Green Bay Packers' class of undrafted free agents, perhaps it's Alabama outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

He was fourth on the ESPN Insider list of top undrafted players Insider and was described this way:

"Hubbard has intriguing length, athleticism and versatility as an edge defender. However, on tape he was a bit finesse at the point of attack, and his motor ran hot and cold at times, which likely caused him to go undrafted."

Hubbard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he believed the reason he went undrafted was because of a minor heart abnormality from which his own doctors cleared him.

The 6-foot-6, 257-pound Hubbard could not have signed with the Packers without their medical clearance. Given that Hubbard's name showed up on Monday’s official NFL transaction wire as one of the Packers' 12 signings, it means he passed the team's physical.

Hubbard started two seasons at Alabama but declared for the NFL draft with one year of eligibility remaining.

He was invited to the combine where he did most of the tests except for the bench press because of a deltoid strain. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds and his vertical jump of 38.5 inches was tied for second best among the outside backers at the combine behind only Buffalo's Khalil Mack, a first-round pick.

The Packers have a strong history of success with undrafted free agents. In the last four years, they have kept at least three undrafted rookies coming out of training camp.

By waiving first-year linebacker Chase Thomas and adding the 12 undrafted rookies, the Packers roster stood at 86 as of the close of Monday's NFL business. That leaves them with four open roster spots, some or all of which could be filled from among the 20 or so tryout players expected to take place in this week's rookie orientation camp.

Here's the full list of the 12 undrafted rookies the Packers signed on Monday:

Packers eyeing Wisconsin lineman

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
INDIANAPOLIS -- The University of Wisconsin has produced plenty of quality NFL offensive linemen recently -- from Travis Frederick to Peter Konz to Joe Thomas to Ricky Wagner to Kevin Zeitler.

None of them, however, has made the short trip north to play for the Green Bay Packers.

It has been more than 10 years since the Packers drafted a lineman from Wisconsin. In back-to-back years (2000 and 2001), they picked tackle Mark Tauscher (seventh round) and guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round). Tauscher went on to become a longtime starter, while Ferrario lasted only one season as a backup.

There’s another former Badgers lineman on the Packers’ radar this year. Ryan Groy said Thursday that he met with Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday at the NFL combine.

Groy played mostly guard for the Badgers, starting every game at left guard last season. But he also has experience at tackle (three starts in 2012) and center (one start in 2011).

With the Packers potentially in the market for a center depending on whether they re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, who will be a free agent next month, Groy might be someone the Packers would consider in the late rounds.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated Groy as the 10th-best guard in the draft , although he’s not limiting himself to just that position.

“A lot of guys have asked me that, and what I’ve told them mostly is the inside three [positions],” Groy said on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “That’s where I feel most comfortable. I feel very comfortable at guard [and] center, and I told them if need be I can play tackle. I’m not afraid to go out there. I’m not afraid to play it.”

Groy’s lone start at center came against Illinois as a sophomore.

“Pete Konz went down against Minnesota, hurt his ankle, and then I played [center] at Illinois,” said Groy, who said he was measured at 6-foot-4 and 316 pounds at the combine. “Travis switched to center in the third quarter and I played left guard the last three games [of that season].”