Cory’s Corner: Anyone want to play nose tackle for the Packers?

As soon as B.J. Raji was lost for the season this past August, my mind started to race.

I wondered if general manager Ted Thompson would pick up the phone and call Ryan Pickett. After all, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive tackle played eight seasons for the Packers. He started all 16 games in 2012 and 2013.

I also wondered if Thompson would kick the tires on Johnny Jolly. He received medical clearance June 28 following his January neck surgery. Obviously Jolly would be more of a reach because of his injury history but he started eight games in 2013 and was a great vocal leader on a defense that needed a strong voice.

The reason those two names popped in my head then was the result of what happened this past Sunday. Matt Forte was average this season before taking on the Packers. His high total on the year was 82 yards followed by outputs of 21 and 33 yards.

That all changed when the Packers showed up to Solider Field with a soft interior defensive line. Forte didn’t do anything special against the Packers. He mainly ran between the tackles through the heart of the Packers’ defense — running plays that are seen plenty of times during a Friday night high school game.

Forte totaled 122 yards, good for 5.3 yards a carry. The last time he had that kind of efficiency on at least 23 carries was Week 15 of last year. Forte is a talented running back, but even a struggling LeSean McCoy will run circles around this defense in six weeks.

Starting nose tackle Letroy Guion only had one total tackle on Sunday, while backup Mike Pennel had two.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day Pennel said on Monday. “We’ll take the positives from the game and we’ll take the negatives and we’ll fix everything.”

That’s fair. But against the Jets at home, the Packers didn’t give up big chunks of yards but they lost the battle in the middle. And at Seattle, Marshawn Lynch made the middle of the field his prime real estate as the Seahawks totaled 5.6 yards per carry.

This has happened before. Teams spot the weakness in the Packers’ defensive line right away and expose it. To the linebackers credit, once the ball carrier gets outside the tackles, contain has been pretty good. It’s just the runs up the middle that must be stopped, because those are the runs that move the chains, extend drives and ultimately lead to points.

So getting back to Pickett and Jolly. The Pickett pipe dream was gone ever since he signed with Houston last week. And if the Packers haven’t called Jolly by now, why would they call him in a week or two if things get worse?

Ryan Pickett played eight seasons in Green Bay and started 113 of 119 games. He was signed by Houston last week and played 20 snaps.
Ryan Pickett played eight seasons in Green Bay and started 113 of 119 games. He was signed by Houston last week and played 20 snaps vs. Buffalo.

Thompson may have a different philosophy for this 2014 team, but it should be in win-now mode. With an offense that includes Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy and is led by Aaron Rodgers coupled with a defense that signed Julius Peppers and an improving secondary, this team is capable of big things.

The fact that Thompson didn’t place a priority on replacing a major defensive position seems baffling. I realize the Packers have only passed the quarter-pole of the season but stopping the run is pretty important in football. If a defense cannot consistently stop the run, an offense will make the game feel like torture.

Because even with an offense that seems to have found its magnetic north on Sunday, if the defense cannot get off the field because of up-the-gut gashes, there will be even more pressure placed on the offense. That unit will get less time to generate points to mount a quick lead, which will force the opposition to throw more.

Could Guion and Pennel jell to form a solid nose tackle force? Sure. But when Raji went down in August there was plenty of time to at least work someone out.

When does that sense of urgency arrive?


Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


36 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Anyone want to play nose tackle for the Packers?

  1. I agree Cory – the lack of line talent is baffling for this team – especially since we have been weak on the line going all the way back to the departure of Cullen Jenkins. I will even extend your argument to the O-line. Ted Thompson has a very poor draft record with the big bodies on both sides of the ball. For a draft and develop team, this spells big trouble going forward. If you don’t win in the trenches then chances are that you aren’t going to win (unless you play another weak line team). Heck, we couldn’t even identify interior line talent in free agency. Totally baffling!

    I can’t see this team getting any further than it did in the last couple of seasons. Rodgers will play well until our O-line gets out-played by teams like the Lions, Seahawks or 49ers. If we don’t have a guy like Cutler helping us, then how are we going to stop teams that play sound, balanced football.

