Packers Video: Ryan Pickett Best Packers Nose Tackle Hands down All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Packers Nose Tackle Ryan Pickett
Packers’ Best Nose Tackle: Ryan Pickett

Ryan Pickett had a whale of a game against the Houston Texans.  Their Pro Bowler center, the 6’4″ 290lb Chris Meyers, was no match for Pickett. Double teams were no match for Pickett, except when he got chop blocked (more on that later).

The best the Texans were able to do against Pickett was keep him on the line of scrimmage. There was no knocking him back off the line. There was no  getting bounced back and forth between two blockers. These are things I’ve witnessed too much from BJ Raji.

Nothing against Raji, but he is not your prototypical nose tackle that is content with eating blockers and stuffing inside running lanes. Perhaps it’s the Packers’ own fault for also playing him at DE and letting him get a taste of pass rushing glory. To my eyes Raji is a lot more interested in trying to get to the QB than doing what a nose tackle’s primary job is.  I also think he doesn’t always bring that rabid dog intensity I like from my defensive linemen.

The Packers held Arian Foster (averaging 106 yards per game coming into the Packers contest) to 29 yards in 17 carries – 1.7 ypc average. If you don’t think a big reason for that was Ryan Pickett, you need to go watch the game again. There were no running lanes for Foster between the tackles. He scored two short yardage touchdowns, both by bouncing the play off tackle to avoid a hard charging Ryan Pickett.

Lets look at those two plays:




It didn’t take long for the Texans to realize what they were dealing with in Pickett. After only a quarter of play, the Texans decided to deploy some dirty, but legal tactics: the chop block (or cut block, whichever you prefer).

Wait, aren’t chop blocks illegal, you say? Well take a look and tell me if you think this play should be called a penalty:


When I watched the game a second time and saw this play, I hit the roof. “Why wasn’t this a penalty?” I asked. Well, because it’s a legal cut block.

Now I can hear you asking, “Isn’t that an oxymoron? In the wonderful world of NFL rules,  you must pay very close attention. I hadn’t. I just assumed any time a defensive player is engaged with a blocker, you can’t go at his legs.

But you know what happens when you assume. It turns out that if the player making the cut block lines up next to the blocker that is engaged with the defender, cut blocks are legal. Yes, what Texans OG Wade Smith did, going after Ryan Pickett’s knees, is perfectly legal in the wacky world of the NFL rule book. Had Smith been lined up at tackle, it’s then a penalty.



Follow Jersey Al:

                    Add to Circleson Google+

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


18 thoughts on “Packers Video: Ryan Pickett Best Packers Nose Tackle Hands down

  1. My understanding is that is completely legal so long as the offensive blocker is throwing the block to the front side of the defender’s legs. If the blocker attacks the true side or backside of the defender’s leg, it is considered an illegal block.

    If this is accurate, my guess is the NFL only is concerned with a “defenseless” defender’s legs being chopped out from under him- they want to ensure the defender has the opportunity to see it coming.

    It should be noted, cutting or “chop” blocking is part and parcel in the zone blocking scheme. The Packers cut block backside pursuit all the time. It’s the key to opening up the cut back lanes on the back side of a zone play.

  2. By the way,

    THANK YOU for posting this article. People always think I’m crazy when I’ve stated that Raji is a poor fit for a NT and that Pickett is the only real NT we’ve got. I’ve been scoffed at for stating the success of our run defense vs. the Texans coming with Raji on the sidelines was more than coincidence.

    Mind you, I think Raji is a great talent.. Just a talent that has been mis-cast by the Packers.

    1. Oppy, a cut block on backside pursuit is one thing, and does not involve a player being engaged with another blocker. the Packers ZBS does not employ the techniques the Texans do, as shown in the video.

      I think the front/side/back legs distinction come into play on peelback blocks, not chop blocks in the interior line. In general there is a ton of confusion about it because the rule has so many stipulations and conditions over various scenarios. Something the NFL desperately needs to “clean up.”

      1. Great post Al. I love BJ for all the things he brings to the defense. But you’re right – BJ gets into trouble as a NT because he tries to do too much on a play to play basis.

        He needs to learn – probably from Pickett – how to pick and choose when to shoot gaps and when to play the double team. I do agree that the likely root of BJ’s issues are that the team has lined him up at DE and needed him to be a pass rusher more than a run stuffer.

