Brass Balls and the Packers Defense All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Frank Zombo
Frank Zombo is one Packers defender that could be on the chopping block.

If using almost all of his draft picks on defensive players wasn’t enough of a warning, Ted Thompson could re-enact Alec Baldwin’s brass balls speech from Glengarry Glen Ross on the first day of training camp if he feels the Packers defense hasn’t gotten the message.

Replace Cadillac with a spot on the roster. Replace steak knives with a spot on the end of the bench. Replace getting fired with getting cut.

Message received.

Of course, this message doesn’t need to be delivered to everyone on defense. Clay Matthews is probably the Alec Baldwin of the Packers D. He can point to his $975,000 watch and automatically command respect. Desmond Bishop and Charles Woodson can point to their own watches, which aren’t quite as big as Matthews’, but are impressive nonetheless.

Because of their ineptitude last season and infusion of new blood for the upcoming season, the following defenders who received regular playing time in 2011 could be on the chopping block. They’ll have to prove during training camp that they have the “brass balls” to play in the NFL.

Jarius Wynn
After a strong start, Wynn disappeared and became just another guy (who couldn’t get to the quarterback) on the defensive line.

C.J. Wilson
Did Wilson make any memorable plays last season? He’s another guy you can add to the just-another-guy list.

Charlie Peprah
When Peprah was paired with pro-bowler Nick Collins, he did what needed to be done at safety. Without Collins, Peprah couldn’t keep up in coverage and looked a step behind on most plays.

Frank Zombo
It seems like the Packers want to give Zombo a chance, but he can’t stay healthy. Of course, when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t exactly set the world afire.

Erik Walden
Walden was adequate last season before dropping off after being arrested. The Packers resigned him this offseason, which makes me think he’s got the inside edge in making the squad. Of course, I’m sure it’s a minimal deal and the Packers wouldn’t be hurt much if they cut him, but why go through the through the trouble of resigning a replacement-level player with legal issues if you don’t think he has a shot at getting better?

Robert Francois
The Packers aren’t exactly deep at inside linebacker, and Francois didn’t look out of place when given an opportunity with A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop hurt. I think he survives.

Brad Jones
Francois’ fate could be different if Jones gets moved to inside linebacker. Like Zombo, Jones is another guy that the Packers seem to like, but injuries and failing to take advantage of opportunities make his roster spot questionable.

What say you? Should Mike Neal also be on this list? If you had to guess, which of these guys survive and which are cut?



Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


49 thoughts on “Brass Balls and the Packers Defense

  1. Green is gone and not back. The new DL guy takes his spot. Neal will fight to take his spot (or the light DT) spot. Mike Neal will be out 1st 4 weeks. If he is ready then Wynn or Wilson will be cut at week 4, the other will be cut in August. At 8 weeks Hargrove comes back, which means Neal might be cut. (if GB brings Hargrove back. No rest this year until mid-season as players return to take a spot on the 53.

    Wynn & Wilson have their head on chopping block. Depends on injuries as well which are un predictable.

    Peprah was good until collins went down. Everyone is comparing him to collins which isn’t fair but this is the NFL.He will need to earn a spot which will be tough.

    Zombo, Walden will battle for one spot.
    Jones can play out and inside, so if healthy he might stay. I’m not surprised if all three are gone by Sept 30 – if not sooner.

    Francois looks like an up and comer so he stays for now – but needs to take next step. He needs to prove he can replace AJ.

    1. I meant to add: If Francois takes the next step, AJ might be on trade block week 6 or so. He needs to step up as well.

        1. I really like the write up. Great job.

          All of these guys have to earn their job this year. I mentioned Green because he literally didn’t have competition last year and it showed. Cutting him has sent a message – expecially to Raji.

          This year, everyone has competition including CM3 and Woodson. I think that is good. Right now they are the only two that must feel good about their spots coming into OTA’s and Camp.

    2. Hargrove will be available to the Packers for the entire season. This is going to be the 1st DeSmith/Goodell labor vs. management fight post CBA, and both sides are going to dig in for a long, protracted fight with a judge ruling, as in the Starcaps case, that the players can play while the issues are considered under the appeal.