    But, we are Packer fans and we hold out hope because Aaron Rodgers apparently “tilts the field” (when he has time). Now we place our faith in an undrafted free agent in the form of Mike Pennel. Heaven help us.

    1. Razer, calm down and relax please. The Packers in 2010 placed their faith in an undrafted free agent former wr converted db in the name of Sam Shields and his play lead us to a super bowl.

      The same challenge is upon another guy named Mike Pennel and I believe he can do the same to our run defense this year as Sammy did in the secondary in that magical 2010 season.

      Expect great things Razer come Thursday. Expect a heavy dose of big no. 64 in the middle. Capers has no choice now but to play him and that’s a good thing. By the end of that Viking game, the Packers printing press will be busy filling orders for no. 64 jerseys mark my words!!

      1. hahaha, your funny…Ted screwed up again with his ignoring of the middle of Packers defense, Pennel is an upgrade over the Vikings castoff but not much…dead last in run defense in the NFL and it aint getting any better…

        1. Oh, you are going to be so wrong Billy. Yes, we are last with Guion but things are a changing. There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s come to kick some ass. His name is Mike Pennel. Yes folks, the beast will finally be unleashed Thursday night. I’m so confident I already preordered my Mike Pennel jersey tonight.

  2. This is no different than past issues with running back, safety, backup quarterback, etc., etc. It’ll be addressed in the off-season, hopefully. Ted (Ego) Thompson is not Ron Wolf, Bill Belichick, or John Schneider. He doesn’t make trades, or sign for help during the season. If Ted didn’t draft a player, Ted is not interested. Get used to our soft middle and another shortened season.

  3. “I wondered if general manager Ted Thompson would pick up the phone and call Ryan Pickett. After all, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive tackle played eight seasons for the Packers. He started all 16 games in 2012 and 2013.”

    I wonder when the last time was that Big Grease weighed as little as 310 pounds…

  4. Cory,

    Regarding your sentence “The fact that Thompson didn’t place a priority on replacing a major defensive position seems baffling,” may I ask why you found it baffling?

    In 2013 Thompson left the team with something called Jerron McMillian/M.D. Jennings to play Safety — another major defensive position. (Both of these young up and comers, or so we were told all last offseason, are now out of the league by the way).

    Also, ILBer is just as weak at NT in 2014 with Brad Jones already benched and AJ Hawk stinking it up for his 9th straight season.

    Thompson also allowed Marshall Newhouse to start at LT in 2012. This is who TT is despite all the lavish praise heaped upon him by his adoring admirers in the press.

  5. How often have the Packers been in 3-4 this season so far? Remember, Mike McCarthy was the one who pushed for going smaller and more athletic on the DL. Perhaps these two things- a shift to more 4-3-esque fronts, and a desire to go more athletic than large, contribute heavily to TT not going out and looking at more options for NT.

    For the record, I personally would have called up Pickett and had him come in for a work out as soon as it was known Raji was going to be out for the season. But then, I personally would have let Raji walk and extended Pickett for one more year to begin with. Pickett is a stud, although an aging one who is in decline, whereas Raji is just a giant pussy.

    Sorry. Couldn’t help but drop that P bomb.

  6. One word people. R E L A X !! Yes, I said it and it’s true. Capers is finally working on the run defense as we speak. Sure, he should have played Pennel in week one but better late than never. Pennel I predict will be the answer to our run defense woes and he finally got his feet wet for the first time against the Bears and played well despite what Aaron Nagler says. This is also why the legendary Teddy Tee didn’t panic and call up Picket. He knows how great Mike Pennel is going to be.

    Like Gilligan once said to Skipper, from here on out it’s smooth sailing. The same will apply to our run defense starting this week against the Vikings and going forward. Smooth sailing. Relax people. Have faith in Teddy Tee. Last time I checked he was pretty damn good at his job. The entire season rides on big Mike Pennel producing and I don’t think he or Teddy Tee plan on failing. I can’t wait until Thursday to see our new and vastly improved run defense!!

