Packers vs. Colts: Film Study – B.J. Raji (Preseason 2010) All Green Bay Packers All the Time

In this installment of Film Study, I decided to focus on one player I get asked about quite a bit – B.J. Raji.  So I went back and watched all of his snaps in the Green Bay Packers – Indianapolis Colts preseason game and here are my observations:

From a personality standpoint,  Raji  hasn’t shown much of a mean streak, and that was my only real concern when the Packers first selected him. From observing Raji, and speaking to people here in NJ that knew him during his high school  years, he’s a “good boy.” Polite, kind, soft-spoken: the type of kid you’d want your daughter to marry.

Of course, that doesn’t translate well to the battlefield known as the NFL. Not to say they are mutually exclusive. There have been plenty of “good guys” who would rip your heart out on the field if needed. Bart Starr, the ultimate gentleman, has been described as such by many teammates. Raji hasn’t shown me that killer instinct, yet.

In the last two preseason games, however, Raji has been starting to show some signs. He has made steady progress in each game, and against some very good Colts offensive linemen, had a positive impact on  roughly 70% of his snaps.

There is one thing he still needs to work on – and that is keeping his head up and eyes on the ball while fighting off blocks. During this preseason, I have observed Raji getting turned around or playing with his head down way too often. In many cases, the ball carrier ran right by him and Raji never saw him until it was too late.

An excellent example of this was the long run by Joseph Addai. (Before we get to Raji, I just want to mention what a great cut by Addai after he clears the line of scrimmage). With one move he faked both Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett to the ground. Watch for it and watch for Charles Woodson getting held right behind them. I need to figure out how to post these in slow motion for you all… )

Getting back to Raji, he gets completely turned around on the play (and then gets mugged and pulled to the ground, but after Addai was past him).

During the Browns and Seahawks preseason games, this was a recurring issue for Raji. When I saw it again so early in the game, I thought, uh-oh, this is going to be a problem. But much to his credit, I didn’t see it happen again for the rest of his snaps. If he can keep his head up and be aware of where the ball is, Raji will make some plays you just would never expect from a nose tackle. Here’s a perfect example:

Watching this play, you’ll see Raji engaging with the offensive lineman while always looking at Manning. He follows the path of the pass to his left and starts heading in that direction. Now he is focused directly on Reggie Wayne, who makes what would normally be a safe assumption; Yeah, I can just run around this nose tackle. Of course, he was wrong. Raji pounces and Wayne is still trying to figure out how a 340 pound DL converged on him so quickly.

Raji has incredible quickness for a man his size, and if he can develop a bit of nastiness, can even be a pass rushing threat. In the Seahawks game, Raji had the most impressive pass rush attempt of any Packer outside of Frank Zombo, who recorded an actual sack. In the Colts game, Raji made an excellent attempt at Manning, tackling him around the legs just after Manning gets the pass off.

On the Play, Raji gets a running start as he and Chillar stunt to the right in an attempt to open a lane for  Poppinga and Woodson, who blitz on the left side  (Watch Woodson on the play for another interesting corner blitz dialed up by Capers).  The Colts do a good job picking up the blitzers, but with that head of steam, Raji executes a perfect bull rush and shed, putting the OL on the ground and tackling Manning just after he releases the ball.

In the previous few weeks, when someone asked me how Raji was doing, I would answer with “not great, not awful. Playing well, but not like a top ten draft pick yet.” Well, after this week I can give a different answer. BJ Raji is starting to give us a glimpse into what he can be. To have a nose tackle that can plug the middle and at the same time, make things uncomfortable  for the quarterback will go along way towards addressing last year’s pass rush issues.

It would serve Raji well, however, to learn how to “turn it on” a bit more during a game and go to that nasty place where no prisoners are ever taken. Add strongman Mike Neal to the equation, who has also shown the ability to collapse the pocket from the inside, and opposing quarterbacks may actually have to earn their completions this season.


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for


26 thoughts on “Packers vs. Colts: Film Study – B.J. Raji (Preseason 2010)

  1. Very insightful. Let’s hope Raji continues to develop and fulfill his potential.

    Oh, and how on earth did an official not see that hold against Woodson? I mean, c’mon!

      1. Jersey Al, do ya think MM & the boys recognize the need for a more ripping attitude from BJ and will get creative with ways to help him find his “inner hell child” if you will? To me, MM has always seemed a little too mild mannered to be a top-flight football coach in the “firey motivational” sense, though I’ve picked up on a little more of the spunk he has since I’ve been following the team more closely this year.

  2. “It would server Raji well, however, to learn how to “turn it on” a bit more during a game and go to that nasty place where no prisoners are ever taken. Add strongman Mike Neal to the equation, who has also shown the ability to collapse the pocket from the inside, and opposing quarterbacks may actually have to earn their completions this season.”

