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Thompson Fills Voids with Third Round Picks ?

Discussion in 'Green Bay Packers Fan Forum' started by WinnipegPackFan, Apr 30, 2006.

  1. WinnipegPackFan

    WinnipegPackFan Cheesehead

    Likes Received:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Thompson fills some voids with third round picks
    Hodge, Spitz are expected to contribute
    [email protected]
    Posted: April 29, 2006

    Green Bay - In a very busy first day for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL draft, general manager Ted Thompson wheeled and dealed to get two picks in the third round.

    Abdul Hodge (52), getting in on the action against Illinois last year, provides depth at linebacker.

    The Packers had their original 67th pick and then acquired a 75th pick in a draft-day trade with New England. They sent a third round, 93rd overall pick they got in another draft-day trade with Atlanta, to St. Louis Saturday evening.

    By day's end, Thompson added inside linebacker Abdul Hodge from Iowa and center Jason Spitz from Louisville and suddenly the Packers had depth - albeit young - at linebacker and offensive line.

    "Today went well," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson. "It did address some positions that we needed a little more help in. But, these are the best players that we had on our board."

    The Hodge name might be familiar - his younger brother Elijah was a freshman linebacker at Wisconsin in 2005. The elder Hodge, playing inside linebacker for the Hawkeyes, averaged 13.2 tackles per game last season, fourth highest in the NCAA. Though he's not as tall and not as heavy - he has been reported anywhere between 5-foot-11 inches to and 6-½ and is 233 pounds - he is known as a physical tackler who can uproot the man with the ball.

    "My main thing is production," Hodge said. "The mean streak I play with makes up for all the things that I don't have, and that's height. . . . I don't weigh 240 like a lot of other inside linebackers, but I make up for it in other parts of my game. I have a strong lower body and a strong punch that allows me to get oft blockers and not rely on my weight."

    In his career at Iowa, Hodge caused six fumbles and deflected seven passes - a desirable quality to the Packers, who have worsened in the give-away, take-away category in recent years.

    "One thing that stands out about Hodge is that he can get the ball out, he can be an impact tackler," said Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss.

    Expected to start minicamp next week at middle linebacker, Hodge joins Nick Barnett, Roy Manning and first- round pick A.J. Hawk among others, and seems willing to move around if need be to get on the field.

    Thompson said he was impressed that Hodge never left the field at Iowa and said it was conceivable that he could be a starter, and not just a special teams guy, in 2006.

    "You never know how that's going to work out, we're going to play the best three linebackers," Thompson said. "It's conceivable, sure."

    Spitz was a starter at guard for three and a half years but was drafted by the Packers with the idea of playing center at least at first. His only experience at center is in spring ball and training camp practice in college, but an injury to another player forced him to play at left guard in 2005, according to Packers offensive line coach Joe Philbin.

    The Packers have lost three key players on the offensive line to free agency since the end of the 2004 season - Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle and Mike Flanagan - so there is a great need at the position. It's not easy to break in as a rookie, as Will Whitticker learned last season, but Spitz feels capable to learn the system quickly.

    "I was not too aware of (the lineman turnover) but that's good news for me I guess," Spitz said. "Really, all I could hope for this weekend was to get a chance and the Packers are giving me a chance.

    "I have no problem learning anything so I think as far as the intellectual standpoint, I will be on the same ground. Obviously this is the NFL and I've got to work at making the team."

    Philbin said that Scott Wells was the starting center to beat at the moment, which for now means Spitz is fighting for a backup role if at center. At guard, there in more uncertainty, but Philbin would not rule out Spitz as a potential starter, either.

    "It's a little premature, we have to spend some time with them and find out exactly where they are," said Philbin. "We've evaluated them hard on tape and we have a good feel for them from the film, but until you get with a guy and spend a ton of time with him, and kind of validate what you saw on film, you test his competitiveness on the field, how he responds, you certainly would hope that you would get some production and some minutes out of these guys but I hesitate to project how many minutes or how many snaps right now."

    With Spitz and tackle Daryn Colledge, Thompson sees two versatile players who can move around the line to fill needs at guard and center.

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