      Not only was TT aware of the possibility of Hargrove’s suspension when he signed him, he was probably betting on it playing out over a lenghty appeals process with Hargrove available throughout it.

      1. Makes you wonder if it’d be better for the Packers for Hargrove to miss the first half of the season, then come back for the second half instead of having him lose his appeal in week 10 and be gone for the year.

        1. Exactly Adam. It would also give them time to get a longer look at Worthy, Daniels and Neal (if and when he gets back). But if they value Hargrove it would certainly be better to have him for the second half, including the playoffs, versus the first.

          Of the six guy you list, I’m guessing only Jones and Wilson survive. If Guy and/or Muir make the team, then Wilson could be gone too.

          1. I think they took worthy to give Pick some breaks and well as Raji. I suspect Worthy will get 30% of the snaps so both Pick and Raji are fresh at end of season.

            The interesting guy is “guy”. He is a 7th rounder who has not been seen yet. IR last year allowed him to see and learn the defense.

            I think TT and DC are looking at him on the opposite side of Pick and will get significant snaps. (over 50%).

            I also suspect that DC will have 3 or 4 linemen in the 4th quarter this year. Any of them (or all of them) might penetrate and attack the QB. Every offense knew the DL was holding the point of attack and game planned for that.

            Have the 3 or 4 DL attacking will force the OL to protect – last year there were times that 4 blockers took on CM3.

            The other thing is I believe last year the D was used to eat valuable clock time by letting the other teams think they were in the game. That will change this year.

            Prediciton: multiple shut outs. the D will be swarming, attacking and out to “k..l” the QB of the other team. No more 30 second plays.

  2. No, Neal doesn’t need to be on your list. In my mind, he’s already cut. And he should be. It was Ron Wolf’s motto – Don’t compound the pain of a blown draft pick by keeping him on the roster. OK, we made a mistake. Cut him.

    Unless GB brings in a veteran off waivers, I think Peprah is likely to make the team… simply because I don’t know which other four safeties could possibly beat him out. That’s unfortunate.

    Every one of those outside linebackers (Zombo, Walden, Jones) will need to step up big time or get cut. They’re all the same. None of them are worth much.

    Francois is in a tough spot at ILB(but he’s definitely a better player in my mind than those OLBs in your list). I would guess he’s gone. You have to ask this question: will TT keep Francois over Hawk or his latest draft pick Terrell Manning? Highly unlikely, in my opinion.

    I like Wilson a bit better than Winn – at least he plays the run OK – but both could get cut.

    1. That was Ron Wolf’s motto but this is TT and his motto is…’Harrell,Harell,ar’hell…just takes longer to get there.
      TT is playing ‘Deal or no Neal’..another commercial,out of time,wait till next season.

    2. Any shot for So’oto?? I thought he might turn into a real player for the Packers as a pass rush specialist.

  3. Unless Neal completely stinks in training camp and the preseason, he’ll most likely get some type of reprieve. They can keep him until his suspension is done, with no risk whatsoever. He’s a 4-week insurance policy in case another D Lineman gets injured. If the D Line is fully healthy and the young guys are performing well when his suspension is done, THEN he could be unemployed.

    Same type of thing with Hargrove. He’s an 8-week insurance policy, and the decision will need to be made in week 9.

    Please let Wilson and Wynn be gone.

    My big question is who survives from the Walden/Zombo/Jones trio. No offense to these guys, but I really hope young guys show up in camp and just plain beat these guys out.

    I hate to see Charlie Peprah in coverage, but I think he probably survives.

  4. I’m confused. Which one is Wynn and which one is Wilson? Aren’t they the same player…or lack thereof?

    1. We worked so hard to get all the ‘initial’ has to be Wynn.

  5. First, using Baldwin in any form as a comparison to CM3 is broaching the “UNFORGIVABLE.” Many, much better actors and humans, have played the role in “Death of a Salesman.” I’m sure you are just too yound to realize how old that play is. Baldwin is more famous for the recording of him cursing and berating his teenage daughter.

