Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations – Defense – B.J. Raji
1) Introduction: I remember being disappointed when the Green Bay Packers drafted B.J. Raji ninth overall in 2009. I really wanted the Packers to take OL Michael Oher. The ninth spot might have been a little high for Oher, but I hated Green Bay’s offensive line. Midway through the season, I looked like a genius. Aaron Rodgers was getting pummeled, the Packers were playing musical chairs at LT, and Raji was fighting nagging injuries while trying to figure out if he was a DE or NT. Boy how times have changed. Raji moved to NT permanently this season and became the anchor of the Packers’ 3-4 defense. Raji is difficult to move out of the way when run blocking, and also provides a pass rush up the middle — a rarity for 3-4 NT. And one more thing: Oher may have a book and movie about his life, but Raji has a nickname, “The Freezer,” and a dance that’s sweeping the nation.
Busari J. Raji Jr.
Height: 6-2 Weight: 334 lbs.
3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: High. 2010 was Raji’s time to step up. If the Packers were going to get the most out of their still new 3-4 defense, they needed a big season from Raji. Raji met those initial expectations, but then those expectations changed. Injuries to Cullen Jenkins, Mike Neal, Ryan Pickett, and Justin Harrell left the Packers thin on the defensive line at various points this season. The Packers asked Raji to do even more — to be more disruptive and to consistently get after the quarterback. Raji did not shy away from the revised expectations and turned in a breakout season.
4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Highlights included sacking Tom Brady twice in week 14, his pick-six in the NFC Championship, and solidifying the up-the-middle run defense (along with Howard Green) while Dom Capers figured out what to do at linebacker. Lowlights were a lackluster Super Bowl against the Steelers backup center and occasionally disappearing early in the season.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: High. There really is no weakness to Raji’s game. Yes, he became invisible at times early in the season and in the Super Bowl, but lets not forget how many snaps he took. The Packers were extremely thin up front at times, but were able to hold their own because of Raji. I’m sure fatigue bothered him off and on, but it did not slow him down too much.
6) Player’s contributions during the 6-win end-of-season run: Youtube sensation. Raji turned into perhaps the NFL’s best NT over the final six games. Offenses were forced to run counters and misdirection plays to avoid him. Quarterbacks had to deal with the big guy falling into their laps while collapsing the pocket. Unike a lot of 3-4 NTs, Raji could not be neutralized by simply passing all the time. He’s versatile enough that he impacts your gameplanning on offense no matter how you try and avoid him. Oh yeah, his pick-six — followed by the dance and the title belt — in the NFC Championship game gets my vote for play of the year.
Season Report Card:
(A) Level of expectations met during the season
(B+ ) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(A-) Contributions to team’s success during the playoff run (last 6 games)
Final Grade: A-——————