    1. We need a sarcasm font. Not sure if this is sarcasm or not. GB played a ton of nickel against the bears. 2 DL aren’t going to stop runs up the middle too well. Still, it has been a problem all year to varying degrees. Boyd and Jones haven’t been very good against the run either.

      1. I assure you Reynoldo that I am dead serious!! Guion has sucked and Boyd has too. It’s Pennel time damnit!! We’re no. 32 in rush defense Reynoldo. I don’t care if we played a “ton of nickel. This ranking is embarrassing!! Capers is out of options.

        Maybe just maybe the one guy he has refused to even activate in 2 of 4 games will be the savior and make him look semi-competent again. After the Vikings game, I hope Capers gets on his knees and begs Pennel for forgiveness for not playing him earlier.

        1. Okay. I seem to have been wrong about Guion: I thought he would get to “not terrible” when he shook the rust off, and for a game or so he did seem to get better. I am perfectly ready to give Pennel a long look over several games to see what he can do!

          1. Yes, I am too Reynalo. Capers needs to get this guy going and that means getting him out on the field. He might struggle at times sure but his size and strength is what we lack the first 4 games.
            I noticed in many of those replay highlights that Chi was electing to double team Pennel and they blocked Guion with only one guy. If other teams do the same with Pennel that is a win for the Packers as other guys should be able to win their one on one matchup.

    2. Capers doesn’t work on ANYTHING. He’s basically unable to make a adjustment during a game. I can’t help but think back to the OTA’s and Mini Camps. McCarthy said he “Personally” had a hand in reshaping this defense. Good job Mike, 33 first downs and 235 on the ground. The Packers are going to be one and done again, if they even make the Playoffs. Then Murphy needs to look, I mean really look at the job his GM has done the last few years.

    3. I totally know who you are from your writing style, but I can’t remember your screen name from MANY years ago on other packers forums. Realized it a few weeks ago on CHTV when you mentioned me. Just thought I mention it.

      1. Why thank you Oppy for the compliment. Yes, I was on CHTV and wanted to disclose who I was here today but decided not too because I don’t want Stroh to come here. I am finally at peace for the first time in years without having to hear that motor mouth constantly reply to my posts. This place to me is paradise seriously. Finally found a Stroh free board.

        By the way Oppy, Stroh is still on CHTV despite being banned. He’s posting undercover with the name DannyDS. Like you know my style, I know his. The thing is I don’t care as long as he stays there and doesn’t come here it will all be good. Just thought I mention it.

        1. Not quite what I meant. I remember your writing style from 7-8 years ago on some Yahoo! based Packers message boards. Those message boards were ugly and rife with trolls..
          I sincerely hope that things do not devolve into that here…

          1. I don’t understand what you are trying to say Oppy. The trolls at that time were people that hated Ted Thompson and Aaron Rodgers. I supported them and got blasted for almost two years.
            I honestly could not see a 2008 happening again though I am already sensing a trend towards Ted Thompson hating which is kind of scary considering he has given us all a super bowl. I guess we’ll have to play this out Oppy Hopefully those trolls are a thing of the past.

    4. Are you saying Mike Pennel will single-handedly take this defense from last in the league vs run to respectable and a SB?! If so, you must be the President of the GB Kool-Aid Drinkers Club. I too see potential in Pennel but he’s no Grady Jackson. Damn, TT cut him too. This defense will never be any good as long as AJ Hawk is on the field. Never in my life have I seen anyone play the position more poorly.

  7. Cory, Aaron had average season before he came to Chicago. So, very good, may say excellent RB Matt Forte. Both shines on that game… So what.
    Second, maybe we are played and will play our running D relaxed at the moment. Why? Because we do not want to show our cards and we are certain that Aaron can win games, even with bad defense… Is that a possibility?
    Did you heard what Mike McCarthy said how Bears surprised Packers with some new schemes for the running game? Why that can not be truth.
    And, at the end. Bears had No 1 red zone offense before they played game on Sunday. And, with more than 450 total yards that wonderful and dangerous offense scored 1 passing TD, one rushing TD and FG… Am I the only one who sees that aberration?