    Back to football – your list is pretty much right on target. I’d add Neal to the almost certain to be somewhere else after his suspension list.

    The safety position will be an area of interest this off-season. I’m starting to believe that this issue will be resolved by some change of structure that will allow the CB’s to evolve into a new D backfield startegy. If so, bye-bye Charlie.

    The marching orders have been issued to Capers and the D. Fix It! Tackle better, cover better, hold your ends, get more sacks, and most important, get off the field on 3rd down.

    1. Not an Alec Baldwin fan, Ron? Oh I know how old that play is, but yes, I am too young to remember anyone besides Baldwin in that role 🙂

      As far as safeties…..let’s not forget about MD Jennings. He’s been talked up a few times this offseason. He’ll give Peprah some additional competition.

      1. Just couldn’t help myself on Tennesse’s work. 🙂

        It’s going to be a fun pre-season trying to figure out just what Capers will be doing to make the D a fully functional part of the team this year.

        1. OOOPS – make that Arthur Miller. Getting my early 50’s playwritters mixed up.

  6. How in the world could you leave Sam Shields off this list?

    I think Wilson deserves at least one full off-season program to grow into the guy we expected to see. Wynn, not so much.

    Hargrove and Daniels seem to be the same guy with the same role. If Daniels is performing, Hargrove is probably cut when his suspension is over.

    Neal will need to make the club in camp, then TT has a 4 game window to audition Guy, Wilson, etc. and then after week 4 when a camp successful Neal is eligible to come back a decision will have to be made.

    OLB, I think only Zombo deserves another shot at OLB, he, like Wilson could develop with an off-season behind him.

    Walden is a dead man walking, just cut the ties.

    Jones only gets a shot due to the possible shift to ILB.

      1. agreed on S.S., people forget how freakin awesome he was down the stretch for Pack his rookie year, if the pass rush cranks up a little bit it will certainly make him look much better.

  7. for some unknown reason i still feel that neal will end up being a productive player for the packers.

    no reason behind it, whatsoever.

    peprah’s gone if jennings shows anything. three safety’s will be enough when you have woody and bush on the roster.

    don’t see how they can keep francois. 4 ilb’s is enough. maybe he beats out jones if he can swing in and out.

    olb locks are…

    the rest will be decided in camp and by special teams.

    too many variables attached to the dl to make any kind of guess but the following players have their work cut out for them…


    … 5 guys for probably 2 spots.

    1. If I would’ve read down further before replying to Ron, I would’ve seen that Cow already brought up MD Jennings.

  8. Here’s how it ends up: We know barring injury Pickett, Raji, Newcomers Daniels and Worthy have made it…. The last two vying for the 5th and 6th spot will be a 3 man race: Guy vs. Wilson, vs. Wynn.

    Wilson got better as season progress plus he can play the run so he stays & Guy has more potential tha both so he sticks around….

    Your d-line: JW, RP, BR
    Back up line, MD, CW, and LG
    Mike neal will be kept around for insurance as will a.hargrove

  9. MD jennings, McMillian, Burnett, Peprah, and possibly Woodson. If we have the firepower at corner to move Woodson to safety, then i think it will come down to jennings and peprah. McMillian makes the team because he got drafted in the 4th round, if for no other reason. Apparently he is a good tackler, so he’ll probably contribute on special teams. Peprah is 29, jennings is 23, which means jennings has that developmental player factor going for him. special teams play will also be a factor.

  10. AJ Hawk should be on the top of that list if we are giving an honest assessment of last season’s play. What big plays did he make?

  11. CJ Wilson actually did make a pair of back to back memorable plays on 2nd and 3rd down last season, one a tackle for no gain (roughly), the following play a monstrous one-armed take down of a RB in the backfield for a loss that showed both a quick first step, ability to shed the blocker and penetrate, and impressive strength to stop cold the ball carrier and take him down behind the line of scrimmage with one arm.

    CJ Wilson is going to be a fine 3-4 DE. He isn’t going to be this QB-sacking 3-4 DE that Packers fans seem to believe is necessary to compete.

