Originally written on Packer Update  |  Last updated 11/19/14

Merling was signed by Green Bay earlier in the offseason

The Packers quietly signed Phillip Merling a few weeks after the Dolphins released the veteran defensive end. Based on what I read out of Miami, I was expecting the former Clemson star to be a cross between Jamal Reynolds and Justin Harrell. But after watching four Dolphins games from last season, I’m feeling better about this acquisition.

Don’t get me wrong, Merling is nothing special. He started Miami’s opener at right defensive end, but after jumping offsides on his first play and falling to the ground untouched on his second, he saw only sporadic action the rest of the day. What I saw in that game, and in the other three I watched, was a decent rotational defensive lineman. Merling did an adequate job versus the run when he kept his pad level low, but for some reason he tended to rise off the snap. That’s something defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will obviously be focusing on all summer. As a pass rusher, the 27-year-old didn’t get much pressure on the quarterback, but he did work hard and at least managed to push some guards and centers around a bit.

Merling blew out his Achilles’ tendon in July 2010, so he was only 13 months removed from the injury when he lined up against the New England Patriots to open last season. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how he looked prior to the devastating injury. I decided to watch a few games from 2009 (thanks Game Rewind). I can’t say that Merling played all that much better, but he was definitely a half-step quicker. That enabled him to be slightly more disruptive – both against the run and the pass. To put it simply, the player I saw in ’09 was better than C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Howard Green and Mike Neal. Of course, whether Merling can ever be that player again remains to be seen.

I wish I could’ve seen Merling at last week’s minicamp. Not that how a player looks in shorts means a whole lot, but it would’ve been interesting to see what kind of shape he was in, how he was moving and how much effort he was putting forth. His work ethic – or lack thereof – was one of the reasons Miami gave up on him. If that’s still an issue, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Merling released before training camp even starts. Thompson isn’t going to waste a valuable roster spot on a lazy veteran – not when there are so many hungry young players looking to make the team.

Assuming what I saw last season is what I’ll see in training camp, I give Merling a better than 50/50 chance of making the final roster. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and second-round pick Jerel Worthy are locks to be around in early September, and if healthy, so is fourth-round pick Mike Daniels. That leaves Merling to battle it out with Wilson, Wynn, Lawrence Guy, Daniel Muir and Johnny Jones for what will probably be two spots. Even if he’s no better than he was a year ago, I would give Merling the clear edge over Wynn, Muir and Jones. Wilson is a very similar player, and since he’s younger and cheaper, I think he’ll survive for another season. That means it could ultimately come down to Merling and Guy, a second-year player from Arizona State who missed his entire rookie season with a concussion.

Here’s what one scout service said about Merling four years ago: “Compares to Justin Tuck of the Giants. Both defensive ends will make a nice living coming off the edge. They have impressive size, though Merling is best playing on the move to utilize a sudden initial step to slip past blocks. He is not a good stack-and-control type and must do a better job of protecting himself from low blocks, but he is quick to provide outside run containment and shows a quick swim-and-spin move that generally gets him into the backfield to pressure the pocket. He won’t read and react in an instant, but has closing speed to seal the deal, even in long pursuit, once he locates the ball. He has to improve his lower-body strength, but there is enough athletic ability there to get by as his body continues to mature.”

From being compared to one of the league’s premier all-around defensive linemen to having to battle the likes of Wilson, Wynn and Guy for a roster spot, life in the pros hasn’t been kind to Merling. That said, he still has enough left in the tank to extend his career. If he’s willing to work hard – something he was criticized for not always doing in Miami – there’s a chance this below-the-radar signing in the winter will pay dividends for the Packers in the fall. That’s more than I ever expected prior to turning on my computer and watching a half-dozen Dolphins games last week.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Shanahan interested in coaching next season

Report: Michigan has its eye on several NFL coaches

Report: Titans, Jay Cutler have mutual interest in trade

Phillies GM told Ryan Howard team is better off without him

Report: Browns interested in drafting Marcus Mariota

Chargers keep playoff hopes alive with comeback win

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Robin Lopez responds to Khloe Kardashian dating rumors

Report: Jermaine O'Neal 'intrigued' about joining Mavs

Report: Robert Griffin III likely to return to Redskins

Izzo criticizes coaches, players after embarrassing loss

Report: Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

Is Rampage Jackson heading back to the UFC?

NHL has warned 22 players about diving

Nick Mangold wears NYDP hat to honor fallen officers

Five things we learned from the first day of bowl games

WATCH: South Alabama coach bloodied after kick to the face

Dan Mullen wears funny 'Christmas Vacation' sweater

WATCH: Redskins FB gets in Eagles fan's face after TD

WATCH: Utah runs trick play on first offensive play of game

Mick Cronin misses game with unruptured aneurysm

Steve Alford: Kentucky is best team I've coached against

Peyton Siva jokes that Rick Pitino is in the mob

WATCH: Montrezl Harrell ejected for throwing punch

UNC wearing Jordan-era throwback uniforms

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Shanahan to return to 2015?

Browns interested in drafting Mariota?

Mullen wears funny Christmas sweater

RG3 returning to Redskins?

Tom Izzo hot after bad loss

Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

WATCH: DeSean mocks Eagles

Vick: Winston is the future of the NFL

No NFL team in LA next season?

UNC rocking Jordan-era throwbacks

Reporter asks Rondo awkward question

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.