        BJ will be a great player, but Trgovac and Capers need to decide if they want him to be a run stuffer that can get pressure, or a quick footed end that can collapse the pocket from the 5-tech spot. This would be the draft to dip in for a NT if they intend to move BJ out to end full time as the draft has multiple prospects who can play and thrive at NT in a 3-4 – Jenkins – Georgia/Lotulelei – Utah/Hankins – OSU/Williams – UNC.

        Main thing now is for BJ to get fully healthy because, despite what some fans think, we need him!

  3. wonderful post. surely the coaches got to see this and put pickett at the nose for the rest of the year.

  4. Great point about run stuffing by Pickett. I would be extremely surprised if the Packers give Pickett the credit he deserves as they (McCarthy and Thompson have a vested interest in Raji being the big name). anyone paying attention though should realize the Packers have not shown a consistent ability to stop the run. Some are football players first-Raji is not. The message the NFL sends regarding the cut block must cause a lot of irritation to defensive linemen when they almost have to cause a quarterback to fall on his own to avoid a penalty. Great article, as expected at this website.

  5. So true about Raji, he’s always picking a side and trying to make the big play instead of just clogging up the hole.That chop block was shocking it’s a wonder his knee came out ok.

  6. NICE!! This explains alot to me. Thanks! Now, how about the rules on the hit DJ Smith took, that put him out?

  7. NICE!! This explains alot to me. Thanks! Now, how about the rules on the hit DJ Smith took, that put him out? Penalty or not?

      1. I saw it on gameday. But the thing is, what are a half dozen starting linebackers with blown ACLs to the NFL? As long as they aren’t QBs, they don’t really care

  8. Another great article (as usual).

    QB’s are protected but defense players are not. Cold weather and fewer quality LB’s help the run game in November. That is why TT has always loaded up with LB’s and not QB or RB’s.

    We need another big man to play in the middle. Pick is not going to be around in anothe year or so. Pick needs to stay in the middle. Let Raji play all three positions (DE’s and NT) to make the offense quess where he is coming from. Let him use his skills on pushing the OL back to QB. This will help in getting many sacks by the rest of the “D” and some by him.

  9. I hope that Pickett stays at NT. He’s simply better there. Raji views himself as a Haloti Ngata type, but he simply doens’t have Ngata’s size.

    He’s got the quickness to shoot the gap, but not the strength to eat the double team and then shoot the gap.

    Eating the double team is simply more important in this scheme at the NT. I’d love for both to be possible, but Raji can’t do it. He needs to pick one. I hope he picks the right one..

    1. Many of us fans keep talking about replacing Pickett as though his play is declining. At the moment that does not seem to be the case.

      I would still love it if we got a developmental NT in the mid rounds of the next draft for more depth, because Pickett is 33 now. He must decline in the next year or three, BUT, I cannot say I see a decline yet….

      Bearmeat, Ngata is supposed to be about the same weight as Raji (and two inches taller). Of course listed height/weight can lie.

  10. This all sounds great, but Mike Trgovac is a pretty darn good DL coach. He’s also been a defensive coordinator. I think he’s bright enough to know where his DL fit best and where they can best help the team. I like Pickett at NT, but I like Raji there also. But, I’m not about to pretend I know more than him about where his DL belong.

  11. I pointed this out on another post but I’ll repeat it. During Rajis rookie year Pickett played NT because the Packers didn’t think Raji could handle it. I can’t remember for sure but I think we were no. 1 in rushing defense that year (2009?). The next year they switched Raji & Pickett and our run d has never been as good. It is not a coincidence that we shut down one of the best running teams in the league with Raji out of the lineup and Pickett back at the nose. Pickett is simply much better.

  12. Pickett should never have played anything other position other than NT. It’s a natural position for him. Let’s see if Capers agrees.

  13. As Ryan’s sister, I may be accused of being biased about his ability to play at the NT position, but in my eyes he is the best at what he does. He’s an outstanding player and man! I feel he is a very under-rated player. He’s given the NFL 12 awesome years of his young life! Pickett is the best thing since sliced bread at NT!!! I just love him to pieces!! Go Pack Go!!!

Comments are closed.