At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Birdine has ideal size to play either strong- or weak-side defensive end in the NFL. After missing most of the 2005 season with a torn left biceps, Birdine started 13 games for the Sooners at strong-side defensive end where he earned All-Big 12 Conference first-team honors. Birdine had 39 tackles (17 solos), three sacks and 7.5 stops for losses. He also picked off a pass, deflected seven others and recovered two fumbles.
The Packers often inserted Birdine at the strong-side position during the team's off-season mini-camps and Organized Team Activities practices. Aaron Kampman is the starter at the strong-side position and is backed up by Michael Montgomery, who finished last season on the team's injured reserve list with hamstring and knee injuries.
Green Bay's top pass-rushing ends include Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Kampman, Jenkins and Gbaja-Biamila are locks to make the team, but Montgomery, an inch taller and the same weight as Birdine, will have to continue to show flashes of his play-making ability in order to serve at the fourth defensive end. He also has to show that he has overcome his injuries from last season. If he doesn't, and Birdine shows flashes of his play-making potential, he'll have a good chance to make the 53-man roster.
It will be close call between Montgomery and Birdine, and an interesting battle to watch in camp. Second-year pro Jason Hunter also will be in the mix. At 6-foot-4, 250, Hunter a former linebacker, is smaller than Birdine and Montgomery, but he was around most of last season, playing in 14 games, mainly on special teams. He displayed his above-average quickness in camp last year to make the team as a non-drafted free agent, but he'll have to have a better camp this year to beat out Birdine and Montgomery.
The knock on Birdine is his work ethic, according to some draft analysts. If he can shed that label by working hard in the weight room and practices with the Packers, he will increase his chances of making the team. For a guy whose half-brother is linebacker Jason Gildon, chances are he knows what it takes to earn a job in the NFL. Birdine's biceps injury in '05 likely affected his draft status as well.
Birdine is a longshot to make the team, but a sleeper who could eventually surface as a future starter in the same fashion as Jenkins.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.