Chillar Puts Trust in Staff

Coach Mike McCarthy says Brandon Chillar has been arguably the team's most productive linebacker during training, but can he be a starter once Nick Barnett is healthy? We talked to Chillar after his latest high-impact practice.

Linebacker Brandon Chillar knocked the quarterback to the ground. Only problem is, the quarterback getting up close and personal with the Ray Nitschke Field turf was Aaron Rodgers.

That's about all Chillar has done wrong during training camp. Chillar, who is filling in as a starter on the inside as Nick Barnett gets ready after reconstructive knee surgery, is making his presence felt on a daily basis.

"You could make an argument that Brandon Chillar is our most productive linebacker to this point in training camp," coach Mike McCarthy said.

That's a strong statement considering Chillar figures to wind up on the bench as soon as Barnett is ready.

With former first-round picks Barnett and A.J. Hawk the favorites to man the inside positions, breaking into the starting lineup won't be easy. But Chillar has been so productive and looks so natural in the scheme, that if his strong play continues, a difficult decision could face the coaching staff.

"I guess what I'll tell you is that until that happens, obviously — Nick and A.J. have been here and done a good job," Chillar told Packer Report. "I just want to show that I can play to even put myself in a position like that where they feel like they need to be get on the field. Anything other than that, it's in their hands and I trust them."

That philosophy worked well last year for Chillar. Chillar, signed in free agency after starting 35 games in his previous three seasons in St. Louis, came to Green Bay in hopes of bolstering the linebacking corps' pass coverage. He did just that with a position-high and career-high nine passes defensed. When Barnett tore his ACL against Minnesota in Week 10, Chillar started six of the final seven games (he was inactive with a groin injury for the one game).

Chillar had no experience in the 3-4 and had "no idea" what to expect. So, he did his homework and embraced the challenge.

"I know the 4-3 pretty well," he said, "so I just kind of walked in here with open arms and started looking over the stuff and you see some other guys do it and you're like, ‘Man, you know, I think I can do that.' I was kind of waiting for training camp for the pads to come on to really see if I could do it, and so far, I feel pretty good."

Pretty good, indeed. While Barnett has rehabbed and Hawk appears to be thinking too much at times, Chillar has hit the ground running. On Monday, when running back Ryan Grant thought he found an opening, Chillar flew into the fray to meet Grant at the hole. While coverage remains a strength, he seems to have a knack for rushing the passer, either up the middle or while working in tandem with defensive end Cullen Jenkins.

"He seems very natural in the pressure packages, both base and sub," McCarthy said. "He's someone that can play a number of different positions and can give us flexibility in our coverage schemes. Another instinctive football player, has excellent range. We also expect him to be an impactful player on special teams, but Brandon is having an exceptional training camp."

While the Rams played a 4-3, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett directed an aggressive scheme. So, while the elements of Dom Capers' 3-4 were foreign, the attacking style is not. Judging by the amount of time Chillar has spent making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, being aggressive suits his style.

"I think it has to do with the scheme," Chillar said. "Last year, we couldn't just dive in there. You had to hold coverage and stuff like that. I think the scheme is more aggressive and that's what lets me loose a little bit more.

"I definitely like to attack."

That's what he's been doing throughout camp. On a pass play on Monday, it was like Chillar was shot out of a cannon as he blitzed up the middle. While he was picked up by Kregg Lumpkin, Chillar's pressure forced the quarterback out of the pocket. Moments earlier, Hawk was supposed to blitz but merely danced at the line of scrimmage with a lineman.

If Chillar keeps this up, some serious questions are going to have to be answered by the coaches.

"I obviously want to play," said Chillar, who's also a special teams standout. "Being a team player, you've got to accept your role. Whatever it is, I'll try to do good at it."

At the same time, Chillar downplays the talk by pointing out the obvious.

"You've got to do it on Sunday. We'll wait and see what happens," Chillar said.

Chillar's father, Ram, was born in India and lived there until he was 18, and Chillar is the first player of Indian descent in NFL history. It's an honor, he said.

"That means that I try to play for them and show them that if they want to play football, they can," Chillar said. "My dad's from India, and if they can look up to me and see that I did it, more power to them. I hope they use me as an inspiration."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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