30

July

Datone Jones has “The Juice” the Packers Have Been Looking For at DL

Packers first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to play a big role as a rookie. Is he ready to be a starter?

The Real Deal – Datone Jones

The Green Bay Packers were 15-1 during the 2011 regular season, a truly monumental feat considering their defense was ranked last in the NFL as well as worst in the team’s history. After a quick exit in the playoffs against the Giants,  one thing has been stuck front and center in Ted Thompson’s mind; find some defensive linemen that are more than just space eaters.

After the shock of that loss wore off, there was plenty of talk from the Packers defensive coaches during the early spring of 2012 about needing some “juice” out of the defensive line. Basically, finding a guy or two that can be more of a disruptor than a “hold your ground” guy. Someone who can collapse the pocket from the inside and help the Packers pathetic pass rush. Thompson has been trying ever since.

In March of 2012, Thompson took the unusual path (for him) of bringing in a few free agents, albeit low-risk gambles like Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir. He followed that up by drafting Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels a month later and then signing yet another free agent in May, Philip Merling.

Referring to the free agents,  Hargrove showed little and was cut in camp. Daniel Muir had a surprisingly impressive training camp and was somewhat of a surprise cut on the final week.  Merling stuck around until Mike Neal returned from his 4 game suspension and then was cut. No juice attained from those three.

The draft picks were a mixed bag. I wasn’t a fan of the Worthy draft pick myself, and he played to my expectations. If he has the will, the effort or the juice, he sure didn’t show it before landing on injured reserve.  Mike Daniels was a pleasant surprise – I knew little of him other than he was undersized at 6’0″ and had been quite productive rushing the passer from inside at Iowa. Making the jump to the NFL, the massive offenive linemen he has to deal with on a consistent basis  limits the impact Daniels is able to make at this level. However, used in the right situations, he brought a little juice with his quickness and got some pressure on the quarterback. He’s  just not the every-down player the Packers need.

1

March

Take a Moment and Enjoy Packers DT Ryan Pickett Blowing Up Offensive Linemen

Ryan Pickett

Packers DT Ryan Pickett getting after it.

If you’re an NFL fan who subscribes to Game Rewind and likes to re-watch games in order to see what happens away from the ball, Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett is your type of player.

The 330-pound 33 year old doesn’t make many plays that garner immediate attention on the game broadcast. To appreciate what Pickett does, you have to watch the film. That’s when you’ll nod your head at the veteran’s quickness off the ball. You’ll pump your fist when he shoves two blockers backward and frees up a linebacker to make a tackle. You’ll notice that Pickett is often the reason why a mess of players pile up at the line and the ballcarrier fails to pick up a short-yardage first down.

After 12 seasons, Pickett should be slowing down. Instead, he looks as strong and nimble as ever. It’s not a rarity to see space-eating defensive linemen play effectively as they creep into their mid-30s and beyond — Casey Hampton, Ted Washington and Pat Williams come to mind as older, run-stuffing linemen who excelled as they aged.

I planned to do an in-depth study of stats and numbers to tell you just how great Pickett has been the last few years, but I said the hell with it. Pickett’s worth goes beyond *numbers.* Let’s watch some film instead.

Here’s Pickett wrecking the Houston Texans offensive line:

 

I know Pickett is in there to stuff the run, but I love when he does get after the quarterback.

Wasn’t that awesome? I told you watching Pickett on film is fun.

After watching Pickett, I sometimes wonder why B.J. Raji can’t consistently play with the same energy and passion as his veteran linemate.

Some of it probably has to do with playing time. Raji played 124 more snaps than Pickett in 2012. Part of it probably has to do with assignments and responsibility. Raji is asked to do a little more than Pickett.

Can Pickett’s success continue this season? He’ll be a free agent. In addition to wanting to prove that he still is an upper-end defensive lineman, I’m sure he’ll be playing for one last multi-year contract.

I know I can’t wait to fire up the film and watch me another season Ryan Pickett making offensive lineman 10 years his junior look silly.

14

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Line

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.
31

January

Packers BJ Raji: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: The freezer broke onto the scene in during the Packers post-season run to the Super Bowl in 2010 and at that point it looked as if the Packers had another star in the making.  2011 however was a significant down year for Raji, who was hampered by an ankle injury for most of the season.  Fans were hoping to see the re-emergence of the Freezer in 2012.

2) Profile:

Busari J. Raji Jr.

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 07/11/1986, in Washington Township, NJ
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 337
  • College: Boston College
  • Rookie Year: 2009
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more: 

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: Many fans wrote off the 2011 season for Raji due to his injuries and were hoping that he would regain his old form and provide pressure and collapse the pocket from the nose tackle position

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Raji’s best game of 2012 was against the Titans in week 16, where he posted 3 quarterback hurries, a blocked pass, a tackle and an offensive negative play.  However, Raji never managed to figure out how to beat the San Francisco 49ers offensive line, which would come back to haunt the.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Raji spent more time as a defensive end than a nose tackle and ironically played better as a defense end than as a nose tackle.  As a defensive end, Raji often had great success against the run with marginal success at rushing the passer.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: While he did record 2 quarterback hurries against the Vikings, Raji was part of the defensive front 7 that could not contain Colin Kaepernick in the divisional playoffs which ultimately knocked the Packers out of the Super Bowl race.

