Packers defensive line: While we’re all clamoring for the Packers to finally fix their gaping hole at inside linebacker through the draft or free agency, let’s not forget that the defensive line needs some work, too. Potentially, a lot of work. When opposing teams decided to come at the Packers with a power-running attack in 2014, Green Bay’s smallish defensive front often resembled a squirrel that ran out in front of an 18-wheeler and looked up just in time to see the rig’s headlights bearing down before getting flattened. The Packers’ d-line has some good athletes. It also improved later in the season. But it could use more bulk and grit.
Where are we now:
Here are the current suspects;
Mike Daniels: Need someone to wreck a running play? Daniels can do it. Need QB pressure on an obvious passing down? Daniels can do it. Need endless energy and 125 percent effort at all times? Daniels brings it. Need a tough-guy attitude and a physical style of play? Daniels is your man. Daniels flies under the radar of most non-Packers fans, but he’s exactly what the Green Bay defense needed last season. I see no reason why he won’t continue playing at a high level, and maybe even get better.
Datone Jones: 2015 will be Jones’s third in the NFL. It’ll also be the year we find out if Jones was yet another first-round bust for Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Jones was playing well early in the 2014 season, then got hurt for a month and was never really the same player. Injuries and a lack of production have slowed Jones his first two seasons. He needs to make a Mike Daniels type of leap in year three.
Josh Boyd: Is Josh Boyd Just a Guy (JAG)? Or is he young and athletic enough to shed his current JAG status in 2015?
Mike Pennel: It’d be a total Ted Thompson move to enter training camp with Pennel as the top option at nose tackle — causing every Packers fan to scream, yell and panic — before the 2014 undrafted rookie free agent has a breakout season. I doubt Thompson will go that route, and I’m not sure Pennel is good enough for a breakout season, but I do think he can provide necessary depth up front.
Luther Robinson/Bruce Gaston/Khyri Thronton: If one of these three emerges as a contributor, I’ll be happy.
B.J. Raji: Expectations were high that Raji was going to bounce back last season. Then he got hurt and those hopes ended. In a perfect world, Raji returns and plugs up the middle of the Packers d-line like a 340-pound former first-round pick should. But let’s not forget that Raji was awful the second half of 2013. If Raji is back with the Packers, will we be getting the version of Raji that splits double teams and regularly stakes out territory in the other team’s backfield? Or will we be getting the version of Raji that ends up on the ground far more often than a 340-pound guy should?
Letroy Guion: Let this be a lesson to the younger readers of ALLGBP.com: If you just had a nice season where you exceeded expectations, and there’s buzz about the team you’re playing for offering you a multi-year contract extension, don’t drive around with a bunch of weed, cash and a gun in your truck. Guion’s arrest might actually end up working in the Packers’ favor if it means they can bring him back on another one-year deal at a reduced rate.
So that’s where we are. Next let’s look at…
Where we want to be: Every season, the Packers have one or two position groups that look a little shaky on paper. In the salary cap era, having one or two position groups labeled as “shaky” before the season starts is actually pretty good. Most teams have at least three. Anyway, the Packers stock their roster with young talent and count on that young talent to step up and shore up whatever doubts we have about that position group. The defensive line very well could be that “shaky” position group once training camp starts. Will players like Jones, Pennel, Boyd, Robinson/Gaston/Thronton or Raji and Guion step up and alleviate our fears? We’ll see.
How do we get there?
If Thompson doesn’t bring back Raji or Guion, and if he’s not confident in the younger players on his roster improving enough to make a difference, look for the GM to draft at least one big d-lineman.
Or maybe Thompson will just sign Ndomukong Suh.
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 .