With Sam Shields locked up for the next four years, it’s time to focus on the Packers other free agents.
News of the Packers offering B.J. Raji a short-term contract to return as the team’s nose tackle brought out all kinds of reactions. Many Packers fans want nothing to do with Raji after he fell off the face of the earth midway through last season.
Other Packers fans are willing to stick with Raji if all it takes a relatively cheap, low-risk one-year deal.
I’m in the latter category. There is rarely such a thing as a bad one-year contract. If Raji flops again next season, you’re not tied to him long-term. If he’s horrible in training camp, and a good portion of the contract isn’t guaranteed, the Packers can just cut him.
That might make me sound like a Raji defender, but I am anything but. There were several times in the second half of last season where I wanted Ted Thompson to enter the Packers defensive huddle and cut Raji on the spot. He was that bad.
One talking point from Raji defenders that drives me crazy is the notion that it’s his job to “occupy blockers” so the middle linebackers can make plays. Yes, often in a 3-4 defense, it is the job of the defensive lineman to absorb double teams and sacrifice a little bit of personal glory to free up teammates.
But most people don’t understand what “occupying blockers” really means. It doesn’t mean you stand there and belly bump with other fat guys. It doesn’t mean you simply take up space. It doesn’t mean you never get to make a tackle for a loss or pressure the quarterback.
It definitely doesn’t mean you end up on your backside or blown off the ball like Raji is all too often.
The best way to “occupy blockers” is to kick their ass, to win your match-up, whether it’s against a single offensive lineman or a double team. Knock your man back a step and force the running back to alter his course, even if it’s a minor detour. Anchor yourself in the hole. Split that double team.
A 3-4 defensive lineman who does that often enough will get a tackle behind the line or a sack every now and then. He’ll also be doing a fine job of “occupying blockers.”
Raji hasn’t won many individual matchups since 2010. Yes, it’s might be unfair to expect him to put up big sack numbers or pile up tackles. But his lack of production recently isn’t because he’s been busy “occupying blockers.” He’s just been getting beat.
That said, if the Packers want to give him one more year to figure things out, I’m cool with it.
Packers news, notes and links
- WTF is Aaron Rodgers doing in this picture?
- The Packers need to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith. Sure, J.C. Tretter might be a viable replacement, but is it really wise to hand over the center job to a kid who snapped his ankle during a fumbling drill in mini-camp? Of course, declarations of re-signing any player comes with the caveat of “if the price makes sense.” Here’s hoping the price makes sense to bring back Dietrich-Smith.
- Jason Wilde continues to hold out hope that Morgan Burnett can turn into a quality safety and live up to the contract extension he signed last offseason. It was around year four that Nick Collins morphed into a pro bowler for the Packers after an up-and-down start. I don’t see Burnett in Collins’ league, but like Wilde, I’m not giving up on Burnett yet.
- This tweet from Sam Shields got Packers fans hopes up. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed a few hours later. Thankfully, I checked Twitter while I was waiting for my wife to finish feeding the baby Saturday evening, and I saw that the Packers and Shields have agreed to a 4 year, $39 million contract. That’s a lot of money, but a deal that the Packers probably had to make. Here’s hoping Shields makes the leap from an up-and-coming cornerback to elite.
- Brian Carriveau at the new-look CheeseheadTV makes his case for the Packers to sign free-agent safety Jarius Byrd. Not happening, in my opinion.
- The Packers Talk Radio Network did another mega podcast this week, and once again, it’s a must-listen. This one features an interview with NFL insider and former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt.
- John Kuhn is set to hit the free-agent market. Besides the Vikings, who enjoy signing as many ex-Packers as possible, who is going to sign Kuhn? He doesn’t really fit on any other team besides the Packers.
- Um, Mr. Barnwell? You forgot about David Bakhtiari, who started as a rookie at left tackle for the Packers all of last season. Might want to consider that before opining about the Packers signing tackle Anthony Collins and assuming that Derek Sherrod (Derek Sherrod!) is penciled in as a starter next season.
Non-Packers links and other nonsense
- Former AWA wrestling jobber Buck “Rock ‘n Roll” Zumhofe tried to flee after being convicted on 12 charges of criminal sexual conduct this week. Zumhofe molested a close female relative over a period of several years. Disgusting.
- Take a few minutes to read this piece from Matt Bowen about the other side of NFL free agency, the side that isn’t all about multi-year deals and mega contracts.
- The season finale of HBO’s True Detective airs tonight. However, this person already figured out who the Yellow King is.
- This is true on many issues: Facts and science often cause people to become even dumber than they already are.
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 .