 

Season Report Card:

(C) Level of expectations met during the season

(C+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(C) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C+

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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6

January

Packers 24, Vikings 10: Wild Card Game Balls and Lame Calls

Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews and the defense stepped up big and the Packers are on their way to San Francisco.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” or so the saying goes, and the Green Bay Packers got their revenge against the Minnesota Vikings by winning their NFC Wild Card game 24-10 a week after the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 which cost Green Bay a first round bye.

The Packers spotted the Vikings an early field goal as the Vikings marched down the field. Some fans began to experience a sense of déjà vu as the Packers went three and out on the following drive.  Thankfully that malaise didn’t last long as the Packers got into the end zone on the next drive and went up 7-3.

Green Bay never looked back as they got to Vikings quarterback Joe Webb and raced out to a 24-3 lead that held throughout most of the second half and gave up a touchdown pretty much in garbage time as the score settled to 24-10 as time expired.

Here are the good and the bad for the Packers in the victory that eliminated the Vikings.

Game Balls

LB Erik Walden

It was not even a week ago that the Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to run all over them, but the Packers put forth a much better effort Saturday and Walden was a big part of it.

Walden was credited with one sack and two tackles for a loss but he was constantly in Webb’s face and had one of his best games in a long time. Walden can be inconsistent but if he can warm up for this playoff run, then the Packers will have yet another weapon to go alongside Clay Matthews at the linebacker position.

He’ll have a tougher time against the 49ers but the game against the Vikings should be a big confidence booster for Walden.

RB DuJuan Harris

Harris’ emergence late this season has all but guaranteed him a roster spot going into training camp this summer, but Harris is now making a case to be the Packers starting running back and there’s really no reason he couldn’t be.

3

January

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 17 at Minnesota Vikings

So Packers vs. Vikings part II with a definite part III coming up.  Again, if there is any play in particular you would like to see my analyze, please leave comments below.  As for this week I’ve decided to take a look at one of the times where quarterback Christian Ponder was able to beat the Packers defense through the air.  My belief is that the Packers at best can only slow down Adrian Peterson, so it becomes paramount to stop Christian Ponder and the passing since the Packers have already proven that Adrian Peterson can destroy the Packers run defense and still lose the game.

The situation: The score is tied at 27 all with the Packers surging in the 2nd half with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The Vikings know they have to make a big move soon or be on the losing end of a scoring race to the finish line.  To their advantage is that Adrian Peterson has maintained his regular season form and is playing lights out, which makes the Packers very susceptible to play-action as every Packers defender is fixated on Peterson.

The formation: The Vikings come out in a 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) with WR Jarius Wright being the lone Vikings outside the core of the formation split out wide left.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 defense.  The defensive line consists of DE Ryan Pickett (79), NT BJ Raji (90) and DE CJ Wilson (98), all three appear to be tasked with taking up blockers so for all intents and purposes do not factor into the play (unless of course they were playing “jet” and attempting to rush the passer, which they all failed to do) The linebackers are composed of LOLB Erik Walden (93), ILB AJ Hawk (50), ILB Brad Jones (59) and ROLB Clay Matthews (52).  Finally in the secondary the two cornerbacks are CB Tramon Williams (38) and CB Sam Shields (37) while the safeties are FS Morgan Burnett (42) and SS Jeron McMillian (22).

 

Pre-Snap: The Vikings motion TE John Carlson (89) from the inline to the right tackle to slightly behind left tackle in a two point stance.  In response, FS Burnett rotates from centerfield to heads up with Carlson while SS McMillian rotates off the line of scrimmage and out into centerfield, in essence TE Carlson rotating causes FS Burnett and SS McMillian to switch positions and assignments.  The move also causes OLB Matthews to wide his pass rush as TE Carlson is now over his side and could either chip or double team him with the left tackle.

2

January

Packers Stock Report: Playoff Time Edition

Greg Jennings

Packers WR Greg Jennings is rising after Sunday’s game.

For the last three years, I’ve always been confident whenever the Packers play because they had the best player on the field.

No matter who the Packers were playing, what the score was, or how slow the Packers started, I always felt good because I knew that Aaron Rodgers played for Green Bay and would probably find a way to win the game. He was the best player on the field and the best player on the field typically comes through and leads his team to a win. Not always, but usually.

When the Packers play the Vikings in the playoffs on Saturday, Rodgers will not be the best player on the field. That title will belong to Adrian Peterson, and it scares me.

The Packers are better than the Vikings in almost every facet of the game. But as long as Peterson is carrying the ball, the Vikings will have a shot. I shouldn’t be nervous about Saturday, but I am. And it’s all because of Peterson.

Hopefully, for at least one night, Rodgers regains his best-player-on-the-field championship belt. Rodgers can then worry about getting the Packers to another Super Bowl and defending his best-player-on-the-field title next season.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Adrian Peterson
I don’t think I’ve ever put a non-Packers player in the rising category. Usually I put players from the other team in the falling category so I can mock and ridicule them. But as a football fan, I have to show respect to Peterson. He lead his team to the postseason and left several Packers defenders limping off the field. It was agonizing to watch as a Packers fan, but fascinating as a football fan.

B.J. Raji
The finger-wags got a little annoying. Don’t wag your finger, B.J., when the other running back is going for 200 yards on your defense again. Other than that, Raji was a beast. Peterson got a lot of his yards when he bounced outside. He often had to bounce out because Raji plugged the middle. If Peterson wasn’t able to bounce out, it was because Raji grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground.

Greg Jennings
It was nice to be reminded just how silky smooth Jennings is in both his route running and running after the catch. He’s an artist (pronounced ar-teest). He also made himself a boatload of cash.