Going inside? Packers could target linebacker position again
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Coach Mike McCarthy sought size at the line of scrimmage. General manager Ted Thompson drafted bulk.
Four linemen, two on each side of the ball, taken by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL draft this weekend should satisfy the coach.
''I think first off when you look at the big men that have been drafted, there's definitely, in my opinion, a desire to get bigger. So we've accomplished that,'' McCarthy said Saturday after the Packers made the last of their seven picks this weekend.
Fittingly, that man was 6-foot-7, 301-pound left tackle Kyle Murphy, who was taken in the sixth round. He joins 6-7, 305-pound Jason Spriggs in the Packers' draft class, a left tackle from Indiana selected in the second round on Friday.
In the short term, they'll provide depth on a starting five that could be one of the best in the game when healthy. Their main job is to protect two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
But depth was tested last season, because of injuries to the line. Long term, Spriggs, especially, is insurance at a position in which the contracts of three starters expire after this season.
On the other side of the ball, veteran tackle B.J. Raji's self-described ''hiatus'' from the game left the Packers with a gaping offseason hole in the middle of the line. Emerging backup Mike Pennel's four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy complicates roster decisions.
The Packers took 6-3, 310-pound tackle Kenny Clark from UCLA in the first round on Thursday to help fill the gap. In the fourth round, they added Northewestern's Dean Lowry, a 6-6, 290-pound end.
Director of football operations Eliot Wolf viewed Lowry as primarily as a hand-in-the-dirt lineman in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, though he liked his athleticism and flexibility.
Together, Murphy and the three other linemen drafted weigh more than 1,200 pounds.
''It's a big man's game,'' McCarthy said. ''When you get into a season, when you look at challenges that you have during the season, you have to make sure you take care of things up front.''
The Packers' first pick on the third day of the draft was fourth-rounder Blake Martinez, a linebacker who was teammates with Murphy at Stanford.
Martinez looked at depth charts to try to figure out which team might need inside linebacker help. The Packers fit that description with McCarthy planning to use Clay Matthews more outside again this season, after the long-haired linebacker spent much of the last two seasons shoring up the defense on the inside.
''Clay prefers to play outside,'' Wolf said. ''Anytime you can add someone to facilitate that, that's a good thing.''
Still, Martinez's father wasn't convinced. He bought gear for all 32 teams, just to be safe, so Martinez would be ready for his post-draft picture.
His mother had other ideas.
''She was always telling me throughout the process, she was like, `I believe you're going to end up at the Packers,''' Martinez said. ''And obviously it was just a lucky guess type of thing. ... My mom said right after, `Moms are always right.'''
The 6-foot-2 Martinez will look to compete for playing time with returnees Jake Ryan, a fourth-round pick last year, and Sam Barrington, who missed most of last season with a foot injury.
An NFL.com scouting report listed Martinez with a 40-yard dash time of 4.71 seconds. It's a fraction of a second quicker than Alabama's Reggie Ragland, who was taken in the second round by Buffalo, and had been thought to be a potential first-round pick for the Packers. That speed should help if the Packers look at Martinez as a potential linebacker on passing downs to cover tight ends down the seam.
The Packers' other picks this weekend:
THIRD ROUND: The selection of Utah State outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell on Friday appears to make it less likely that veteran free agent Mike Neal will return to the team, though general manager Ted Thompson didn't dismiss the possibility entirely on Saturday evening.
FIFTH ROUND: The West Coast connection continued in the round with the selection of Trevor Davis out of California. The 6-2 receiver was clocked by the Packers as having run the 40-yard dash at about 4.3 seconds.
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