    Pack fans, in general, are still living in a word where they judge 3-4 DEs on the standards which Bates’ 4-3 match scheme DE’s were judged by… Everyone keeps harping “he’s just a guy”, well, guess what? 3-4 DE’s are just like good offensive linemen: It’s a good thing when you don’t hear their name. They are tasked with a thankless job.

    Is Wilson a huge playmaker? No, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s a young 3-4 DE who will be a contributer. They are supposed to hold up blockers and let the OLBs do their work, make the plays. It’s the reason Dom has to preach to his linemen that it’s all about the big picture. He’s fine.

    1. We can debate all day about the job of a 3-4 d-lineman, but one thing is clear: No matter what type of defense you play, lineman need to win one-on-one battles for the defense to be good.

      Holding up blockers doesn’t do the defense any good if the blocker you’re “holding up” is kicking your ass. There’s no rule against a 3-4 lineman beating his guy and putting a little pressure on the QB.

      1. When your assignment is to stay home and hold up the blockers, and that’s what you do… you are winning. It’s up to the man whose assignment is to take advantage of the fact he’s now clean to penetrate and make a play to capitalize on it.

        If you do not understand what it is that the lineman is being asked to do, you can not judge his ability to do that job.

        These players have roles to perform. What you have essentially stated is you do not believe those roles are important. Every man should just freelance. Guess what? the 3-4 fails if that is what it degenerates into, and that is EXACTLY why Dom Capers has to drill into his players’ heads that they need to trust the system, be patient and play their assigned role, and the down will come when they get their own chance to be the playmaker. Until then, you do what is asked, even if it’s not glamorous, so the defense can be executed.

        Sorry to be a jerk, but your statement is ignorant of the 3-4 defense that Capers is known for.

        1. There is no defense in the NFL that calls for lineman to get blown up. Yes, the role of a 3-4 lineman most of the time is to occupy blockers, but the best way to occupy blockers is to win one-on-one matchups.

          I might not know exactly what a lineman’s assignment on each call is, but I guarantee it’s not “get blown off the ball by the offensive tackle.”

          Occupying blockers is much more than just standing there and taking up space. And winning your one-on-one matchup doesn’t mean you’re freelancing.

          1. CJ wilson was RARELY “Blown off the ball” last season. Do me a favor, go back and actually watch him play last year. He did a good job with limited snaps, never mind that it’s popular for fans to hate on him. He’s not a superstar, he’s got room to improve, but he’s not a waste of space.

            How do you define “winning” a one-on-one match up? You seemingly defined it as “beating your guy and putting a little pressure on the QB”, that sounds like you’re saying to get off the block and penetrate. If a DE gets off the OL and penetrates, he’s no longer tangling up that lineman (leaving that OL to get his hands on the LB that is perhaps supposed to be penetrating), and his run fits are now shot, leaving a hole where the rest of the defense does not expect one.

            When your assignment is to hold your ground and keep an OL off of a LB, and you do that- It is winning. If your assignment is to blow past the OT and disrupt the RB or move a QB off the spot/sack him- and you do that, that’s winning.

            If the coach tells you to stand completely still and do absolutely nothing, and that’s what you do- that’s winning.. well, that would be stupid, too, but you get my point.

            1. Sure Wilson has a lot of room to improve. Based on last season, the entire D-line has room to improve.

              I’m not sure what you’re getting at…..

              It almost seems like you think a 3-4 d-lineman should act like an o-lineman and block the actual 0-lineman so he can’t get to a linebacker. Winning a one-on-one battle means beating your blocker(s), controlling your gap, and making a play.

              The Packers d-line, Wilson included, didn’t do enough of this last season.

              1. it’s impossible for fans to judge d-linemen (especially in the 3-4) unless we know their assignment. let’s just leave it at that. I agree a little more with oppy on this, but Adam is making good points as well. The reality is that we don’t know their assignments. If we did, we’d be able to judge them better. Sometimes their assignment is to act like an O-lineman and just occupy blockers. This is what Tony Siragusa excelled at for so many years with Baltimore. His job was to keep Ray Lewis clean.

