As I wrote last December, Mike Neal has certainly fallen well short of expectations in his career with the Green Bay Packers thus far.
Before I get into specifics of where I think Mike Neal is headed, I’d like to offer up some facts about defensive tackles or defensive ends picked in the top 3 rounds of the draft from 2000-2012 to make my case.
A History of Packers’ Top Round Draft Picks At Defensive Tackle & Defensive End – 2000-2012
Steve Warren – Drafted in 3rd round of the 2000 draft, nursed injuries for most of his time with the Packers, was released after failing his physical in 2003.
Seasons w/ Packers: 3
Games Played: 25
Jamal Reynolds – An undersized defensive end, Reynolds was picked at #10 overall in the 2001 draft by Mike Sherman. Reynolds had bad luck with injuries, but when he did play, he made little or no impact. Packers kept him for 3 seasons.
“Injuries and the emergence of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, however, prevented Reynolds from playing the first ten games of his rookie season. He finished his rookie season with four tackles and 2 sacks. On July 8, 2004, after two seasons in which Reynolds totaled only three sacks and played in only 13 games, the Packers attempted to trade Reynolds to the Indianapolis Colts.” More
Seasons w/ Packers: 3
Games Played: 18
Kenny Peterson – Drafted by Mike Sherman in the 3rd round in 2003. Lasted 3 seasons before getting cut. More
Season w/ Packers: 3
Games Played: 34
Donnell Washington – Drafted in the 3rd round by Mike Sherman in 2004. Never played a season game and was released after two seasons. More
Seasons w/ Packers: 2
Games Played: 0
Justin “Hot Tub” Harrell – Ted Thompson was booed when he drafted unknown Harrell at #16 overall in the 2007 draft. Battled injury for the entire duration of his tenure with the Packers. Spent all of 2009 on IR. Lasted 4 seasons.
“Harrell took part in only limited drills with the Packers in their organized team activities (OTA) practices as a result of the torn biceps tendon suffered while playing for Tennessee. Harrell was cleared to practice with the team at the preseason camp which began July 28. Harrell immediately drew criticism for showing up to OTA and Training Camp his rookie season out of shape and slightly overweight.”
“As of the conclusion of the 2010 season, Harrell had participated in just 14 regular season games over four seasons. He was released on July 28, 2011.” More
Seasons w/ Packers: 4
Games Played: 14
Mike Neal – Drafted in the 2nd round by Ted Thompson in 2010. A “weight room warrior”, but has played in only 9 games thus far. Has continuously battled injury but has underperformed when he has played.
Seasons w/ Packers: 2 (2012 is 3rd season)
Games Played: 9
Jerel Worthy – Drafted in the 2nd round by Ted Thompson in 2012. Far too early to form an opinion.
Seasons w/ Packers: 0 (2012 is rookie season)
Games Played: 4
(above stats are as of 10/4/2012)
What have we learned?
- Not one DT/DE player drafted by the Packers in the top 3 rounds in the past 12 years had any sort of real success. (Worthy excluded)
- Failed DT/DE experiments in Green Bay last about 3 years.
- Perhaps talent at the DT/DE position is hard to gauge. If that’s the case then I say just don’t draft DT’s or DE’s in the first three rounds. Period.
- Don’t offer DT’s or DE’s long-term contracts (anything longer than 2 yrs) until they’ve proven they’re worth their salt. In my opinion 3 years is too long to wait for talent to emerge.
Last Chance for Mike Neal
As Neal returns to the team from his 4-game suspension, I have strong suspicions that this will be it for him. First, I have doubts that he will make it through the season without injury. He’s just one of those guys who never seems to get out of the tub. Second, I have not seen any reason to think he can be any sort of factor when he is in the game. So far his tremendous strength and physical attributes have not translated to football talent or playmaking ability.
For me, Mike’s own words have summed up for me what kind of player he is and what sort of impact he can bring:
“I don’t care about tackles, I don’t care about sacks. … Just to be able to play is enough.”
Neal also admitted this week to sleeping through part of the Packer game. That definitely raised my eyebrows when I read that. However, in all fairness, Neal also did tweet about how proud is was to be a Packer and of the professionalism of Coach McCarthy after the Seahawks game, and I did respect that.
My verdict is that Neal sometimes has the right things to say and has a positive outlook on life, but is not hungry to win or to make an impact, and that, for me, is a huge problem.
Mike Neal is in year 3 of his career with the Green Bay Packers, and although his contract expires at the end of 2013, my guess is the Packers will be done with him at the end of this season if he doesn’t perform.