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The New Green Bay Packer Defense

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 30:  Ryan Pickett #79 of the Green Bay Packers takes the field during player ingtroductions against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2008 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Panthers won 35-31.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Tim SeemanAnalyst IApril 28, 2009

The Green Bay Packers took nose tackle BJ Raji with the ninth overall pick in this past weekend's NFL Draft.  The idea is to improve the run defense, which ranked 26th in the league.  With the addition of Raji to what the Packers already had, I can't see how the unit doesn't improve.

Let's start with the defensive line, which will consist of only three men instead of four this year.  The starting three will probably be Raji, Justin Harrell, and Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins is a proven commodity as a hybrid defensive tackle and defensive end in the four-three defensive and seems to be a prototypical three-four defensive end.

Harrell is the infamous 16th overall pick of Ted Thompson in the 2007 NFL Draft.  After recovering from a torn bicep, he'll have a shot to prove himself to coaches and fans.

But what makes the line even better will be the guys rotating in to spell the starters. Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett both have starting experience in the Packers defense as tackles, and both have huge bodies.

Offensive lines will have to commit a lot of blockers to the three down linemen that the Packers will have on the field at any one time, which is the goal of defensive linemen in the three-four.

The unavailability of blockers to block the linebackers is what will make the defense better.  Inside guys Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk will be allowed to fly all over the field to ball carriers on running downs.  The men on the outside, Aaron Kampman and (probably) rookie Clay Matthews, will also be free to make plays on the quarterback.

If Kampman and Matthews can create consistent pressure with a little help up the middle from Raji, then the pass defense will also benefit.  They have good players in Charles Woodson, Al Harris, and Nick Collins, and a pressured quarterback will make their jobs much easier.

There is a lot of time between now and the next game, and there is a lot of learning to do, especially for Kampman, Hawk, Harrell, Raji, and Matthews.  With an experienced coordinator like Dom Capers and a fiery position coach like Kevin Greene, I'm sure that the Packers will pick up something during the summer months.

Besides, the Green Bay defense wasn't good last year; there's nowhere to go but up.

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