As a life long Packers fan, I am not used to this.
The Packers DEFENSE is carrying this team to wins? I have gotten spoiled with the likes of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers taking the snap, cranking their arms back and letting the ball fly—most likely somewhere near the end zone.
And I know what you guys are thinking...our Favre Super Bowl runs had some GREAT defenses led by some great players. Including, but not limited to, the greatest DE of all time, The Gravedigger, Sean Jones, LeRoy Butler, etc... But I was still pretty young back in those days, and I don't have extremely vivid memories of watching them play as a unit.
You can also point to last season, the first of the Dom Capers era in Green Bay. And I would agree with you. The unit as a whole played outstanding. And it was AWESOME when we were able to break Minnesota's run at having the leagues best rush defense (via Yards Per Game).
But take a look back to last season. It was a pretty darn weak schedule. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining in the slightest, but it did make us look slightly better than we actually were. Any QB who had at least mediocre skills tore us apart—look no further than Big Ben and Kurt Warner (playoffs).
Not only that, but our offense was absolute SEX last season. A 4,000 yard passer, two 1,000 yard receivers, and a 1,200 yard back. We were unstoppable on 3rd downs, Aaron Rodgers was not only effective but efficient. Ryan Grant wasn't all that explosive, but he was tough runner who grinded out the yardage. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver—need I say more? And Jermichael Finley had an amazing second half to the season.
This year...It is a different story. Aaron looks scared in the pocket, he is making bad decisions and poor throws. And when he decides to make a good throw our receivers decide to drop the ball. Our run game has gotten better as of late, but still doesn't measure up to what Ryan Grant brought to the table.
We can no longer count on our offense to win us football games, which I am just flat out not used to as a Packer fan. Sure we aren't as dominant as we were last season, but I didn't expect to be.
Our defense has kept us in every game, even when you look at our losses. We have lost three games by a combined nine points. Say what you want about our offense, but our defense is playing well enough to win us football games.
Everyone can name Clay Matthews, Nick Collins, Charles Woodson and even the painfully mediocre AJ Hawk. But it is the players you rarely hear about in the media that are making some of the largest impacts for our team in a weekly basis.
Tramon Williams | CB : I am just going to get this out into the open. Tramon Williams is our best cover corner right now. Part of that is that Charles Woodson is asked to play like a LB a lot of the time and line up in the box, but watching him in coverage this year and watching some of these UGLY penalties I can't come to any other conclusion than that Woodson has lost about half a step or so.
Tramon Williams on the other hand, is a shut down corner. He takes his turn lining up against the opposing No. 1 WR and he rarely allows completions. When he does, he doesn't let the WR get very far and doesn't give up TDs. Tramon is playing so well that GM Ted Thompson is trying to lock him up long term for about $5,000,000 per year. His play has allowed Ted and Mike McCarthy to wait on bringing back Al Harris off the PUP. This guy will be a star for a long time.
Desmond Bishop | ILB : Desmond, in Packer circles and in the media, is commonly referred to as "Mr. August," referencing his great play in the preseason but inability to grab hold of a starting position.
When Nick Barnett went down, I was pretty upset. The guy is consistently one of the best M/ILB in the league, but never gets talked about. He has great fundamentals and an instinct for the football. AJ Hawk on the other hand, wasn't worth the No. 5 draft selection. He is a good player who will make the plays you expect him to. But he just doesn't have "it."
But when Desmond Bishop assumed the starting role, I was amazed. This guy is great. So good in fact, that I believe he is actually an upgrade over Nick Barnett. He doesn't miss tackles and he doesn't over pursue in the run. He can cover and make vital pass deflections. And he can pressure the QB when asked, albeit it being rare.
AJ Hawk needs to be moved, he isn't worth the money anymore and is no longer worthy of a starting position when Nick Barnett is healthy. Desmond Bishop is a Free Agent after this season and I urgently want Ted Thompson just to throw money at him. If he isn't a Packer next year, I will be massively disappointed.
BJ Raji | NT : Raji has gotten a ton of attention due to being a Top 10 draft pick, so I am not sure he belongs on this list. But after a mediocre rookie campaign, Raji is looking like the franchise Nose Tackle that we expected when we drafted him. He commands double and sometimes triple teams and he has the ability to crush the pocket at a higher-than-expected rate.