Green Bay Packers: Do the Pack Have a "Big 3" on Defense?

J FCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  A.J. Hawk #50 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play in the defensive huddle to teammates including Clay Matthews #52 and B.J. Raji #90 against the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

By now, many sports fans are sick of the overused and infamous term that describes a collaboration of top-notch talent on a single team.

When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston, the Boston Celtics' new trio of stars was labeled the "Big Three." I'm positive that I don't need to mention the most recent threesome to be similarly nicknamed in the NBA to make my point.

Thankfully, the NFL isn't as kind to these overloaded lineups and franchises that have the money and attraction to hoard superstars.

Due in part to larger rosters and a tight salary cap, which will remain very similar despite a new CBA, you will not see clubs like the New York Yankees buying all their stars, or teams like the L.A. Lakers drawing in top players year after year.

To be more compatible with the NFL, I decided on a new set of rules to determine a "Big Three" as I pondered the Green Bay Packers offensive triple threat in my last article, which explains it in greater detail.

Who are the best three players the Pack would decide to keep if they were forced to release the rest of their starters? Keep in mind, this doesn't take into regard age or contracts—only skill and what each player means to the team.

The offense was fairly easy to decide on, but I found the defense to be much more difficult. The only clear answer was Clay Matthews.

Matthews has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and narrowly missed being selected for the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010. He is a relentless pass-rusher and his prime playmaking ability will keep the Pack's defense dangerous whenever he steps on the field.

For the second star, I turned to the defensive line and 25-year-old B.J. Raji. As long as Dom Capers is in Titletown, the Packers will need a dominant nose tackle to hold up the 3-4 front. In his sophomore season, Raji proved that he is the man for the job.

His 337 lb. frame, which makes him the biggest of the Big Three, can draw blockers to allow openings for his teammates, and he also recorded 6.5 sacks of his own in 2010. Also, don't forget about his interception in the NFC championship game and the subsequent dance moves.

Similar to the offense, a third defensive star was hard to choose. Three candidates immediately entered my mind—Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams—who were all Pro Bowlers last season.

Woodson first appeared to be the obvious answer, as he's only a season removed from Defensive Player of the Year honors; however, he is 34 years old. Even so, the versatile cornerback is still crucial to Capers' scheme and made his third consecutive Pro Bowl in 2010 along with Collins.

Collins' production has continually declined since his breakout 2007 season, but he's still one of the top three safeties in the league. On the other hand, Tramon Williams broke out last year with six INTs and a phenomenal postseason. He appears to be on the rise, but I had to toss him.

The competition came down to Woodson and Collins, but the 13-year veteran came away with the victory in my mind. The Packers defense certainly lost a step with their leader on the sidelines during the Super Bowl, and his presence in the secondary is more valuable than that of Collins or Williams.

As a Packers fan, I am glad that these hypothetical decisions aren't easy. In fact, I would rather my team not have a Big Three on either side of the ball. Instead, I'd prefer to see all 22 players live up to the Lombardi Trophy they earned last year as they take the field again in 2011.