On Monday, we graded the Packers offense through nine games. Today, we look at the defense.
Defensive Line: C-
If Mike McCarthy says the Packers are going to fix something in the offseason, they generally fix it. This offseason, what needed fixing was tackling. So far, the tackling appears fixed, and the Packers appear to have the right tools to make sure it doesn’t break again.
The Packers still give up too many runs where the running back gets stopped up the middle, but bounces outside for a big gain. Other than that, the front three (or four, or two, or sometimes one, however many people Dom Capers puts on the line), has been solid in run defense and tackling.
Ryan Pickett is having a strong season, highlighted by a dominant game against Arian Foster and the Texans when the Packers needed him most. Cross your fingers that the injury bug doesn’t infect Pickett because he’s a huge part of the improved run defense. C.J. Wilson has also quietly been decent against the run.
The overall grade comes down a bit because I’d still like to see more pass rush out of this group. Mike Daniels and Mike Neal have flashed occasionally. Jerel Worthy has had a few moments. But this group needs to be a little more consistent. I’m not expecting Packers linemen to rack up a ton of sacks, but there are too many occasions where Capers calls a blitz up the middle and it just gets swallowed up.
If the defensive line is doing a better job of winning its one-on-one battles (I’m looking at you, Raji) and creating chaos (c’mon, Worthy), those inside blitzing lanes open up and the Packers can get in the quarterback’s face.
Remember back in school when your teacher made you do group assignments? It usually ended up being one really smart and really motivated kid doing most of the work and the entire group taking credit.
That really smart and motivated kid was Clay Matthews last season. Mathews is even smarter and more motivated this season, but now the rest of his group has decided to also pitch in.