16

August

Packers Defensive Line: A Healthy Ryan Pickett Commands Respect

Ryan Pickett

Packers D-lineman Ryan Pickett

Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett reminds me of two actors in two memorable movies: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas.

In Gran Turino, Eastwood plays a retired Detroit auto worker who is trying to cope with his neighborhood changing (i.e. getting younger and more diverse). He also yells at people to get off his lawn and behaves like that crumudgingly (and racist) old white guy many of us probably know in real life.

Sorvino plays a mob boss in Goodfellas who quietly lurks in the shadows and oversees a large-scale crime ring. Sorvino doesn’t have a leading role in the film, but when he’s on screen, there’s little doubt that his character is in charge and that the other characters respect him.

Now don’t take those comparisons too literally. I don’t know Pickett personally and I’m not saying  he’s a racist or a Mafia Don. But when I watch Eastwood’s and Sorvino’s characters, I can’t help but imagine that Pickett has certain traits of both.

Pickett is the elder statesman on the Packers defensive front. Like Eastwood getting annoyed about having to adapt to younger people who might be a little different than him, I can see the older Pickett getting annoyed by Clay Matthews and his long hair or B.J. Raji and his dancing.

I also see a lot of Sorvino in Pickett’s deliberate (some might call it slow) movements and overall presence. Like Sorvino, Pickett might not appear to be very impressive, but everyone looks up to him. He commands respect. Running backs and quarterbacks know that Pickett is too slow to catch them, but they’re scared of him anyway.

On the Field
Analogies are fun, but let’s get to the bottom line: Ryan Pickett is a hellvua football player and very important to the Packers defense.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pickett led all Packers defensive linemen last season with 20 stops, which measures the total number of solo tackles made that lead to an offensive failure. He also finished with a run defense rating of 8.4, second on the team behind Desmond Bishop (10.7) and way ahead of C.J. Wilson, who was the next best d-lineman (3.2).

Pickett finished fourth on the defense with an overall defensive rating of 2.6 and was one of only three defensive starters to finish with a positive overall rating.

17

December

Packers vs. Chiefs: Two Teams Moving in Completely Opposite Directions

Green Bay Packers Defensive Lineman Mike Neal

Mike Neal

The Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs entered the playoffs last season with identical 10-6 records. Winners of the AFC West, the Chiefs earned the right to host the Baltimore Ravens. Runners-up in the NFC North, the Packers went on the road to face the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, the teams have gone in drastically different directions.

The Packers left Philadelphia with a 21-16 victory and an opportunity to go play the Atlanta Falcons the next week. The Chiefs’ season ended abruptly as they were blown out 30-7 by the Ravens. While the Chiefs cleaned out their lockers and planned off-season vacations, the Packers continued their magical playoff run to the team’s fourth Lombardi Trophy.

Since both teams entered last season’s playoffs with 10-6 records, the Packers are 17-0 while the Chiefs are 5-9. The Packers are contending for another Super Bowl victory while the Chiefs are grasping onto their playoff hopes.

One of the main reasons for the Chiefs collapse has been injuries. Against the Packers in pre-season, the Chiefs lost their emerging young tight end Tony Moeaki as then head coach Todd Haley decided to play his starters longer than usual. This became a trend for the Chiefs as they lost their best player Jamaal Charles in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions. Rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin was also injured in a locker-room scuffle. Other prominent names on the Chiefs list of players on injured reserve include quarterback Matt Cassel and Eric Berry.

While injuries have ravaged the Chiefs season, the Packers have overcome countless injuries during their run. The offensive line has been shuffled due to injuries to Chad Clifton and Josh Sitton, safety Nick Collins’ season ended with a neck injury and James Starks, Tramon Williams, Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and now Greg Jennings have all been out of the lineup.

Another reason for the collapse of the Chiefs and the rise of the Packers is a difference in stability. To compete in the NFL, a team needs a good quarterback and a good coach. While the Packers have two of the best in the business at their professions, the Chiefs have suffered at both.