Packers Defense: Who’s Still On the Way Up?

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Green Bay Packers defense
Who’s Rising on Defense?

Here we are at the start of the 2013 NFL season. Let the great debates roll on!   Sign a FA?  Keep your own?  Difference maker free agent? Hole filler? Last gasp?  Which leads to next big thing, the team has to draft this position this year! { fill in your choice}.

Everyone goes nuts this time of year, I am of the use Free Agency to fill a hole in depth crowd,  but first and foremost keep your own.

From most of talk across the web, Packer fans are screaming for “DEFENSE” and I can’t disagree, but for many, players already on the team are over looked waiting for that big signing. { like that is going to happen in Green Bay in the first place}

So while many are playing fantasy GM with all the if’s, maybes, should have’s, could have’s, lets look at players on the team that are on the way up and will improve the team from the inside.

I consider C.J. Wilson on the way up. He missed games with a knee injury last year, in the eleven games he played, he was looked at as one of the Packers better run stoppers, he had 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Nothing to get excited about, but Wilson did improve in his second year, not bad for 7th round pick that played 4-3 DE in college. He is a better athlete then given credit for at 6-3 300# he ran a 4.83 40, 32 reps at #225, 1.67 ten yard time 4.50 shuttle and 7.65 3 cone drill. His best football is still in front of him.

Mike Neal actually stayed fairly healthy last year and flashed some of what he did as a rookie. He and Matthews got on a bit of roll before Matthews got dinged up. He has the work ethic and gained experience last year.  He now has 22 games played,  11 for 2012 with a 4 game suspension. Still on the way up.

Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are the two inside linebackers I want to see most. Manning was a OLB in college and missed time with a parasite, but made his way on the field for 5 games in 2012. Lattimore was a DE in college, Packers they tried him at OLB first, he moved to ILB last year and showed promise in the preseason. Both are more athletic then Smith and Bishop.

OLB Nick Perry and Desmond Moses, here is a first round pick and a UDFA. Both played and showed good things. It is to bad Perry was injured, the experience lost this season will slow his development some what.  Matthews had his best games when Perry was across from him.  Perry can make a huge difference on the defense and I believe he will.

Moses looks like he can be a better Walden. He has to gain experience and needs a NFL level of off season training. One can make everyone better on defense and another can be a better rotational or situational player then any of the back ups were in 2012.

CB’s and Safeties are going to be the biggest group to take a step up.  A boat load of young talent and very good position coaches, a very nice mix indeed.  Burnett, McMillian, Jennings all on the way up. Shields, House, Hayward all on the way up. And remember this name James Nixon, he was signed to the Practice squad late last year. 6’ 180# 4.31 40 time, amazing 1.41 ten yard time { McMillian also has the kind of quick’s}  and very good agility.  Shields, House and Hayward offer a nice mix of style and abilities.  Shields was the best cover corner last year, House before injuring his shoulder was making big time plays, Hayward was in the running for Defensive rookie of the year.

Burnett improved, McMillian and Jennings swapped time on the field and both made plays, both have the range and tackling that the Packers defense works best with. A full off season will be a big thing for both.

So where these players don’t make the kind of big splash so many wish were made, These players are all going to have big roles in how the Packers go forward into 2013.

 

  • Razer

    We do have a lot of arrows pointing up. I do think that our D-line needs another big body who can help control the line of scrimmage. Against the weaker teams we did okay but against decent O-lines, we got pushed around. The D-line needs to set the stage for our LBs and that doesn’t happen enough.

    I do agree that we need a stud FS. The guy that Minny got last year helped that D immensely. We need that.

    The other part of this equation is our coaching. I get the feeling that the guys aren’t playing with speed because things are too complicated for their small brains. Could we keep it simple and work a little more on fundamentals.

  • Ron LC

    Admire your optimism Yoop. I think one point you made should be given more emphasis. To paraphrase, “against the stronger, more aggressive teams the Dline, LB’s and Corners failed miserably.” You can’t have a D that gives up 500+ yards and say they are pointing up. There is a serious flaw in the D that needs attention. Maybe it will be a little more experience to help solve that probllem. We, all too often, have to fall back on the injury bugabo. Maybe we should be asking just why is it that GB seems to be at or near the top of the NFL in injuries for the last 3 or 4 years. The second level D is just too short of talent to be relied on, especially at the end of the year.

