Answers, answers, answers. These pesky little fellas are pretty hard to find around the defensive side of the Green Bay Packers training camp.
Does a 17-0 defeat of the Cleveland Browns in the first preseason game answer anything?
Well, if your question is: "What is a relatively ineffective way to judge a teams defensive capabilities?", then sure it does.
There are better questions though, a lot of them in fact, so without further adieu let's get started.
The 3-4? Dom Capers and the 3-4 in Lambeau Field all season?
Yes! Yes, yes and YES! I'm going to cover this more in part three of this series, Special Teams/ Coaches/ Management, so I'll keep it brief.
It's here, I like it and I think that, given a little time, it will work out just fine.
What's the impact of B.J. Rajis' training camp holdout?
Minimal. Holdouts do concern me sometimes as far as a player's attitude goes, and attitude certainly had something to do with this; it just wasn't B.J.s'.
Anyway, my hope for Raji is that he spends a lot of time with Justin Harrell discussing proper weight room technique; then does exactly the opposite. This should ensure a long and healthy career.
Is it fair to rip on Justin Harrell?
Probably not. He was obviously born under a bad star, because he is cursed with injuries. His limited time on the field has been less than overwhelming; if this is due to the injuries or not, the Packers must be extremely frustrated with this young man.
I am too. Just throwing a name out there, but the Steelers drafted Lamaar Woodley in the second round that year. Harrell went in the first.
Harrell is a monster at three hundred and twenty plus pounds; if healthy and playing up to a first round picks potential he would be a great fit in the 3-4 as a starting DE and occasional NT. I think this is his last year to prove something to the Packers, before he finds a new home.
Aside from Harrell how does the defensive line look?
Our starting three should be Raji, Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins. Together, the three of them weigh in at over 1000lbs. This is encouraging.
Jenkins is an amazing athlete for his size, as is Raji apparently.
Pickett is a huge man, who I feel is something of an overachiever at his position; meaning he gives it all on every play but can be over-matched at times by clever centers and guards.
After these three, things start to look a little thin. This is no metaphor.
Aside from John Jolly (312lbs.), who if healthy, is a good option as a second DE and Alfred Malone (307lbs), who is unproven; there is a shortage of beef in the Packers defensive line rotation.
Mike Montgomery, Ronald Talley, Jarius Wynn, Dean Muhtadi and Anthony Toribio are all undersized for their position in a 3-4 defense. Montgomery is a special teams ace and one of the few veterans the Packers have, so his value is augmented there.
The selection of Wynn with a relatively high draft choice confuses me. The Packers already knew they were a 3-4 team when they picked him. They had already begun the conversion of Aaron Kampman and Jeremy Thompson to OLB from DE and yet they feel the need to draft a 277lb end.
Wiser minds than me have already offered the opinion that the Packers should look into a veteran NT/DE on the free agent market and I tend to agree. Will Ted Thompson do this? We'll see...
Are there any outside linebackers in camp?
Right now there are six, two of whom were defensive ends last year. One of those two has been the Packers best defensive end in recent memory.
If this was any other player than Aaron Kampman I might be a little worried.
Statistically it makes no sense to take your best player away from the line and add him to the linebackers, where he has little to no chance of being the best player.
Aaron Kampman makes this argument invalid, though. He's an Iowa guy; every team needs one and here's why. No matter what you ask him to do he'll do it without complaint and to the best of his abilities. Totally professional, extremely talented; next?
Jeremy Thompson is the other converted end, and according to all reports he's thriving in his new position of LOLB. He's currently nursing a stinger and didn't play against Cleveland. Hopefully we'll be able to see him in game action soon.
Clay Matthews III has a big time football pedigree and a lot of question marks surrounding his selection by the Packers in the first round. He'll be given every chance by the Packers to prove the critics wrong, pushing Thompson for the starting job on the left side.
Brady Poppinga is currently first on the LOLB depth chart with injuries to Thompson and Matthews. From the way things are looking he'll start the season as a backup if the other two are healthy. I think Brady has always been on the bubble as a starter for the Pack, but like Montgomery he can add to his value with Special Teams and that all important veteran presence.
Cyril Obiozor and Stryker Sulak might have a chance at making the team if the injuries continue to mount, but I wouldn't count on seeing them much, if at all, this year.
What about the inside, what's going on there?
Some interesting stuff.
Brandon Chillar is a great example of quality over quantity. One of two, count 'em, two veteran defensive free agent signings the Packers have made in two seasons Brandon Chillar always makes me ask one thing:
"What were the Rams thinking letting this guy go?"
Okay, he's not a star or anything, but for a team as lost as the Rams to let a young, constantly improving player to slip away is just goofy.
He proved last year that he's better in pass coverage than A.J. Hawk, and seems to be proving a thing or two against the run this preseason.
As a Packer all he's ever done is everything that's been asked of him. By the end of this season he may give the Packers no choice but to make him the starter.
Desmond Bishop has started to make some waves in Packerland. A relative unknown until this season, Bishop is turning heads in camp with his aggressive play and attitude.
The 3-4 is so perfect for nasty mean inside 'backers that this sudden attention on Bishop could mean big things for him. Here's hoping.
I'm going to sum up A.J. Hawk in one word: "Tentative".
Someone obviously needs to kick A.J.s' puppy a few times before every game because there is no emotion there. When he can show he wants to be out there busting heads wreaking havoc then I'll take the time to evaluate his talent.
Danny Lansanah was brought in late last year, costing the Packers the services of special teams specialist Jason Hunter (who may actually have a chance to start at DE for his new team, the Lions. Go Hunter!).
I'm not sure why Lansanah was signed unless it was a move by a management unsure of yet another underachieving first round draft pick.
What's your favorite position in all of football?
Aside from Long Snapper?
Well Of Course.
It would have to be defensive back. Darren Sharper was my all-time favorite player (until he signed with the Vikings) but more on that in part three.
LeRoy Butler is another hero of mine.
Oh yeah, there was that morning I woke up and read in the paper that Charles Woodson had signed with the Packers. There was that.
Charles Woodson, Al Harris, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams make this the most exciting Packers secondary I have ever seen.
I don't know why Anthony Smith got on Mike Tomlins bad side in Pittsburgh, but his 2007 numbers are really nice. His 2008 numbers consist of one (1) bench; sit there. Welcome to Green Bay Tony, nice to have you.
Veterans Jarrett Bush and Will Blackmon will receive a strong challenge from youngsters Pat Lee and Joe Porter, with Blackmons punt return skills most likely making the difference for him.
I really like Brandon Underwood. Okay, I've never seen him play and I don't hang out with the guy or anything but I've heard his story a few times and it seems to me like he's a talented guy just trying to find a future for himself and be there for his family at the same time. Terms that come to mind are "responsible", "dedicated" and "mature".
Does this sound like "Green Bay Packer" to anyone else?
Good luck Brandon!
Aren't you forgetting something?
Well, you said something in part one about the coolest name in football and I think you totally missed a starter in the secondary.
Who else could it be but Atari Bigby!
His coming out party in the 2007 NFC Championship game made my choice of new favorite player easy. After an injury marred 2008 he's healthy and ready to bring the punishment yet again.
Atari, make them fear you!
So, are you done yet?
Yep. I think the big questions for the Packers are at OLB and defensive line, and that the chances for an improved squad in 2008 are better than good.
We'll see you for part three, soon.