Category Archives: Defensive Line

31

July

The old B.J. Raji has shown up early in Packers training camp

BJ Raji

Packers NT B.J. Raji has started strong in training camp.

Early reports out of Packers training camp indicate that the old B.J. Raji is peeking out of whatever hole he’s been hibernating in since early last season.

It sounds like Raji is giving J.C. Tretter — the Packers newly minted starting center — a rude awakening to the NFL. That’s concerning for the offense, but good news for the defense as Raji tries to regain his 2010 form and anchor the middle of a Packers defensive line that gets pushed around far too often.

To be fair, Raji wasn’t that bad at the start of last season. If he could’ve maintained his early-season level of play all the way to the end of 2013, it wouldn’t have been a pro bowl campaign, but it would have been much better than the complete disappearing act he pulled.

I wondered if conditioning played a role in Raji’s decline in 2013. Supposedly, he showed up to minicamp last season out of shape.

We have no way of knowing for sure what role, if any, Raji’s fitness level played as he faded away, but if he’s in better shape this year and off to a fast start, it at least shows he serious about improving. It also probably shows he’s super ticked off about having to settle for a one-year “prove-it” deal after his bad season, costing himself a lot of money.

I don’t care what motivates Raji. If it takes money, basic pride, or a desire to move his name back onto the list of good NFL defensive linemen, the Packers need him to bounce back.

Hopefully Tretter braces up and gives Raji more of a challenge during camp. And hopefully Raji treats opposing centers the same way he’s currently treating Tretter once the season begins.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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25

April

Best “Not First Round” Defensive Line Prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft

Josh Mauro Stanford

Josh Mauro, Stanford

My mantra for the Packers’ off season has been the Defensive Line needing to be up graded more then any position on the team. A better line makes everyone behind them better and there is no doubt that after being ranked 8th in total sacks, the defense needs to be much better against the run and apply a lot more pressure.

Mike McCarthy stated he wants to change the defense, adding players with more length on the defensive line. And when you look at the traditional 3-4 DE it makes sense to add more of that type of player.

Jones is a good start but with a pesky ankle injury the entire season he flashed but did little else. Worthy got back on the field late last year and his quickness off the ball was impressive, but he was not in football shape, he will be 100% and at over twenty months past his surgery.

Daniels should never be on the field as a base DE like last year, They really had no choice but to rotate him there last year, but he is not suited for it. He was washed out against the run and if he did not beat his man with his quickness he was not that effective. He is perfectly suited to the 3 technique DT spot with his great motor and quickness. With moving Raji back to NT and adding Guion, Daniels can be more effective in the role he should be in.

Boyd is one of the players I want to see most this coming season, He worked his way on the field learning the techniques for the defense, he was a NT in college and showed he can play DE, I think he can be effective at NT, 3 technique and DE.

I am just as excited to see Peppers at DE as standing up and playing OLB. He can play left or right side, and was very effective when playing 3 technique.

I don’t think Pickett will be back and his play dropped off last year.

Jolly should get a chance to compete.  I wonder if he will even be back, But I hope he is. He can add to the defense.

A lot of how the defense does this coming year is on Jones and Boyd taking that second year step up and Worthy basically doing the same in his third after missing most of his second.

28

March

Xs and Os: Do the Packers Have an Elephant in the Room?

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

When the Green Bay Packers signed defensive end Julius Peppers in free agency, lots of speculation about his future role with the team erupted.

We heard rumors circulating about a possible deployment of a “hybrid defense” and the “elephant end” position.

The reason for this speculation is Packers’ defensive Dom Capers employs a base 3-4 defense, which utilizes 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers.

However, Peppers is a 4-3 defensive end. The 4-3 defense utilizes 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers.

Because of this alignment difference, the defensive ends between both schemes have different body types and responsibilities.

Typically, 4-3 defensive ends are usually between 260-285 pounds and are long, fluid athletes. On the other hand, 3-4 defensive ends are between 300-340 pounds and are more of the wrecking ball type.

The reason for these different body types has to do with defensive gap control.

Gap control is how the defense puts its players in proper position, mainly for stopping the running game, but also secondarily when establishing pass rushing lanes.

The 3-4 defense typically uses a double gap system, meaning that each defender in the front 7 is responsible for defending 2 gaps in the offensive formation.

This is very much a read and react system where each player anticipates where the ball will go and move to that location as the play develops. At the snap of the ball, the defensive linemen stand up their blockers, clog the position, and move to the lane where the ball is.

Linebackers also have double control and flow to the ball as the runner hits the lane.

