Category Archives: Defensive Line

28

March

Xs and Os: Do the Packers Have an Elephant in the Room?

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

When the Green Bay Packers signed defensive end Julius Peppers in free agency, lots of speculation about his future role with the team erupted.

We heard rumors circulating about a possible deployment of a “hybrid defense” and the “elephant end” position.

The reason for this speculation is Packers’ defensive Dom Capers employs a base 3-4 defense, which utilizes 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers.

However, Peppers is a 4-3 defensive end. The 4-3 defense utilizes 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers.

Because of this alignment difference, the defensive ends between both schemes have different body types and responsibilities.

Typically, 4-3 defensive ends are usually between 260-285 pounds and are long, fluid athletes. On the other hand, 3-4 defensive ends are between 300-340 pounds and are more of the wrecking ball type.

The reason for these different body types has to do with defensive gap control.

Gap control is how the defense puts its players in proper position, mainly for stopping the running game, but also secondarily when establishing pass rushing lanes.

The 3-4 defense typically uses a double gap system, meaning that each defender in the front 7 is responsible for defending 2 gaps in the offensive formation.

This is very much a read and react system where each player anticipates where the ball will go and move to that location as the play develops. At the snap of the ball, the defensive linemen stand up their blockers, clog the position, and move to the lane where the ball is.

Linebackers also have double control and flow to the ball as the runner hits the lane.

Legend: T = Tackle G = Guard C = Center TE = Tight end DE = Defensive end NT = Nose tackle S = Sam (strong side linebacker) M = Mike (middle linebacker) W = Will (weak side linebacker) J = Jack linebacker

Legend:
T = Tackle, G = Guard, C = Center, TE = Tight end, DE = Defensive end, NT = Nose tackle, S = Sam (strong side linebacker), M = Mike (middle linebacker), W = Will (weak side linebacker), J = Jack linebacker

The 3-4 defense relies on strength to control the gaps, which is why the defensive linemen are large. However, the Jack linebacker, such as Clay Matthews, is free to roam and do damage over a large portion of the field, including rushing the passer.

In contrast, the 4-3 defense is traditionally a single gap defense, which means each front 7 defender controls only 1 lane.

Legend: DT = Defensive tackle

Legend:
DT = Defensive tackle

21

March

What To Make Of Julius Peppers’ Contract

The poster boy of why total contract value is overrated.

For all you Packers fans that were hoping for a big name free agent splash, Ted Thompson would like to introduce you to one Julius Peppers, a guy you might have seen around on the Bears and the Panthers before.  Some of you (including a fair proportion of our dear commentors) will never be happy because Peppers has never played in a 3-4 scheme, no one really knows exactly what his role will be outside of rushing the passer, has a long injury history and he’s 34 with a motor that’s starting to get cold (you do know that experienced and old usually go hand in hand right?).  Well if you want to know what the Packers are going to do with Peppers, this isn’t the article for you. What this article will be looking into is not how Peppers will fit on the field, but how Peppers fits in the Packers salary cap.

As I’ve mentioned before in my previous article, the media and fans often fixate on the total value of the contract, which is probably the least important piece of information.  One only has to remember how Donovan McNabb’s 5-year $88 million contract with the Redskins turned out to be more $3.75 million which he actually earned.  Ironically, this is also probably the best example to use for Pepper’s contract with the Packers.

Julius Pepper signs 3-year, $30 million contract with the Packers (courtesy of Over The Cap)

2014: $1 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus

2015: $8.5 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

2016: $7 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

17

March

Packers Add Veteran Defensive Tackle

Letroy Guion

Defensive tackle Letroy Guion and the Packers have reportedly agreed on a one-year deal

According to a few sources, including ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Green Bay Packers have come to an agreement with free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion.  The deal is reported to be for one year.  Terms have not yet been disclosed.

Guion most recently was with the Minnesota Vikings.  Typically at this time of year, we’re talking about former Packers who have become Vikings and this time, the Packers are on the receiving end of such a transaction.

Guion was a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2008 and will turn 27 this summer.  He has appeared in at least 13 games in each of the past four seasons.  2013 appeared to be one of Guion’s more productive years as he tallied a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defended along with three tackles for no gain or a loss.

With Guion’s deal only being for one year, it’s far from a certainty that he will be on the team when this season begins.  Two years ago, the Packers signed veteran defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, albeit under different circumstances, and he was unable to crack the team’s final roster.

The move could also signal the Packers’ intentions with regards to Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, both of whom are unrestricted free agents and who have spent the majority of their careers with the Packers.  Pickett has said that he wants to return this season and so far, does not appear to have received much attention on the market.  Jolly was just recently cleared to begin working out after neck fusion surgery in January.