              2. I get the feeling that Adam and Oppy aren’t disagreeing that much on what a lineman’s job is, they just have very different ways of saying similar (but not exactly the same) things. I think, but I’m not sure.

                The d-lineman is never supposed to get pushed backwards. He should hold his ground. Hopefully he can handle his blocker well enough that the offense must put two blockers on him. If a back comes by he needs to be able to disengage from the blocker and make the play. If he can push back the line that’s good, but not if he pushes him so far back that a hole is created (really only a factor in the draw plays, because you’d have to get pretty far upfield pretty quickly to create a hole on most running plays).

                On passing plays he should try to get upfield and collapse the pocket (i.e. pressure the QB). Get in the quarterback’s face, bat down passes if possible, and take him down if he tries to step up to avoid the OLB rush. We will usually have at least one OLB rushing and it is the OLB who almost always takes the outside speed rush. Thus, our DEs generally aren’t going to try to beat our guys outside, so the pass rush techniques are different. The opposing QBs’ abilities can alter the rush tactics used – if we’re going up against Cam Newton you have to be careful not to leave your lane. If it’s Vinny Testaverde, I’d say it’s safe to try to get to him in any way possible – he’s not a threat to leave the pocket and pick up the first.

  12. I think those of you who feel that Neal is as good as gone are mistaken. Remember a year ago TT and MM thought he was capable of filling Jenkins’ shoes. I really doubt that unless this year pans out similar to last year for Neal that they will give up on him. He will be given one more year to prove himself.

  13. I’m still gitty about the fact that TT came through on this draft. Trading up 3 times?, first 6 picks on D?, filling needs with value! Awsome! I didn’t think Ted had it in him. I can’t wait to see some of last years bums hit the bricks!

    1. I still find it difficult to comprehend last season’s defensive meltdown. The Pack’s ability to score seemingly at will and the takeaway vs giveaway ratio somewhat masked the inability to stop the run or the big play. I’m cautiously optimistic that this draft and free agent acquisitions will solve the defensive problems of last year, but rookie development and injuries will prove that out. I’m still confident that Capers’ strategy is sound and with the proper talent in place will bring big D back to Green Bay.

      1. There’s a lot of people who would tell you that Capers has never really had the correct personnel to fully implement his defense in a text book manner, and I think those people would be right.

        This year’s crop are definitely talented players, and they will help Capers stop the bleeding, but many of them still aren’t what he really needs to play the 3-4 the way he draws it up.

        The good news is that Dom was fairly warned by MM and TT when hired- we’re going to draft talented players of all types, so you’re going to have to be flexible enough to figure out how to use them.

          1. Oppy:

            I’ve had 19n drinks and it’s bar time. ith meeJust agree wit mith me:)

      2. Maybe I’m getting hung up on semantics here, but with our offense, I don’t think we need to “solve” our defensive problems. If we just get a little bit better (say, from, 30th to 20th) we will be unbeatable.

  14. Yes, Wynn and Wilson are not only just guys but “undersized guys” as well who have had ample opportunities to succeed and have not. The Walden signing is puzzling, one good game against the Bears in 2 years should not provide unlimited chances. Zombo is healthy has produced at an acceptable level and deserves one more chance. Peprah is a career backup, even Jim Leonard would make more sense than another year with him starting. Mike Neal is a combination of Donnell Washington & Justin Harrell (built like Tarzan plays like Jane when not injured). Ron Wolf would have had him out of town as soon as the suspension was announced. Francsios is a “survivor”, one of those guys you look to replace but does enough to stay every year (ala Mike Montgomery). If you are an undrafted free agent defensive player this is where you want to compete, the jobs are there.

  15. In regards to Wynn, Wilson and Walden and D in general:

    This year the teams get 90 vs 80 players in camp. Every signing was to make sure MM and DC had players to evaluate – competition. The only player not on the roster is Green. He was fired to send a message to Raji and DL.

    2 have suspensions for the D making weeks 4 & 8 critical for players (barring injury). Competition for first half of season.

    The roster will be cut to 53 at end of camp. It is likely that Wynn, Wilson and Walden will not be on final 53 – unless they take the next step up.

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