Camp Preview: By Numbers at ILB

We look at one key player, one darkhorse, one new face and one player on the bubble, plus provide some numbers you might not know about the Packers' inside linebackers.

One key player: A.J. Hawk went from not playing at all on defense in Week 1 at Philadelphia to being a stalwart after Nick Barnett went down. As the every-down guy at the position and the signal-caller for the defense, Hawk must build upon his superb 2010 campaign.

One darkhorse: Elijah "Peanut" Joseph might have gone as early as the fifth round, according to a source, if not for a late-season knee injury that required surgery and kept him from running before the draft. He's healthy and ready to go now, though. Joseph is a downhill, hard-hitting linebacker who will compete for a roster spot because of potential value on special teams.

One on the bubble: Brandon Chillar, even as the unit's only veteran backup, could be on thin ice. He says he's healthy but three operations on his right shoulder are an issue. He's missed 18 games (including playoffs) in his three seasons in Green Bay.

One new face: The Packers used the second of their three sixth-round picks on pint-sized Appalachian State linebacker D.J. Smith. How will he succeed at just 5-foot-11 and 239 pounds and make the transition from small-school sensation? "Because he's got a feel and instinct," Packers director of college scouting John Dorsey said. "I'm sure it's scheme a little bit but at the linebacker position, it's all about production. What you have there is you have an instinctive player that's going to come in and compete on special teams and in a backup capacity on regular downs. Now, he's just got to come in and compete on special teams and be versatile enough to play both inside linebacker positions and prove to the coaches he can play both inside linebacker positions."

0: Percent of plays in which Hawk was on the field in the season opener against Philadelphia.

97.7: Percent of plays in which Hawk was on the field in the final 19 games, according to Pro Football Focus. In the final 15 games, he was out of the lineup on just one snap.

3: Number of interceptions last season by Hawk, tied for the most among all NFL linebackers.

6: Games of double-digits tackles by Desmond Bishop in his 16 total starts. He had just three games of fewer than eight tackles. Plus, he broke up 10 passes — good for fourth on the team — despite being the linebacker removed in nickel situations.

6: Forced fumbles in four seasons by Bishop while making just 17 starts, including playoffs. Hawk has forced two fumbles in five seasons covering 83 total starts. Barnett, for the record, made 113 starts and forced two fumbles.

525: Tackles in four seasons by Smith. Among Football Championship Subdivision players, only one defender had more tackles since 2000 (Illinois State's Boomer Grigsby had 550 from 2001 through 2004).

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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