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, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers‘ defense needs someone to step up behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry at outside linebacker.
Reggie Gilbert is starting to make his move. After a strong showing during the team’s preseason-opening victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, Gilbert got extensive work with the starting defense in practice Sunday, the first time the team was back on the field.
Gilbert lined up at outside linebacker in the base defense opposite Matthews, as Perry remains on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury. Until Sunday, Kyler Fackrell had gotten nearly all of those first-team snaps with Matthews in Perry’s place.
Gilbert, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona in 2016, spent most of the past two years on the Packers’ practice squad before a call-up to the 53-man roster for the final two games last year.
Facing Minnesota and Detroit, Gilbert registered four quarterback pressures and three quarterback hits on the Vikings’ Case Keenum and earned his first NFL sack against the Lions’ Matthew Stafford.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way since I got here and am definitely improving. I feel like I’m improving with every session we get as far as in practice or every year in every game,” said Gilbert, who was a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in college and had to learn to be a standup outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. “I feel like I’m learning new things. Clay, Nick and everybody, they’re all helping bring us along.”
Despite unproven depth behind Matthews and Perry — and the two veterans’ history of injuries — the Packers eschewed signing any edge rushers in free agency and didn’t spend any of their high draft picks on the position, either. The only draft choice at outside linebacker was seventh-rounder Kendall Donnerson from Southeast Missouri State.
During the offseason, Packers coach Mike McCarthy raved about Gilbert, saying in part: “It’s incredible what he’s done in his time here. You talk about a guy that has done everything and has taken advantage of every resource that’s been available to him. I mean, in my mind he’s already taken the second-year jump.”
With Matthews sitting for the preseason opener, the 6-foot-3 [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-t.j.-jones-jersey]T.J
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“We’re all hungry. We’re all working hard trying to make plays. I definitely feel like all of us have come a long way and are still improving,” Gilbert said.
NOTES: After facing the Titans without 18 players who didn’t suit up for the game, the Packers got back some of their injured guys on Sunday, including All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle); tight end Jimmy Graham (knee); wide receiver Randall Cobb (ankle); cornerbacks Kevin King (shoulder) and Jaire Alexander (groin); running back Aaron Jones (hamstring); and defensive linemen Mike Daniels (quad) and Muhammad Wilkerson (groin). Bakhtiari, King and Daniels only did individual drills and were held out of team periods. . Bakhtiari said the limited work was encouraging. “(We) just wanted to see the progression. Obviously they want to integrate me back in — don’t want to just throw me in right away — but everything felt good.”
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — An 0-4 start put the Los Angeles Chargers in a hole too deep to escape last season.
Coach Anthony Lynn wants his new team to spend September building instead of digging.
The first few weeks of this season are particularly important to Lynn and the Chargers, a popular pick to win the AFC West and to earn their franchise’s second postseason appearance since 2009.
The Bolts went 9-3 after their dismal start to their relocation season, but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. Lynn seems confident his veteran players learned the importance of early season urgency from last year’s setbacks.
“We’ll see how we start, but hopefully we start faster than we did last year,” Lynn said Monday after the Chargers began preparations for Sunday’s home opener against Kansas City.
The Chargers weren’t exactly terrible to begin last season: Three of those four losses were by seven total points, and the Chargers were undone twice by missed field goals in the final seconds. But they didn’t match the level of play they hit frequently later in the year , when the NFL’s top passing offense and an aggressive defense combined to turn the Bolts into one of the NFL’s best teams.
“You can’t take wins and losses from last season,” Lynn said. “I wish you could, but you can’t. But you can certainly bring the culture over, and I like the attitude of the players.”
The Chargers also feel they’ve got a reliable kicker after last season’s missteps. The team that cycled through four kickers last season is going with Caleb Sturgis, who was the champion Philadelphia Eagles’ kicker at the start of last season before getting hurt and missing the bulk of the year.
The Chargers also appear to be getting healthy after several regulars were slowed by injuries during the preseason.
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“My only concern is a boxer needs so many sparring rounds before you go fight, and these guys have been out,” Lynn said. “So getting them caught up and back in the fold is my only concern.”
Tight end Antonio Gates was in the locker room after signing a one-year deal to return for his 16th season with the Chargers, but he won’t return to practice until Wednesday. Lynn is waiting to evaluate the 38-year-old star’s readiness before he determines Gates’ role this weekend.
“I just want to see his conditioning,” Lynn said. “I don’t want to put him in a position where he goes out there and hurts himself, and that sets us back four or five weeks. I just don’t see us doing that. But Antonio, he’s a pro. He’ll let me know how he feels at the end of the week and about how his pitch count can be, and we’ll talk about it.”
Kansas City will be a particular challenge right away for the Chargers, who were beaten soundly twice by the AFC West champions last year. Kansas City essentially sewed up the division with a 30-13 home victory over Los Angeles on Dec. 16 — the Chargers’ only loss in seven games to close the season.
Nearly every playmaker from last season’s team is back, and they all remember how it felt to be playing catch-up all season long.
“We definitely want to get it going from the start this year, and not wait to get to where we need to go,” running back Melvin Gordon said recently. “We’ve got to be ready.”