Help wanted at linebacker

The parade of linebackers out of Green Bay this season has left a few holes in the defense. Veteran Hardy Nickerson didn't live up to expectations. Nate Wayne was there when the Pack needed him in 2002, but won't be next season. Some may feel bewildered at the confusion surrounding Na'il Diggs' status; a chance to lock him up slipped away and now Green Bay has until March 30 to match the Lions' offer sheet.<p> Free agency will help fill the void, but will it be enough?<P>

A few months ago, linebacker was not a position linked with the Packers' early-round draft prospects.

Now, that may change. If Green Bay does go that route in the draft, they could be in position to shop amongst these prospects:

One of the best performances in the Combine came from Mars Hill product Khalid Abdullah. After running reasonably well in the 40 (4.64), Abdullah displayed outstanding range, footwork and pass cover skills; all necessities for a 227-pound linebacker.

Oregon State's Nick Barnett was explosive and erased some doubts about his size. There was some concern that Barnett was too small and would have to be moved to safety (his college playing weight was in the 220-pound area). After tipping the scales at 236 pounds, running a 4.65 then performing the way he did during drills, Barnett not only proved he could stay at linebacker but boosted his stock.

Scott Shanle had a solid day displaying quick feet and speed moving laterally. Other standouts were Angelo Crowell and Purdue's Joe Odom.


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