    More talent and more depth is required.

    • PatMc

      Ron: how many more yards can they give up (are they at the bottom?) – guess no where else to go but up?

      GB has had an abnormal number of injuries that needs to be resolved.

      A premium SS/FS draft pick is needed (IMHO) and another big body to groom to replace Pickens (although Hankins or Williams in 1st round will probably take care of that.

    • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

      Well if you have been reading comments from the coaches and what is being done, those things are being addressed.
      There is no doubt that those things are as put in a article this week “Black Eyes” for the defense.
      But you also have to look at how much of a improvement the defense had over 2011 in total yards allowed for the season, pass defense rating, sacks, total defense.
      Where yes they had epic failures in some games, the overall defense was better. And that is pointing up.
      You add another draft class, you get these young players into there first off season program and get players back from injury the defense is on the up swing.
      That is not optimism that is something for every team in the NFL.

      • Dobber

        I’ve always thought that the Packers are configured to play trackmeets, not tug-of-wars. Overall, it’s a defense that’s meant to play more nickel than anything else because the idea is to keep the opposition in catch-up mode (make them one-dimensional due to the scoreboard rather than preventing them from dictating the game to you).

        • Stroh

          A great D needs to be able to play in either a track meet or a Tug-o-war. Most games might be track meets but there are always gonna be some tug-o-war games against teams that can control the clock or get out to an early lead.

          • Dobber

            I don’t disagree with you, but this D has a ways to go to be “great”.

            • Stroh

              Just a couple young guys to step up and become the players they were drafted for. Perry and Neal would about do it IMO. That along w/ some continued play by Bishop and Barnett.

              I actually think the pieces are largely in place for the D to become great. A true 34 DE would give the D the playmakers at each level that are needed.

  • Greg lin

    Please b aware that, than and then are not interchangeable! GB is better THAN bear not THEN! Ur article otherwise is very informative,thx.

    • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

      Please be aware I do this for nothing, and I will make mistakes.

      • Ron LC

        People who obsess on spelling and grammar in blog comments need to get a life. Don’t spell check, don’t look for punctuation erorrs and I don’t care.

        • Mikey

          I always thought that people, like me, who blog, need to get a life!

        • Dobber

          As an educator, I have plenty to say on this, but this isn’t a situation where someone is making a living (being paid) by the written word. In that case, there’s an expectation that needs to be satisfied.

          If we want to apply that standard to the writer, we need to apply it to ourselves in our comments…I ain’t goin’ there.

      • Steve Cheez

        Geez, Greg, you sound like my mom…

    • Two Bears, One Cup

      Please use correct grammar and spelling when critiquing someone else’s grammar and spelling.

  • Tarynfor12

    “Matthews had his best games when Perry was across from him.Perry can make a huge difference on the defense and I believe he will”.

    Matthews has always played well from the onset of the season and the lack of talent opposite him saps strength from him as the season progresses.I’m not willing to apply Matthews early success to Perry being around the first 6 games but wait to see how his being around influences Matthews in the later season games.But even more,I’m looking to see what this projected wonder named Perry can do for the OLB pass rush when he doesn’t have Matthews on the field because of the yearly hamstring.This will dictate his worth as a 1st rd guy.

    Why are combine numbers used for players already on the team?
    Like a resume,it gave me reason to offer you the job,it surely isn’t going to be the reason you keep it,as that will be decided by what you achieve via your work ethic,scheme apprehension and actual on hands display in the one on one battles of those with very,if not identical resumes.

    • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

      Why were they used? Since this is draft season those things are talked about for every player, Second most people have no idea what those numbers are for the players all ready on the team.

      • Scott

        I see Tarynfor12’s point that what a guy does on the field with actual NFL players is more important than combine numbers. Still, we’re talking about guys that most of us didn’t see much of on the field. The combine numbers still have utility there because they are part of the potential. For instance, McMillian’s combine times show that he has the quickness and speed to do well – IF he figures out the game at this level. Thus they differentiate him from a guy like Peprah who figured out the game, but was never going to come close to playing at the level of a Nick Collins because he lacked the range and athleticism. Speed isn’t everything for a safety, but as with many positions, it can give you a better idea of a young player’s ceiling IF he figures out the game.

        • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

          Exactly. McMillian had a 1.40 ten yard time, that is crazy quick. He showed a lot of promise, but needs both experience and a lot of coaching.
          One of the things some over look is the coaching. The Packers have two very good position coaches for the secondary in Darren Perry for Safeties and Joe Witt Jr for CB’s.

          • Mikey

            But did the the Doe Sekies beer guy pat him on the back?

      • Tarynfor12

        “Second most people have no idea what those numbers are for the players all ready on the team.”

        Likely because the game play is what matters,not the past ‘wind tunnel’ exploits.

        • Ron LC

          Yep!

    • Oppy

      Taryn,

      please stop the Perry hating and actually watch those games. It is all right there in plain view for all to see- Perry CLEARLY had a massive positive impact on Matthew’s performance. He collapsed the pocket frequently, pushing TE’s or OT’s into the QB’s lap and giving them nowhere to flush out and away from Matthews’ attack.

      Perry was doing a very good job overall and Matthews was really enjoying the benefits of having Nick as his bookend.

      • Stroh

        Personally, I don’t think Perry had much impact on Matthews either. He played the entire game in the opener vs SF, but after that Walden was playing more snaps than Perry till Perry went on IR. Perry certainly didn’t live up to his draft standing and was horrible in coverage. He’s got a long way to go and a difficult transition from DE to OLB. His wrist injury played a part but we don’t know exactly how much. He said it was very painful and that would affect his play vs run and pass rush but not in coverage much.

      • Stroh
        • Oppy

          It is somewhat hard to take an article seriously when it states that Walden took “the majority” of the snaps opposite CMIII when he came back, only to then state in the same sentence that Perry was on the field for “55%” of the snaps during that same time frame.. lol.

          • Stroh

            He was on the field no more than 55% of the snaps and thats in a single game. You either misunderstood or deliberately ignored that.

      • Tarynfor12

        Oppy,
        Why do most of your replys begin with ‘watch the games’? Do you seriously believe you are the only one that does or is it your belief that no one else does because they see different things when doing so.
        Perry had a couple of moments but ,he was usually slow off the snap,loss in coverage,didn’t set the end and just did not look anywhere what was hoped for.Can that change sure,but the raving review you have of him up to this point is IMO,severely over the top.

        • Oppy

          Sometimes I actually DO think I’m one of few who actually watch the games.

  • Scott

    Another thing to keep in mind is that while all teams have young and improving players, the Packers have very few old and declining players. Woodson left. Pickett is old. Tramon Williams just turned 30. Everyone else is young or in their prime.

    As for the young players, but some show more promise than others.
    CB: Hayward, Shields, and House have already shown they will be good.
    S: Players very often make dramatic improvements here after a few years (Sharper, Collins), so the already good Burnett should get even better. Jennings should improve, but seems limited in ability. McMillian has potential, but a ways to go. The others are longshots. The draft is deep here, so…
    ILB: Manning is an unknown. Lattimore really seemed to take to the position in camp. Frankly, with Hawk, Bishop, Jones this position is solid.
    OLB: Moses could become a good sub. Perry had strengths over Walden and would have probably been harder to run around for Kaepernick. Perry has his positives, but I worry if he has the motor and quick feet to excel. Still, if he can just become solid-to-good, it would help a lot.
    DE/DT: I like Wilson, but I don’t expect dramatic improvement. Neal is an effective pass rusher. If he stays healthy, he should improve and help. It is too bad Worthy’s injury deprives him of the opportunity to make a big jump.

    Bottom line, I expect lots of improvement at DB and perhaps OLB, but it is far from certain that internal improvement will be enough to fill needs at the other positions.

  • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

    Your are correct, pieces need to be added. If anything just to create competition in the positions.
    For me the team needs in no order, OLB, Center, OT, DE.
    One of the big questions is OT. Sherrod had a second surgery on his leg and he has responded well to it, he has stayed in Green Bay and according to MM there every day.
    Andrew Datko I want to see more then any of the Olinemen, He was a top of the 2nd round talent before injuring his shoulder.
    There is no doubt they need to draft OLB or conversion DE for OLB depth.
    Someone has to push EDS at Center, I would like to see them draft Brian Schwenke from Cal. he can play both center and Guard.
    And without a doubt they have to get some Dline help.
    Worthy being injured does not help matters, And even with him additions needed to be made.