Legend: T = Tackle G = Guard C = Center TE = Tight end DE = Defensive end NT = Nose tackle S = Sam (strong side linebacker) M = Mike (middle linebacker) W = Will (weak side linebacker) J = Jack linebacker

Legend:
T = Tackle, G = Guard, C = Center, TE = Tight end, DE = Defensive end, NT = Nose tackle, S = Sam (strong side linebacker), M = Mike (middle linebacker), W = Will (weak side linebacker), J = Jack linebacker

The 3-4 defense relies on strength to control the gaps, which is why the defensive linemen are large. However, the Jack linebacker, such as Clay Matthews, is free to roam and do damage over a large portion of the field, including rushing the passer.

In contrast, the 4-3 defense is traditionally a single gap defense, which means each front 7 defender controls only 1 lane.

Legend: DT = Defensive tackle

Legend:
DT = Defensive tackle

21

March

What To Make Of Julius Peppers’ Contract

The poster boy of why total contract value is overrated.

For all you Packers fans that were hoping for a big name free agent splash, Ted Thompson would like to introduce you to one Julius Peppers, a guy you might have seen around on the Bears and the Panthers before.  Some of you (including a fair proportion of our dear commentors) will never be happy because Peppers has never played in a 3-4 scheme, no one really knows exactly what his role will be outside of rushing the passer, has a long injury history and he’s 34 with a motor that’s starting to get cold (you do know that experienced and old usually go hand in hand right?).  Well if you want to know what the Packers are going to do with Peppers, this isn’t the article for you. What this article will be looking into is not how Peppers will fit on the field, but how Peppers fits in the Packers salary cap.

As I’ve mentioned before in my previous article, the media and fans often fixate on the total value of the contract, which is probably the least important piece of information.  One only has to remember how Donovan McNabb’s 5-year $88 million contract with the Redskins turned out to be more $3.75 million which he actually earned.  Ironically, this is also probably the best example to use for Pepper’s contract with the Packers.

Julius Pepper signs 3-year, $30 million contract with the Packers (courtesy of Over The Cap)

2014: $1 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus

2015: $8.5 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

2016: $7 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

17

March

Packers Add Veteran Defensive Tackle

Letroy Guion

Defensive tackle Letroy Guion and the Packers have reportedly agreed on a one-year deal

According to a few sources, including ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Green Bay Packers have come to an agreement with free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion.  The deal is reported to be for one year.  Terms have not yet been disclosed.

Guion most recently was with the Minnesota Vikings.  Typically at this time of year, we’re talking about former Packers who have become Vikings and this time, the Packers are on the receiving end of such a transaction.

Guion was a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2008 and will turn 27 this summer.  He has appeared in at least 13 games in each of the past four seasons.  2013 appeared to be one of Guion’s more productive years as he tallied a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defended along with three tackles for no gain or a loss.

With Guion’s deal only being for one year, it’s far from a certainty that he will be on the team when this season begins.  Two years ago, the Packers signed veteran defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, albeit under different circumstances, and he was unable to crack the team’s final roster.

The move could also signal the Packers’ intentions with regards to Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, both of whom are unrestricted free agents and who have spent the majority of their careers with the Packers.  Pickett has said that he wants to return this season and so far, does not appear to have received much attention on the market.  Jolly was just recently cleared to begin working out after neck fusion surgery in January.

This is the second outside free agent move in the past three days after the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson were quiet on the first few days of the new league year.  On Saturday, news broke that the Packers had signed defensive end Julius Peppers to a three-year deal.

Keep it right here at allgbp.com for more updates and (dare I say?) signings by the Packers.

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

12

March

NFL Free Agency: Green Bay Packers Re-Sign DE/OLB Mike Neal

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, NFL Free Agency, Packers Free Agents, Packers free agencyAccording to his Twitter feed, defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal has signed a new two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neal had his most productive season in 2013, but that was mainly due to the fact he was finally able to remain healthy for a full season.  Neal had 47 combined tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in a season where he was moved from the defensive line to a linebacker position.

A second round pick of the Packers in 2010, Neal showed flashes of being a decent pass rusher during training camp but never was able to remain healthy and only saw action for more than half a season in 2012.  Neal had been rumored to be target by the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, but ultimately chose to remain a Green Bay Packer.

With Neal’s return, it’s becoming clear no major defensive scheme overhaul is in order for the Packers this offseason. Moving Neal back to his original position on the defensive line however would indicate Green Bay wants to get leaner at the position.   There is also the possibility Neal could be moved all over the front seven as a pass rush specialist, lining up both with his hands on the ground as well as standing up.

This move at the least sets the stage for more competition throughout the unit as training camp approaches.  Neal is still young and has a lot to contribute.  He has natural athletic ability and now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Neal could be critical towards Green Bay finally establishing a consistent pass rush.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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