Packers Talk to Inside Linebacker

Kim Klement (USA Today Sports)

Given the state of the Packers' inside linebacking corps, it's no surprise they're digging into the group at the Scouting Combine. This SEC linebacker, who had a formal interview with the team, put up impressive numbers on the football field and in the classroom.

The Green Bay Packers' inside linebacker corps is a jumble, with A.J. Hawk's lucrative contract, Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith coming off season-ending injuries, and Brad Jones (unrestricted) and Robert Francois (restricted) headed toward free agency.

To that end, the Packers' scouts and coaching staff will be keen observers when the linebackers work out at Lucas Oil Stadium here in Indianapolis on Monday.

The Packers got a jump-start on their homework by hosting Florida's Jelani Jenkins for a formal interview, he told Packer Report on Sunday evening.

Jenkins (6-0, 243), who bypassed his senior season with Florida, was a five-star recruit and the No. 1-ranked weakside linebacker in the nation coming out of Our Lady Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., where he twice was the Gatorade State Player of the Year. In three seasons with the Gators, he started 31 games and tallied 182 tackles (109 solo), 16.5 tackles for losses, six sacks, seven passes defensed, three interceptions and a forced fumble.

His junior year, however, was a disappointment. He was limited to nine games after sustaining a broken thumb early in the season and a broken foot late in the season. He recorded only 29 tackles, five tackles for losses and two sacks. The big highlight – and the highlight of his career—was returning a blocked punt for a touchdown with 2 seconds to go to shock Louisiana-Lafayette.

Nonetheless, Jenkins decided the time was right to make the jump to the NFL.

"There are risks and rewards for every position – whether to stay or whether to leave," he explained. "I talked to my family and I feel like the opportunity is there and I'm definitely ready with the coaching I've had. There's risk of me coming back and hurting my stock even more if something bad happened or I get injured. So, it's just the opportunity."

He'll do his position workout on Monday and save the physical testing for the Gators' pro day on March 12. Scouts, he said, will like what they see.

"I would say my diversity in terms of strength and speed (is his strength)," he said. "I think I have a good balance of both. I would also say my intelligence. I'm able to pick up on stuff real well, and I think that's another one of my strengths that help me out in the game."

The intelligence is evident from his days at Our Lady Good Counsel, when he was a 4.0 student. At Florida, he said his GPA is about 3.2 and he's 12 credits short of earning his degree.

Intelligence is a major asset at linebacker. Hawk (in base and nickel) and Jones (in dime) are the Packers' defensive quarterbacks.

"I think a lot of coaches are looking for whoever they draft to be able to come in and learn the system pretty fast. I think that's one of my talents," Jenkins said.


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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.

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