This is the second outside free agent move in the past three days after the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson were quiet on the first few days of the new league year.  On Saturday, news broke that the Packers had signed defensive end Julius Peppers to a three-year deal.

Keep it right here at allgbp.com for more updates and (dare I say?) signings by the Packers.

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

12

March

NFL Free Agency: Green Bay Packers Re-Sign DE/OLB Mike Neal

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, NFL Free Agency, Packers Free Agents, Packers free agencyAccording to his Twitter feed, defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal has signed a new two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neal had his most productive season in 2013, but that was mainly due to the fact he was finally able to remain healthy for a full season.  Neal had 47 combined tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in a season where he was moved from the defensive line to a linebacker position.

A second round pick of the Packers in 2010, Neal showed flashes of being a decent pass rusher during training camp but never was able to remain healthy and only saw action for more than half a season in 2012.  Neal had been rumored to be target by the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, but ultimately chose to remain a Green Bay Packer.

With Neal’s return, it’s becoming clear no major defensive scheme overhaul is in order for the Packers this offseason. Moving Neal back to his original position on the defensive line however would indicate Green Bay wants to get leaner at the position.   There is also the possibility Neal could be moved all over the front seven as a pass rush specialist, lining up both with his hands on the ground as well as standing up.

This move at the least sets the stage for more competition throughout the unit as training camp approaches.  Neal is still young and has a lot to contribute.  He has natural athletic ability and now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Neal could be critical towards Green Bay finally establishing a consistent pass rush.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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11

March

Packers Free Agent Receives Medical Clearance

Packers DL Johnny Jolly

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly takes the first step to a return to football following neck surgery

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly sent out a tweet early Tuesday that indicated that he has been medically cleared to start working out following neck fusion surgery in early January.

Jolly needed the procedure to repair a bulging disc in his neck between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae.  Currently, he is a free agent and as of 4pm EST today, is free to sign with any team.  No reports about any interest from the Packers, or any team, for that matter, have surfaced so far.

It is not yet known when Jolly would potentially receive clearance to return to football activity.  Whenever that is will likely be when we start to hear about teams’ interest in Jolly.

Here we are again, talking about a neck fusion procedure on a one-time Packers player who could potentially return, if he is cleared.  Besides Jolly, Jermichael Finley and Sean Richardson have both undergone neck fusion surgeries of their own in the past few years.

Finley has not yet been cleared to return to football activity but is expected to meet with interested teams soon.  Richardson returned late last season.  Former Packers safety Nick Collins had neck surgery in 2011 and is still trying to return to the game he loves.

By now, the Packers should be experts in the timeline and recovery of football players from such a procedure.  Still, every player is unique in how they heal.  Finley’s injury was to the same area of the neck as Collins.  The Packers felt it was too risky to bring Collins back and he was released shortly thereafter.  Jolly’s surgery was lower on his neck, which would seemingly increase his chances of being cleared and reduce his risk of re-injury.  This was the case with Richardson as well.

Jolly’s return to the NFL and the Packers last season was one of the bigger “feel good” stories of the 2013 season.  After missing three full seasons due to a suspension for drug use, Jolly cracked the Packers roster and provided valuable depth on the defensive line.

With the Packers potentially parting ways with some of their other defensive linemen, Jolly could become a viable option to bring back if he does, in fact, gain clearance to play again.  B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are all currently unrestricted free agents and their return to the Packers is not certain.

6

March

Packers Reportedly Nearing Deal with Free Agent D-Lineman

B.J. Raji

The return of Raji would maintain some continuity on a defensive line that stands to see many changes this season

The Green Bay Packers are reportedly closing in on a one-year deal with free-agent-to-be and defensive lineman B.J. Raji.  This news came according to Adam Schefter at ESPN and via Jason Wilde at ESPN Milwaukee:

This news comes as a bit of a surprise to some, as the talk about Raji seemed to center around his wanting to possibly play in a different type of defense.  There was also talk about the Packers wanting to get more athletic on the defensive line, something that may not bode well for a lineman tipping the scales at close to 340 pounds.

No figures have been announced or released yet, but the fact that Raji would be taking a one-year deal in Green Bay versus testing the free agent market likely signals that he may not have felt that he would receive the type of offer he wanted.

Statistically speaking, Raji had one of his poorest seasons in 2013, tallying just 17 tackles and only three for a loss of yardage.

Another signal of this potential Raji deal could be the Packers intentions early in May’s draft.  With Raji returning, there would seem to be less chance that the Packers would be looking at a defensive lineman in round one.  Anything is possible under Ted so don’t rule it out, but it would at least appear that Green Bay has their eyes on another position early on.

Stay tuned for contract details if and when they are announced.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

Follow Jason at:

Jason Perone
                Add to Circleson Google+

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