    • Ron LC

      Agree in concept with your commentary here. One issue, though, has me perplexed and that’s the Dline. There were a couple of games at the end of the season when they only had two Dlinemen available to play and had to use under-sized and under-talented LB’s to throw into the mix. That MUST NOT happen this year. There should be a steady and reliable rotation of Dlinemen so they can stay relativly fresh for the entire game. All to often, last year, Pickett was completly drained by the 4th Qtr.

      Raji needs to improve his play also. As I remember, he was brought in to colapse the middle. Something that has been noticably absent from the Packer D in recent years.

    • Scott

      I think we’re on the same page here.
      OT – maybe Sherrod surprises or Bulaga moves to LT (not sure he’s the answer there). The Packers miss having an LT of Clifton’s pass-protection ability.
      Center – I think they can get by with EDS, but should draft another guy for the pipeline/depth.
      OLB – definitely could use depth.
      DE no doubt. They could be fine, especially if Perry steps it up at OLB, but only Raji and Neal are any kind of a disruptive presence on the line. I’m not knocking Pickett and Wilson against the run, or Daniels as a spot/role player, but the Packers could really use more. Pickett is aging, Worthy is hurt and wasn’t as impressive as one would have hoped, and Jolly is a longshot. Miller is likely JAG.

    • madmanJack

      i like schwenke a lot also in round 3. but i feel that a big NT is their #1 pick this year. Jenkins or Hankins. go Wheaton in the 2nd. olb in the 4th…i have a name here but i forgot who it is…lol.

      • Stroh

        Theres no NT in this draft that is better than Raji. The best one Loteleili? is comparable to Raji, but may not be better. And Raji is playing out of position at DE so Pickett is in the game at NT, since Pickett no longer has the ability to play DE. I don’t see another NT as being a need. Pickett has a couple years left in him, then Raji moves to NT permanently. We need a run stuffing true 34 DE not more NT IMO. The attempts to sign Canty and Francois and giving Jolly another shot both point to DE as more the problem than NT too.

        Schwenke in the 3rd fits if he’s still there, so would Holmes in the 4th.

        • Oppy

          Pickett isn’t playing NT because he can no longer play DE, he’s playing NT because he’s a damn fine NT, and the Packers don’t have anyone else who can go it anywhere near the level he can. Ryan Pickett plays nose at a masterful level, and it’s a shame he isn’t more widely recognized for his contributions there. He’s a beast.

          In the same stroke, I agree Raji is miscast at DE, but I think he’s even more miscast as a 3-4 NT.. He’s really not getting the most out of his talent in Green Bay’s system. He’s a 3 tec DT in a 4-3 scheme, IMO.

          • Stroh

            Pickett is a damn good NT. But he played DE in ’10 w/ Raji at NT and did fine but since then Pickett has played far more NT and he does play it very well. In some respects he is a better NT than Raji, but in others Raji is better. Either way when Pickett is done, hopefully he’ll play more than just this upcoming season, Raji will then be the NT. If they draft DL, its for a true 34 DE not another NT. As Raji gets older he’ll become more like Pickett and be more just a run stuffer. They still give Raji too many snaps. Maybe if Jolly returns to form they can save Raji some wear and tear. Raji is not a 3 tech DT, he’s still a NT being forced to play some DE.

            • Oppy

              Raji can’t two gap to dave his life at this point. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.. I see no indications that Raji has the aptitude, temperment, or desire to play the nose. He wants the glory. He’s a disruptor, not an anchor. He struggles on the double team and the double-gap assignment. He’s a gap shooter, in my opinion.

              • Stroh

                Your opinion, one thankfully the Packers don’t seem to agree with. Raji was a beast playing NT in ’10. Guess that doesn’t count?

  • Lucas

    Many football stats sites have researched the growth of DT/DE taking a few years to become starters. This suggests that the first year or two do not give a strong indication of their potential. Worthy will have a hard time showing it while on IR, but hopefully the undersized Daniels and another draft pick (or two) will grow quickly.

    • Oppy

      Daniels is a handful for OLmen, and if he gains some size, watch out.. His intensity and motor rivals that of Clay Matthews.. well, for a defensive lineman, at any rate :)

      Love that kid, Daniels is a beast.

