Packers Defensive Line: This is the first in a series of examinations I’m going to do on each Packers position group as it currently exists. Kind of a State of the Union address – where we are, where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.
Where are we now:
Here are the current suspects;
BJ Raji (1st round)
Ryan Pickett (1st round)
Mike Neal (2nd round)
C.J. Wilson (7th round)
Jarius Wynn (6th round)
Howard Green (6th round)
Lawrence Guy (7th round, injured reserve)
Johnny Jones (undrafted, 77th ranked DT by nfldraftscout.com, cut by Miami in preseason)
Notice a pattern here? This is classic Ted Thompson building depth with late round picks, but thanks to Neal missing so much time, the emergency fill-ins ended up playing a lot more that you would want. For the year, both Jarius Wynn and CJ Wilson were both within a hundred snaps of Ryan Pickett. Frankly, that’s way too much. Pickett’s value against the run can not be argued against – one just has to look at the two games Pickett missed – the Packers gave up 344 rushing yards in those two games.
But at age 31, Pickett is just not a full-time player anymore. He’s certainly no BJ Raji, who played 80% of the defensive snaps last season. While Raji and his coaches say it’s not a problem, that he didn’t wear down, one has to wonder. Raji’s production was down in every category this year, and some observers outside of the Packers organization have hinted that he wasn’t playing hard every play.
Certainly fatigue will do that to you. Looking at the game-by-game rankings over at ProFootballFocus.com are certainly telling. Raji’s only “Plus” performances were early in the season while the last six games were all on the minus side, especially against the run. In my mind, there is no doubt Raji wore down and did not show much of the explosion he’s capable of. Instead, he was playing way too upright (another sign of fatigue), which makes the offensive lineman’s job that much easier.