The Green Bay Packers allowed the second fewest points in the NFL last season mainly because Clay Matthews became one of the best pass rushers in the league, BJ Raji held down the middle of the line, Tramon Williams emerged as a high-end cornerback and players like Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins were their usual outstanding selves.
But to go from good to great, a team needs more than just its most talented and proven players making big plays. It needs under-the-radar guys to step up and not only provide depth, but also chip in with a big play every now and then. The Packers defense got just that last season from Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and Sam Shields.
Can they do it again in 2011?
2010 Expectations: Talented backup, but not quite good enough to start.
2010 Reality: Got his chance to start and proved he is more than capable.
2010 Highlight: Pick-six against Brett Favre in week seven.
Outlook: If there was a defensive player of the year award for the preseason, Bishop would probably have a few of them by now. Every preseason Bishop flies around the field and looks like the second-coming of Ray Lewis. Then the regular season starts and he gets stuck in the linebacker logjam.
Last season that logjam broke up because of injuries and Bishop got his chance. While he probably won’t become the regular season version of Ray Lewis, I expect Bishop to officially establish himself as a good player instead of a talented wild card.
And the Packers are going to need him. Dom Capers likes to mix and match his personnell packages and Bishop will be needed to hold together many of them.
2010 Expectations: If Peprah is on the field, the Packers are either losing or winning by several touchdowns late in the game.
2010 Reality: Took over after Morgan Burnett went down and played better than a career backup should play.
2010 Highlight: Key interception against the Bears in season finale.
Outlook: Of the three players we are reviewing, Peprah is probably the one most people would select to regress. It wouldn’t surprise me if Peprah goes back to being Peprah, but there are a few reasons why he might continue to surprise: