Every year, there is to at least one or two undrafted free agents that end up making the Green Bay Packers final 53-man roster. Last season Lane Taylor, Chris Banjo and Andy Mulumba all made it after signing with the team as rookie free agents and now it looks like defensive tackle Mike Pennel could be latest to earn his way onto the Packers final roster for the 2014 season.
Pennel, who is an absolute beast of a man, measuring 6-4 and 331 pounds, has impressed thus far in Packers’ training camp and with the absence of Letry Guion and Jerel Worthy due to injury, Pennel is getting more opportunities than expected and is taking advantage.
Pennel, who was once called a “once in 20 years talent” by his former position coach at Arizona State had a different path in getting to Green Bay. After a tumultuous 2012 season that saw him get suspended multiple times, Pennel left the Sun Devils and played his final college season at Division II Colorado State Pueblo, where he started and played 12 games last season.
The Packers are one of the most successful teams in the NFL when it comes to landing quality undrafted free agents and it appears they have found another gem in Pennel, who was particularly impressive in Green Bay’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
Pennel, who is currently fighting for the backup nose tackle spot behind B.J. Raji, notched two tackles against the Titans and both were on run plays where the back was able to gain only a yard. Both times, he shed the block of the center and was able to make the play. The rookie also flashed some pass rush potential. He didn’t end up notching a sack or a pressure but he did get some good push in the middle of the defensive line, which is a valuable skill set.
“The fact that I’m actually doing something a little bit more positive only elevates my confidence I belong here,” Pennel said Monday to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I have the confidence to play at this level, and I know that I want to.”
After his eye-opening 23-snap performance against the Titans, Pennel continued to build on that momentum in practice on Monday, defeating starting center J.C. Tretter in one-on-one pass rush/pass block drills for a sack.
“He’s a big ol’ strong grizzly bear,” said guard Josh Sitton. “He’s probably trying to figure it out, so it makes it a little more difficult. He’s got real good feet. He does look the part.”
Pennel is currently the Packers no.2 on the nose tackle depth chart and if continues to stand out this preseason, there is reason and precedence to believe that the Packers will not hesitate to make him apart of the final 53-man roster for the 2014 season.