Remember when the Packers actually had a good run defense? It seems like forever ago, but as recently as October, the Packers turned into a brick wall against the likes of Frank Gore, Reggie Bush and others.
Those days are long gone now, and there are many reasons why the Packers run defense has gone from good to abysmal: Middle linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are slow. The safeties don’t provide much for run support even when they play up on the line. Tackling, once again, is atrocious.
The Packers defensive line is also very fat. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly all weigh in at over 325 pounds, and that’s listed weight. If I had to guess, I’d guess that Jolly is at least 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight of 325.
Remember back in the summer when reports came out that Raji and Pickett reported to minicamp overweight? I laughed it off because Raji and Pickett are fat guys and fat football players tend to get a little fatter during the offseason. No big deal. There was plenty of time to get back in shape before the season.
Jolly also had been out of football for three seasons and admitted that his weight climbed well above his playing weight before working to bring it back down and make the team.
Early in the season, it looked like I was right to just laugh off the reports of Raji, Pickett and Jolly being out of shape.
Led by the aforementioned three, the Packers only allowed one 100-yard rusher (Washington’s Alfred Morris in week 2) through the season’s first eight weeks. Since then, they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher in four of the last five and have nearly allowed two players on the same team to top the century mark in the same game in consecutive weeks.
Are a few too many trips through the buffet line impacting the Packers run defense? Has the run defense slipped because Raji, Pickett and Jolly are wearing down due to poor conditioning after a strong start?
Only the Packers coaches and front office personnel can answer that question for sure. But as a fan watching the bottom fall out of this run defense, you can’t help but wonder if being out of shape in July is costing the Packers in November.
Of course, being out of shape isn’t the only possible reason for the diminished play of Raji, Pickett and Jolly.
Pickett is 34 and has been battling a knee injury. Father time is just as likely a cause for Pickett’s decline as his waistline.
Jolly was out of football for three years and is also 30 years old. Should we really be surprised that he’s wearing down?
Raji has no excuse. I have no idea what’s going on with him. He’s in a contract year and seems to think he deserves to be paid like a top-tier defensive lineman. The way he’s played over the last month, I wouldn’t give him the league minimum.
If you watch Raji, Pickett and Jolly recently, they don’t get off blocks and they display no athleticism whatsoever. Instead of being explosive and immovable, they look lethargic and plodding.
I know that the Packers ask these three to control gaps and occupy blockers instead of jetting upfield, but controlling gaps means more than just standing there and taking up space. You need energy and mobility. Just being a fat guy doesn’t cut it.
Packers fans and the rest of the NFL world were worried about running back Eddie Lacy being too fat as the 2013 season approached. Instead, we probably should have worried about the ballooning Raji, Pickett and Jolly.——————