Packers Pre-Training Camp Grades: Defense All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will need to lead the defense back from a miserable 2011.

As promised, here are our pre-training camp grades for the Packers defense:

Defensive Line: D
Grading the defensive line depends on what type of grader you are. If you give points for potential, a ‘D’ seems too low. If potential ranks far below production, then a ‘D’ seems fair. Seeing names like Raji and Pickett makes you think this line should be damn good. But Raji was bad last season and Pickett is another year older. Sure, Raji has the potential to be great like he was at the end of 2010, but he had that same potential in 2011 and never reached it. Jerel Worthy is another guy that could make this group potentially better, but right now, I need to see actual improvement on the line before upping my grade.

Link: Listen to CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau discuss the defensive line in this podcast.

Linebackers: B+
Clay Matthews is one of the best all-around players in the league and Desmond Bishop brings much-needed energy, attitude and a knack for making impact plays.  Matthews and Bishop carried the load at LB last season and need some help in 2012. Nick Perry could bring some much-needed relief. Ditto for D.J. Smith if A.J. Hawk continues to be a dud.  Mix in intriguing rookies like Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning and I like what I see at LB.

Link: Here’s what the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Rob Demovsky had to say about the linebackers before April’s draft.

Cornerbacks: C
This is the toughest position group to rank by far. What do we make of Tramon Williams’ miserable 2011 season? Is Sam Shields really just a guy after showing so much promise in 2010? Will age finally catch up with Charles Woodson? How much do we blame the non-existent pass rush for the cornerback’s decline? Based on last season’s historically bad pass defense, a ‘C’ seems a little generous. But I have a hard time believing that all three main CBs went from good/great in 2010 to terrible in the span of one season.

Link: Charles Woodson is old, but if you don’t understand just how important he is to the Packers defense, read this post from Jason Wilde at ESPNWisconsin.

Safety: D
Will we be yelling at Ted Thompson for not doing more at safety before the season is over? It’s hard to look at the current group and get too excited. Morgan Burnett certainly belongs on the field. Charlie Peprah was a serviceable option, but that point is moot now that he’s been released. We have no idea what we’re going to get from the youngsters. Nick Collins came straight from tiny Bethune-Cookman and started, but it took him a good year or two to hit his stride. Jerron McMillian, from the no-so-powerhouse of Maine University, very well could be a diamond in the rough, but even so, it’s probably going to take him at least a year before he becomes an impact player.

(Side note: I hope M.D. Jennings is really good because I want to refer to him as the “The Doctor” as often as possible.)

Link: A subscription is required, but it’s worth paying to read Bill Huber’s work at Packer Report. Exhibit A: Huber’s preview of the Packers safeties.

Kicker and Punter: A-
It’s tough to project the performance of a kicker and punter from season to season, but I see no reason to expect a major regression from Mason Crosby or Tim Masthay. Crosby broke out last season and Masthay kept it going after ending the 2010 season strong.

Link: Mike Conklin at Packerpedia tells us all we need to know about Masthay. Jason Wilde at ESPNWisconsin ranks Crosby as the 18th most important Packers player.


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 .


13 thoughts on “Packers Pre-Training Camp Grades: Defense

  1. You need to see improvement before you up your grade?

    What is the point of doing a pre-training camp grade then?

    Safety position a ‘D’? With Burnett and Woodson, I think this warrants at least a ‘B’.

    1. I’m indifferent to the grades, but the way I read all the updates today from seperate beat writers was Woodson played safety only in 3-4 base packages. Historically, that’s no more than 20% of the snaps, closer to 10% of the snaps. Otherwise, he’s still a slot corner with MD Jennings playing safety in dime and nickle. So, Woodson wouldn’t really inflate that grade.

      As a side note, why is anybody confident Woodson can be a good starting safety? The angles as a safety are totally different than what he’s seen most of his life playing primarily at corner, especially from the slot. Sounds subtle, but those angles change quickly against professional speed. It’s not an easy transition.

      1. For me, Woodson has been playing CB a lot like a safety type position last season. His skills at this point of his career project very favorably to the Safety position. Different angles? For a heady player like Woodson, I don’t think its any stretch.

        1. Just saying, as a corner playing over the slot he plays in the hip-pocket of the receiver. There really isn’t much of an angle, and even off-coverage he typically has all of 10 feet to break on a ball, eliminating the angle all-together. Safety is a different animal. It’s a small sample size, but I can still remember Woodson being forced into the safety roll against the Panters and Steve Smith during the 08′ season. He misplayed balls big time, getting burnt for a long touchdown on one (go back and watch, he was bad).

          He’s a pro’s pro, but it’s not easy.

          1. I wrote this before the Woodson news broke. Still doesn’t change my grade. Who knows how often the Packers will play base with Woodson at S. Also, Woodson is a risk taker. Not sure I like that mindset at S like I do in the slot. We’ll see.

  2. The Packers like their safeties to be able to cover.
    And they like their corners to be able to tackle.

    Any way you work it… they are nearly the same player (but not exactly the same responsibility).

  3. I’ve been re-watching a couple of games from 2011 and one thing that stuck out to me was how at multiple times Morgan would rightly notice the play call and tell Charlie to shift position to better cover yet he would fail to make the change. Either he didn’t hear, didn’t see the signal, or wouldn’t listen.

    Usually this resulted in Charlie getting beat over the top and coming in from behind and making a late tackle.

    I guess point being, with his football smarts and great instincts, this will hardly be a problem for Woodson, one would assume.

    Although I hope that Woodson is only at safety temporarily to help MD Jennings get acclimated to starter play.

    We’ll see.

  4. I think in this case we need to examine the D line on run vs. pass plays. The run defense I think is closer to a C. If I remember correctly, we finished somewhere around 15 in rushing yards given up. I know it’s not a perfect proxy for overall run defense, but obviously it’s much higher rated than the 31 or 32 that our passing defense finishe

    1. That stat is a bit misleading. Why would other teams bother with running against us once they saw how crappy our pass defense was? Not to mention, they knew they’d have to score 38 point to keep up with us.

  5. If you get to call M.D. Jennings “the Doctor”, I want to be the first guy who gets to call a Jennings designed blitz for QB sack a “Surgical Strike”.

  6. My question is, Will Capers adapt his schemes to the personell on the field? Hawk in pass coverage is an absolute joke. A moderate level of overall improvement will go a long way to getting back to the SB.

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