GREEN BAY - If the Green Bay Packers didn’t think they had something with rookie linebacker Chris Odom, they wouldn’t have kept him on the roster for 16 games last season with a total of 59 snaps played.
What they saw in practice Tuesday had to validate their decision some.
Odom won’t get the benefit of the prospect label this time around, which made his performance even more important. On the fifth day of practice, Odom spent a good deal of it in the backfield, showing he could be a good fit for the hybrid end/linebacker position in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense.
“I’ve been here since the season, so it’s time for me to show my improvement I made,” Odom said. “I think today was a step forward. I think it just goes to the improvements I made ever since training camp has started.
“I just have to keep on making improvements. Today wasn’t perfect.”
When the Packers claimed Odom off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons, he was a 6-4, 273-pound defensive end. The scouting department looked at him as someone who could slim down and play outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.
Odom didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do last year. He was inactive for seven games and did not play in two others. Most of his action came on special teams.
Over the offseason, Odom went to work on preparing himself for Pettine’s defense, which could be in a 3-4 one week and 4-3 the next week. It means some of the outside linebackers are going to play a defensive end position in certain four-down alignments, so Odom wanted to make sure he was quick enough to play outside and strong enough to play inside.
He dropped 20 pounds and the improvement in his pass rush was evident in practice.
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“Now that I’ve been an outside linebacker, I know how to do both,” he said. “So I know how to be a hand-down true defensive end in certain situations or I can stand up and be an outside linebacker.
“(It helps to be) a universal player. The more knowledge you have, the more you’re worth.”
When Nick Perry returns from PUP, he will see a lot of time at the hybrid “end” position in the four-down linemen look. Clay Matthews will play there some, too. Given both players’ injury history, the backup position is going to be key and Odom would like to be next in line.
He’s battling Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert for a roster spot and so he has little time to waste. Getting into the backfield numerous times – he beat veteran tackle Byron Bell cleanly twice in three plays during a team drill -- is a good way to show the coaches you deserve to be on the field.
“I definitely feel quicker,” Odom said. “I feel light. I haven’t been this light since freshman year in college. It feels great moving around. I just like the weight I’m at right now."
“I can do speed or I can use power. I’m able to do both, so that keeps them (opposing offensive linemen) guessing.”