  8. Guion the whale pussy is a liability that needs to be removed immediately. Please, someone kick TT and MM in the ballsack so they can think clearly again…

  9. No team can be two deep at every position in today’s NFL. One could argue losing Raji left GB zero deep, however, there’s probably not 64 people on the planet that can adequately play NT.

    Regarding Pickett, he probably could have played no more than 50% of the snaps, solving only half the problem. Also, signing Pickett preseason would have caused ramifications down the roster, including quite possibly leaving Pennel off the 53.

  10. 2014: Thornton (3rd); Jury is out due to injury;

    2013: Jones & Boyd (1st, 5th) Jury is out – still hope;

    2012: Worthy (2nd & 4th trade up & Daniels (4th); Bust and Good;

    2011: Elmore & Guy (6th, 7th,); 2 busts

    2010: Neal, Wilson (2nd, 7th) 2 JAG at DE (Ok at OLB).

    10 picks spent on 9 players. 2 were JAG, one was good, jury is out on 3, 3 busts. IIRC, none of these D linemen were NTs. In TTs defense, GB didn’t need a NT with Pickett (FA 2006) and Raji (1st 2009) until Raji’s decline in 2011 and Pickett’s decline due to age, which was foreseeable.

  11. This is what drives me nuts about Thompson. Just like in 2011 when they lost Collins he sat, did nothing and the Packers gave up the most passing yards in NFL history. Maybe Pennel’s the answer maybe not. But one thing is for sure, the price is right. Teds answer to EVERYTHING is a UDFA. He’ll sit there with 11 million under the cap and do nothing!

  12. Perhaps the question should be: Does GB need a true NT? If you’re going to play the elephant look, or 2 DLinemen, almost exclusively you’re going to get gashed up the middle some. It would not matter if Vince Wilfork were playing NT, the result is inevitable.

    However, if Datone and Daniels are the two DLs, at least there’s a chance they occassionly shoot a gap and get into the backfield on a running play. Obviously Datone and Damiels can’t play the entire game, but the concept is interesting.

  13. As a GM you always have an eye on next year, and with TT it has never rang more true. His philosophy on building through the draft is the right way to do things, but you need to balance it a bit more in FA, which TT is not very good at, nor does it really interest him. Other than Pickett or Jolly wanting to come back, not sure you could have gotten a second tier FA NT to come to GB. With so much money wrapped up in a few players there is not a lot of wealth. I am not a TT or MM fan by any means. Would love to see them both gone along with Capers. To many talented Asst, coaches out there. With TT getting a new contract he is not going anywhere. I think some these guys need to restructure their contracts to allow more money to be spent elsewhere. I know that is asking a lot in this day and age and a few have done so, cause they know as good as they are they still need talent around. We do need a stronger D-LINe for sure, but the O-LINE is bad, and MIDDLE L-BACKERS well we don’t have any. I do not see us getting back to a SB in the future with all these issues, and the window gets a little smaller every year. That is sad considering we have one of thee most talented QB’s in football !!!!! Since 1961

    1. The question isn’t whether you could get a 2nd tier FA NT. The question is whether that person exists and, if he does, would he be better than Guion, Boyd, and Pennel. If not, there’s no reason to bring anyone in.

      With regard to salaries and cap space, that’s not preventing TT from bringing in anyone needed. TT doesn’t churn the roster mid-season like MN and CHI (activated 2 WRs from the PS two weeks ago and then played Marshall and Jeffery anyway). That’s a good thing!

  14. Packers fans–Ryan Pickett’s a Houston Texan now, signed a few days back. Maybe it’s time to make the phone call to Johnny Jolly, get’em down to stadium for a workout if nothing but a look in case something should happen to D-line. Boyd’s out, Datone Jones left the Vikings game, so you never know when a big body is needed.


Comments are closed.