As promised, here are our pre-training camp grades for the Packers defense:
Defensive Line: D
Grading the defensive line depends on what type of grader you are. If you give points for potential, a ‘D’ seems too low. If potential ranks far below production, then a ‘D’ seems fair. Seeing names like Raji and Pickett makes you think this line should be damn good. But Raji was bad last season and Pickett is another year older. Sure, Raji has the potential to be great like he was at the end of 2010, but he had that same potential in 2011 and never reached it. Jerel Worthy is another guy that could make this group potentially better, but right now, I need to see actual improvement on the line before upping my grade.
Link: Listen to CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau discuss the defensive line in this podcast.
Clay Matthews is one of the best all-around players in the league and Desmond Bishop brings much-needed energy, attitude and a knack for making impact plays. Matthews and Bishop carried the load at LB last season and need some help in 2012. Nick Perry could bring some much-needed relief. Ditto for D.J. Smith if A.J. Hawk continues to be a dud. Mix in intriguing rookies like Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning and I like what I see at LB.
Link: Here’s what the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Rob Demovsky had to say about the linebackers before April’s draft.
This is the toughest position group to rank by far. What do we make of Tramon Williams’ miserable 2011 season? Is Sam Shields really just a guy after showing so much promise in 2010? Will age finally catch up with Charles Woodson? How much do we blame the non-existent pass rush for the cornerback’s decline? Based on last season’s historically bad pass defense, a ‘C’ seems a little generous. But I have a hard time believing that all three main CBs went from good/great in 2010 to terrible in the span of one season.
Link: Charles Woodson is old, but if you don’t understand just how important he is to the Packers defense, read this post from Jason Wilde at ESPNWisconsin.
Will we be yelling at Ted Thompson for not doing more at safety before the season is over? It’s hard to look at the current group and get too excited. Morgan Burnett certainly belongs on the field. Charlie Peprah was a serviceable option, but that point is moot now that he’s been released. We have no idea what we’re going to get from the youngsters. Nick Collins came straight from tiny Bethune-Cookman and started, but it took him a good year or two to hit his stride. Jerron McMillian, from the no-so-powerhouse of Maine University, very well could be a diamond in the rough, but even so, it’s probably going to take him at least a year before he becomes an impact player.
(Side note: I hope M.D. Jennings is really good because I want to refer to him as the “The Doctor” as often as possible.)
Link: A subscription is required, but it’s worth paying to read Bill Huber’s work at Packer Report. Exhibit A: Huber’s preview of the Packers safeties.
Kicker and Punter: A-
It’s tough to project the performance of a kicker and punter from season to season, but I see no reason to expect a major regression from Mason Crosby or Tim Masthay. Crosby broke out last season and Masthay kept it going after ending the 2010 season strong.