    You know that I’ve been saying that our problem last year, as much as, if not more than coverage, was the ability to disrupt the pocket, moreso than developing pass rush.

    I wasn’t liking what I was seeing from Raji in the first preseason games; to me, Pickett was still a more effective NT.

    Hoping that the draft pick and the depth move that were so good on paper translates to the football field, and that the lack of nastiness is due to meaningless preaseason games…

    1. Disrupting the pocket is a big deal. Lack of doing so can lead to outstanding QB performances against you. We saw a few of those last season.

      Assuming good health, I think Raji will be a better all-around player than Pickett by the end of this season.

  3. Any concern that his height has something to do with his lack of “vision” on some plays? Maybe I’m wrong but isnt he a good 3 inches shorter than the “typical” nose? Does that have any relevance?

    1. A good thought, but looking around the league, there are many NTs that are the same height as Raji. Don’t think height is an important factor in there.

      1. It is, but in contrary. The shorter the player, the lower his center of gravity, and the better he can anchor against the opposing OL…

  4. Didn’t we have a D-lineman with a nasty streak and attitude? Oh yeah, he’s suspended for the entire season.
    Raji will be fine, he’s getting push and eventually those OLBs will start realizing they dont have to cut corners so much around the edge and that’ll lead to a lot more QB hits

    1. There’s a clear example that nastiness doesn’t necessarily translate to better pass rush. He was good for 1 (ONE) sack, and almost no pass rush (damn you, PFF, with your premium BS)…

  5. I don’t know how much I buy into “nasty” as being a prerequisite for being an effective nose tackle: Gilbert wasn’t necessarily nasty, he was just stout, consistent, and disrupted the pocket.

    However, in the 3-4, Raji’s ability to do just that is amplified: Gilbert had another interior lineman next to him, while Raji is technically the lynchpin in all the defense wants to do. If he holds his position, takes up two blockers, and can push them back into the pocket, it allows no escape route for the quarterback as the DEs and OLBs make their route along the outside.

    No NT in the 3-4 is going to be putting up tremendous stats, and will rely on film study like this for us to see how effective he really is. Excellent job, Al, and it is encouraging to see Raji starting to develop.

    1. It’s not a “prerequisite”, but a lot of nasty stuff will happen in that area known as the interior line. Having a mean streak will only help. And what I’m really referring to is that Raji can be a bit “soft” on some plays. I want him mad at somebody on each down – no plays off.

  6. Jersey Al, thanks for those vids. I personally think that while Pickett is a stud at stopping the run, I think he hurts us on passing plays. thank God we have Mike Neal, without him we’d be in a big hole, I just love the way he collapses the pocket. Now I’m hoping the Packers make a trade or pick up another D.E. to help with depth at the D.E. position. Pickett will still be valuable to us as a back up to Raji (to give him a breather), short yardage situations and to help make a goal line stand. Just my opinion though…

  7. Thanks for the insight on Raji this preseason. Something we haven’t really heard much of.

    There’s a balance to be struck as a football player in any position with regards to their aggressiveness. As you pointed out, Raji could definitely step it up some in this department. Of course, you’ve got other guys who don’t seem to have much restraint. Jolly was a good example.

    Speaking of which, have you heard the buzz about Suh vs. Delhomme? Don’t know if he’s like this all the time, but it’s a good example of how aggressiveness can go too far:

    1. Thanks. I like examining line play, and I have been real curious to see if Raji is starting to look like a top-10 pick. Some signs are there.

    2. Ndamukong likes head. GIVE ME HEAD!

      I like that kid already.

      Now, picture week 3 of the regular season. And replace Jake Delhomme with the home team starting QB. YES!

  8. Suh is trying to establish himself as one to be feared as he should but,stupid follows you a long time and those actions will warrant the ref’s to flag your ass alot more than you might really deserve.Smart and nasty yes,mean and stupid-DUH SUH.

    1. Yeah, if he does that at the hupty dump you won’t feel it’s so stupid…

      GOOOO SUH!

      (yes, I know. I’ll be the first to curse if it’s at Lambeau.)

  9. If Raji does his job properly (occupying 2 -3 blockers while pushing the pile back) I will be satisfied with his non flashy stats. His job is not to put up the glory numbers as C.D. stated. However, it is not good when the anchor of the DL gets turned around on a play.Raji has to find a way to hold his ground on every play, and not lose sight of the ball. Hopefully, the few times this has happened this preseason are the anomalies of his career and his still developing in the NFL.

    Great job Al.

  10. Looking at the blown run defense on the first play, I saw something that made me think it was more a bad read than getting turned around. Not that that makes much difference it still cost them 47 yards. As he was driving his man into the backfield slanting to the right, it appeared he saw something and made an abrurpt change in direction 180 degrees to the left. His blocker then pushed him out of the play. Had he kept moving in the original direction he would have forced the runner deeper and coverage would have stopped him.

    Still a mistake, mental not physical.

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