      • Stroh

        Hard to take you seriously when you say Daniels is a beast. He has a good motor but has done nothing beastly on the field and he’ll never be a starter for the Packers except due to injury.

  • Stroh

    On Defense the Packers need more speed and physicality on every level. There are players that have that, but to this point they haven’t played to that. McMillan, House are perfect examples of guys that have more speed AND the physical style of play we lack in the secondary. Both need to take a step up and claim jobs.

    At LB there are 2 more candidates. Perry is surely a more physical and athletic player than Walden although he’s facing a learning curve at OLB that usually takes 2+ years to master. If he can take a jump this year it will absolutely help the D. At ILB Bishop plays w/ the physical nature and he would have helped alot last year, but he doesn’t have very good speed, tho his play speed is better than his timed speed. Manning is the wildcard. He has both the physical nature and speed and athleticism to make the ILB much better. I respect Hawk for his consistency, but moving Bishop to his spot and inserting Manning at ILB would really give the Packers the best combination to make the D improved.

    On the DL, a TRUE 34 DE is a must. Jolly was that 3 years ago and I have hope that he will be again. But if we can find another 34 DE w/ length and ability vs run and some pass rush it would solidify the DL. None of the top DL in this draft really fit the bill in our 34 DL IMO. This draft is deep in DL but its all 43 DT and speed edge rushers (OLB for the Pack). There is no Devon Still in this draft in the top 3 rounds. THeres a couple that might later but will need development. Jolly is the best bet to help the DL immediately. He really was playing very well at DE. He can buy the Packers a couple years to develop the next one if we can’t find a stud high in the draft.

    Overall, Look at Safety at the top of the draft (1st or 2nd round) and DE and OLB in the mid to later rounds. Both Wilson and Daniels while good can easily be replaced. And Moses is a try hard guy w/ limited upside. OLB is still in need of much better depth. Look at 3rd or 4th round for an OL and 4th or 5th round for a DE.

    • Stroh

      Ooops. last sentence… Look at 3rd or 4th round for an OLB (not OL) and 4th or 5th for a DE.

  • FireMMNow

    This defense is stuck in neutral. Over the last few years it has lot playmakers to injury, addiction, age and FA. Nick Collins, Cullen Jenkins, Charles Woodson and Jonny Holly hare valuable players that need to be replaced. While woodson has just left the team this year, no one has replaced the other 3 starters adequately. TT needs to fine answers early and often in this draft. With AR and CM3 needing contracts i understand why he is laying in the cut in FA.

    • Stroh

      I don’t know that I would say they’re stuck in neutral but I do agree that they’ve lost valuable pieces. With a little luck and development we could start to have the pieces in place again. Jolly returning to anything near form helps the DL. Neal continuing his rise from last year will definitely help the D replace Jenkins. Hayward is the closest thing we have for Woodson, but along w/ House they have a combination to replace what he brought. McMillan has physical tools similar to Collins and might develop intoa reasonable facsimile. To help matters I would also look at Perry and Manning to step up. On top of that, I would draft D heavy again at the top of the draft before addressing offense in the 3rd or 4th.

      How would Ogletree and Eric Reid look in the 1st 2 rounds? That would immensely improve the speed and play at ILB and Safety. Even w/o that I can see the D taking another step from #11 overall D to the #5 to 7 range. Improve consistency a little and they might be top 5 again.

  • Savage57

    Defense going up? Not until they find their ‘junkyard dog’. The physical variables from one team to another are relatively similar so the difference is either scheme or attitude. Dom Capers is arguably considered one of the top defensive coaches in the league, so scheme get a checkmark.

    That leaves attitide. Of all the valuable UFA’s that TT might sign, might it be a defensive player that can transfuse some nasty into the defense.

    With TT, MM and DC all so damn nice, someone needs to teach these dogs to bite.

  • GBPDAN

    Most of these players will be average at best. A few MAY develop into pro-bowlers

  • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

    That is true for every team in the NFL. If they are not Pro Bowlers out of the box they will never get there?
    Teams get one 1st round pick in the draft and where the Packers with their best record in the NFL over the last 4 years get to pick there are none of the so called Blue Chip Players available.
    So developing players is what you get no matter what.
    And what out of the players listed many 2nd year players tells you they will be average at best?
    I guess the team should have given up on Driver, Williams, Shields, Lang, Jones, Bishop off the top of my head and so many others?