GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jamari Lattimore has never played inside linebacker at any point in his football career. But this season, in order for Lattimore to be a part of the Green Bay Packers’ active roster, that’s the position where he’ll have to make it happen.
Prior to training camp, the Packers’ coaching staff approached Lattimore about the position change and didn’t wait to get his opinion on the topic before making the move official.
“It’s one of those things, I guess, where they wake up and they want to switch you,” Lattimore said. “No questions asked and I’m not going to ask any. They tell you that’s where you’re going.”
Lattimore played outside linebacker in junior college as a freshman and switched to defensive end once he arrived at Middle Tennessee State.
As an undrafted rookie in 2011, Lattimore was one of Green Bay’s backup outside linebackers, but he made the team mostly based on his ability on special teams. Data from ProFootballFocus.com shows that Lattimore only played 30 snaps on defense last season and that the results were graded out to be a negative overall ranking.
But this year, Lattimore has been making impact plays throughout training camp and has been impressive. From what coach Mike McCarthy has seen so far, the new position has been beneficial for Lattimore’s development.
“I think Jamari’s a little more natural insider linebacker than outside,” McCarthy said. “He’s another individual I’d say from Year 1 to Year 2 has made a jump.”
Lattimore, however, seems to be his own worst critic despite a strong showing during the Packers’ family night scrimmage.
“I don’t feel that good (about my performance), but it’s all right,” Lattimore said. “I would like to make more plays than I did and not make a mistake.”
Overall, though, Lattimore likes his new spot on the field.
“I’m really good at reacting to the ball so it kind of fits into my style of play,” he said.
Before even learning of the position change, Lattimore succeeded in his offseason goal of adding weight to his slight 230-pound frame. Now, Lattimore is playing at a little more than 240 pounds, much closer to the average weight for an NFL linebacker.
“(It’s a) big difference,” Lattimore said. “A lot more oomph and punch when I strike somebody now. I wanted to (add weight) for myself, to feel better on the inside, to hold my own, to stand my ground.”
The secret to Lattimore’s much-needed weight gain was actually quite simple.
“Whatever amount my girlfriend cooked, I ate,” he said. “That pretty much was it.”
As he did last season, Lattimore’s biggest impact on the team this year will likely be on special teams, especially because of Green Bay’s depth at linebacker. The starting inside linebackers in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense are Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, with D.J. Smith and Robert Francois as their top reserves. The Packers also added inside linebacker Terrell Manning in the fifth round of the draft.
There is a relatively significant difference between the two inside linebacker positions in Capers’ defense, with one designated as the ‘mack’ and the other as the ‘buck.’ Lattimore plays the mack linebacker spot, which is where Bishop lines up and is backed up by Smith, who is an emerging star on defense.
But Lattimore isn’t worried about where he fits on the depth chart.
“I don’t pay attention to the roster,” Lattimore said. “I just go out day to day trying to get better each play, each day.”
Though he’ll need to continue his solid play on special teams, Lattimore appears to have the inside track to once again make the Packers’ regular season roster.