Next up in the AllGreenBayPackers.com’s positional group analysis is the defensive line, who while showed some improvement from their disastrous 2011 season was still probably the reason behind their playoff collapse this year.
Where Are We Now
Here are the current suspects;
- BJ Raji (1st round, 2009)
- Ryan Pickett (1st round, 2001)
- Mike Neal (2nd round, 2010)
- CJ Wilson (7th round, 2010)
- Jerel Worthy (2nd round, 2012)
- Mike Daniels (4th round, 2012)
- Philip Merling (2nd round, 2008, cut week 4)
So that’s where we are. Thompson has made quite an effort to shore up his defensive line, with three 1st or 2nd rounders in the last four years. However, despite Thompson’s focus on the defensive line, not much good has happened. BJ Raji hasn’t been as dominant a force as he was in the 2010 Superbowl season, Mike Neal is essentially starting his sophomore campaign with all the injuries he suffered and rookie Jerel Worthy looked like a raw rookie before suffering an ACL injury.
- Raji: Raji spent considerably more time as a defensive end this year than as a nose tackle (536 snaps at DE vs. 123 at NT) and overall as I’ve written in my previous articles this is probably the best move for the Packers as defensive ends are much more important to a 3-4 defense than nose tackles. While Raji definitely had a better season than his lackluster 2011 campaign, it still pales in comparison to his 2010 season where he earned the nickname “the freezer”. One distinct possibility is that Raji is starting to wear down due to all the snaps that he’s had to take since there were no other viable DL around, but the addition of Worthy, Neal and Daniels will hopefully allow the Packers to have a decent DL rotation.
- Pickett: Pickett again was a consistent performer in the middle, while he’s never going to really get the sacks or tackles to make fans notice, he does hold up double teams and do the dirty work for the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers. However at 33 Pickett is certainly in the twilight of his career but surprisingly is playing more snaps ever year since 2009; this obviously can’t continue to happen for a guy at his age and size so chances are good with Raji perhaps spending the majority of time at DE, we could see the Packers look for a replacement at nose tackle.