Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Clay Matthews: B+
Looking at the numbers, Matthews clearly had an off-year, but this was very likely because defenses were paying sole attention to stopping Matthews because many of the other linebackers were ineffective. Matthews has proven himself to be a big-time playmaker, but he's going to need a little help if he is expected to make those plays.
Desmond Bishop: B-
Bishop was brought in as Nick Barnett's replacement, and while he didn't have a bad year, he certainly didn't do a whole lot to improve this defense. I think that Bishop is a promising player with plenty of talent, but he needs to improve before he can be considered a long-term, reliable starter.
D.J. Smith: B-
For a rookie, D.J. Smith exceeded expectations. The rookie out of Appalachian State is one of the more promising young players of this defense, and showed it in several games with Bishop and Hawk out of the lineup. Smith could even take over for one of those players in the future, particularly Hawk, who has been disappointing in recent years despite lofty expectations coming out of college.
A.J. Hawk: C-
A.J. Hawk may have been a first-round pick, but he has never really lived up to the expectations of the high pick and the salary he has been making. This year, he hasn't been much better, as he consistently blew coverage, and at times, put the defense in difficult positions, particularly in the opener against the Saints, when he got a pass interference call that forced the Packers defense to stop the Saints at the one-yard line.
Erik Walden: C-
For the majority of the year, Walden was hanging onto the linebacker position opposite Clay Matthews, and while he made some solid plays and had some good games, he wasn't able to take the pressure off of Matthews, which became a recurring problem for anyone who was holding that position.
Robert Francois: C
Francois will probably be a solid backup for the Packers for a while. He has shown that he be a solid player in limited action and can make some plays from time-to-time as well. Not sure if this can translate into a full-time starter, but he can certainly be a contributor.
Frank Zombo: C-
Zombo had a solid rookie year in 2010, showing potential to be a solid player, but this year, he was hampered with injuries and didn't have a lot of time to play. And when he did, he wasn't as impressive as he was in 2010. But let's see what happens next year once he is healthier.
Brad Jones: C-
Brad Jones showed a lot of promise in 2009 in his rookie year, but in 2010, was out early in the season with an injury. This year, he was not able to show much of what he had two years ago in the limited times he took the field.
Vic So'oto: C
So'oto could be just like Jones and Zombo in that he showed a lot of promise in his first year, but didn't do a whole lot the next year. Regardless, So'oto had an excellent preseason, but was unfortunately out with an injury for most of the season. When he came back, he showed some potential, but the jury is still out on So'oto.