Packers Season Review: Defense

Kyle PlumCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2010


Green Bay’s defense has had a great season and has the young talent to be the Defense of the decade, and conveniently the decade has just began. 

They can fit in with teams like the 70 Steelers, and the20th century Ravens(hopefully more offense) if they continue to play and build a team around the pillars of defense: 1. Stuff the run 2. Pressure the passer 3. Cover the pass, they will have great success.  


Nose Tackle: The difference between and good and great 3-4 defense is often the NT and that is exactly why the packers immediately signed B.J Raji with the 9th overall pick, soon after switching their defensive scheme.

The Packers should be set at this position because Raji will most likely start next season, but if not Ryan Pickett has been a good starter for Green bay the last couple years.  Scouts consider Raji one of the most ideal 3-4 nose tackle builds in recent memory.  He is somewhat short, extremely heavy and might even get bigger, and is incredibly strong.  He gets off the ball quick and is mean.  He has already shown what he can do, he has completely embarrassed offensive lineman on certain plays this season. After a few games of starting experience he will do this consistently.

Draft need? No. But you never know Ted Thompson has drafted a lot of interior lineman.  People thought we had enough DTs two first round picks ago, but we definitely have enough now and it has become a definite strength of the team. 


Right Defensive End: Cullen Jenkins is arguably the Packers most talented player.  McCarthy called him just that this offseason.  He is the quintessential 3-4 DE.  He has the speed to rush the passer and the size to clog the middle.  He is the player teams to double team most often.  When Raji becomes the full time starter teams will probably be forced to double team Raji allowing Jenkins to make more plays. 

Draft need? Moderate.  It would be nice to draft a good DE who could be the first backup for both the right and left side like Tyson Alualu.  


Left Defensive End: Johnny Jolly he is a very solid starter, he really stepped it up this year. The Packers have Justin Harrell who IF healthy will most likely start over him.  Harrell is incredibly athletic and played very well in his seven games played in three years, each of which were ended with season ending injuries.  Harrell would have been a top 5 or 10 pick if he went into the draft as a junior, so he was a value at the 16th pick.  Harrell hurt his chest muscle coming into the pros like Cullen Jenkins did and the injury has very little long term effects, but unfortunately he has had nagging ankle problems and a long term back injury.


Draft need? Yes.  There is little depth.  Johnny Jolly is the starter, but is having legal problems so Green Bay has to be prepared for the possibility of losing him.  Justin Harrell has yet to prove he can stay healthy, or play for that matter, so he may never be able to contribute.  There is no other logical starter on the team, I have not seen enough out of Jarius Wynn for him to win the job.  As I previously mentioned drafting one player who could play both sides would be a great value pick.           


ROLB: Clay Matthews, he has quickly become a star. He was the overall rookie of the week twice, only defender to make the list.  He has also was awarded the NFL defensive player of the week in week 13.  He is the Packers best pass rusher.  Calling it now, future Hall of Famer.   PRO BOWLER

Draft Need? No. Clay Matthews is the future.


LOLB: Brad Jones came in this year and played better than Aaron Kampman.  He is a good coverage Linebacker.  At first glance he looks like a weakness, but be careful.  He is starting to look like a good player.  He was not even invited to the combine, but his 4.55 speed at 6-2 230 looks really good.  He played in the Big 12, so he has played some good competition.  He is a rare hard worker/good personality guy who over achieves, but still has athleticism.    

Draft Need? Yes.  Despite Jone's promising start, they could use an improvement at this position.  This will likely be filled in the first or second round.  Another great option would be O’Brian Schofield he is a great pass rusher and could be picked up in the 4th or 5th round.   Between Kampman and Jones they rushed the passer about 43% of the time so Schofield will have to improve his coverage and run stopping, so ideally they would draft a more athletic player early on.    


Strong Inside Linebacker:  Nick Barnett had his best season of his career. He led the team in tackles and played extremely well against the run.  He missed very few tackles this year.  He is a top five inside linebacker this season the only two who are clearly better are Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis. He led Green Bay in stops for negative or no gain. 

Draft Need? No.  The packers just resigned Chillar, so there is enough depth.

Weak Inside Linebacker:  AJ Hawk, he has been a bit of a disappointment but he is not given enough credit.  He has had solid seasons so far in his career, although nowhere near expectations.  He began playing well by the end of the year. He was playing much better coverage, which is his weakness, in the last few games.  His improvement was a big part of why the defense was dominating late in the regular season.  

Draft Need? No.


1st Corner: Charles Woodson won the NFL defensive player of the year.  He is simply terrific at this point and is playing the best football of his career.  PRO BOWLER

Draft Need? Not yet.  The Packers need more depth at corner, someone who could step in at nickel.  If Pat Lee turns out to be good a pick would not be necessary,  but lee is very unproven.  The Packers did spend a second round pick on him so he can be great if he recovers from the knee injury well.  Green Bay doesn’t need another later pick they need a first round star once Woodson retires.  Green Bay should pick a CB in the top 20 in the 2011 or 2012 draft 


2nd corner:  Tramon Williams is good, and he may become great.  Teams have been targeting him and avoiding Woodson so Williams has allowed some catches.  The Ravens Passed to him a lot of times and had pretty good success.  One of the biggest differences between an OK defense and a great Defense is not just having one shutdown corner.  If a team has one shutdown corner opponents will just avoid that player and work the other corner, but if both corners are shutdown the opponent has no choice but to pass to both.  A team can usually afford to just not pass to one wide receiver, but they cannot afford to avoid both receivers.  Tramon could be a shutdown; his weakness is pass interference calls, if he can avoid these and continue to play well he could reach a very high level of play.  

Draft Need? Not yet.


3rd Corner: Jarret Bush.  He is not a very good nickel corner. He has been exposed a lot this year and it would be great if we could have a better nickel player like Pat Lee, Tramon Williams, Al Harris, Brandon underwood, or a player from the draft. Bush is a nice player on the roster because he plays corner, safety and is on most special teams so he should not bee cut he is just not good enough to be the third corner.   

Draft Need? Not yet.


Free Safety: Nick Collins is exceptional.  He was a pro –bowler last year.  His stats do not look as good this year, but he has played very well still.  It is difficult to have great stats on a balanced Defense.  He was a pro-bowler this year and is probably second best in the NFL behind Reed. He has the most interceptions the last two seasons in the NFL.  PRO BOWLER

Draft Need? Very Little.  A lot of mocks have the Packers picking a safety high, but why?  There is little depth behind Collins, but that could be fixed as late as the sixth or seventh round.


Strong Safety: Atari Bigby.  Bigby is a very physical player who plays like a Line Backer.  He is a very good safety and it is a good sign for the team that he hasn’t been getting as many tackles as usual. The Packers were rarely beaten for the long play most of the year and this in a large part thanks to Bigby.  He is a very good run stuffer and is like having a fifth linebacker on the field.  He delivers huge hits, and would start almost every team in the NFL.  He has had some injuries this year that he had played through, so he can play better.  He does have troubles staying healthy

Draft Need? Moderate. It would be great to have a good player behind him so if he is injured there is not as much of a drop off.  


For the Most part Green Bay's defense had a great season.  They need to work on their constancy and dominance against the best teams.  This consistency will come from more experience in the 34. Expect an improved and dominate team next year.