Perhaps the biggest story during Green Bay’s offseason was its transition to a 3-4 defense, and that story’s biggest subplot was whether Aaron Kampman was happy with the move to outside linebacker and whether he would fit at his new position.
Kampman jumped on board with the transaition, but he’s had a tougher time producing in the new scheme.
Through four games, Kampman only has one sack. He is fifth on the team in tackles with 21 and has forced a fumble.
As pointed out in Josh Alper’s one-liners this morning, and in a pair of articles this week, playcalling is hurting Kampman’s numbers. Kampman is being asked to drop into pass coverage often. In Green Bay’s most recent game, he was in coverage one-third of the time.
Jon Gruden criticized the Packers on Monday Night Football, saying Kampman looked uncomfortable in his new role and the team wasn’t playing to his strengths. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was asked this week for a response to Gruden.
“I’d say we’ve been in kind of a transitional stage. We’ve asked Aaron to do a lot of things that he hasn’t done before. But I think he’s totally capable of doing them,” Capers said. “And what we’ve asked him to do I think he’s done a good job of. I’m not overly concerned about the production. I think the bottom line is, at the end of the season, you’ll see a lot of production.”
Kampman hopes so because he is heading into free agency next offseason at age 30. He was asked this week if Green Bay’s scheme makes it less likely that he’ll stay with the Packers.
“That has to do with the business side of things. In my opinion that’s not something I need to make any statements about at this point in time,” Kampman said.
Kampman is saying the right things, but the next 12 games will decide his fate for beyond 2009. The Packers probably won’t give him a huge deal to stay as an outside linebacker unless he quickly transitions to his new role.
Even if the Packers want to keep Kampman, teams around the NFL will look at his film from before 2008, and see a rare elite pass-rushing defender on the open market.
And barring the Packers placing the franchise tag on him, it’s hard to imagine Kampman won’t see an offer from a team other than Green Bay that he can’t refuse.