Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Position Review: Defensive LIne

Ever since the 2010 season, when B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins were a quality pass rush tandem in their nickel package, the Green Bay Packers's defensive line has been a disappointment. It was awful in 2011 and there wasn't much improvement in 2012.

Previously: Position Reviews - Offense.

B.J. Raji. He hasn't regained the form he showed during the 2010 playoffs, but he's still their best lineman and his 2011 decline was caused by massive overuse on an awful line. The Packers have re-stocked their depth and he could return to his 2010 level now that he's surrounded with better teammates.

Ryan Pickett. The 13 year veteran still provides a solid presence against the run, but hardly anything as a pass rusher. He's a free agent after this year and GM Ted Thompson doesn't usually keep veterans in their 30s, but he's still the same player that he was when he joined the team in 2006. I'm expecting more of the same in 2013 and maybe even a return performance in 2014.

Datone Jones. He looked really good at UCLA and could become their best pass rushing lineman since Jenkins left in free agency. All eyes should be on him this preseason.

Mike Neal. He was second on the team last season with 4.5 sacks, but his future on the line looks cloudy after the selection of Jones in the 1st round. He got some work at outside linebacker but that seems like an unlikely transition for a 294 lb. lineman. He's sure to get another chance in 2013 and it'll be up to him to take advantage of it before he hits free agency.

C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels. They're different types of players, Wilson has more size and Daniels has more hustle, but they were about as equally productive. Neither one is going to be asked to anchor the middle of the 3-4 formation and both of them might have been pushed back by Jones. They both should make the team but it's not clear whether either player has a long-term future.

Jerel Worthy. I had really high hopes for the him after his 2012 selection in 2nd round, but his biggest impact last season was his inability to stay onside before the snap. A late season knee injury will probably keep him out next season so there's nothing to see here until 2014.

Johnny Jolly. If this was 2009, I'd be really writing about how he's a young anchor to build around. But the prime of his career has been wiped out by years of legal problems. At age 30, he's finally back but who knows how he'll look after missing three seasons. I can't think of another healthy player in recent years who has missed three seasons.

Josh Boyd. I'm not sure where he fits on the roster, but I would expect the Packers to keep their 2013 5th round selection. However, I'm not sure if he can overtake either Wilson or Daniels on the depth chart. If he does make the team, I can't imagine he'll do anything except provide depth.

Gilbert Pena. Packer fans should love a big defensive lineman named Gilbert. He's a big run stuffer who probably went undrafted because he's already 26 years old. Maybe he'll turn out to be a young Ryan Pickett type lineman.

Jordan Miller. He was signed to the practice squad late last season and he's probably the longest shot to stick with the team.

Once Worthy goes on I.R., the Packers will have ten lineman for what will likely be six roster spots. It's possible that someone like Neal or Wilson is released/traded depending on what happens during the preseason. That could open up a spot for Jolly, Boyd, or Pena. But probably those three players will be looking to resume their NFL careers somewhere else at the start of the regular season.

1 comment:

stroh said...

I'm looking forward to the DL this year. THey have the pieces they need to be successful. IMO Raji, Pickett, Jones, Neal are locks. Daniels probably makes it too, tho its not sure.

I think Boyd was drafted as a NT replacement for Pickett at NT, and backup to Raji. He has the size and strength, and if he gains 15lbs he could become a good NT. He doesn't fit at DE IMO. I could see Boyd going on the PS for a year in that case.

I see Jolly and Wilson as interchangeable. Basically the same type player. Both run stuffers... Only difference is Jolly was the heart of the #1 ranked run D in '09 and Wilson was just another player on a bad run D. Add in Jolly's penchant for knocking down passes and Jolly is the easy winner IF he returns to even close to his previous form. I'll take Jolly and give him the chance to regain that form over Wilson who won't ever amount to much in the NFL.

Packers might keep 7 DL this year. Pickett, Raji, Jones, Neal, Daniels, Jolly, Boyd if they do. Pena on PS and Worthy PUP/IR.