Green Bay's defense looks nowhere near like the unit that brought it to the Super Bowl, but it certainly has been improving as the season has gone on.
But one part of the defense seems to have shown no improvement what so ever is their ability to get to the quarterback. Green bay has sacked the quarterback 12 times in five weeks, well enough for 12th in the league. Last season, it finished with 47, good enough for second in the league.
The departure of Cullen Jenkins has hurt beyond any doubt, although General Manager Ted Thompson was presented with dilemma of either having re-sign an injury-prone 30-year-old, or starting a young and up-and-coming pass rusher.
His decision was understandable.
Though Mike Neal's injury was frustrating for Packer fans, it wasn't a season-ender, and Neal should be back in the lineup within four weeks—or at least, that is his goal.
Frank Zombo, who was winning the OLB position in training camp, has been getting healthier, and could play again by as early as next week.
Preseason star Vic So'oto has yet to play a game. His back injury has kept him out the first three weeks, but was taken off the injury list last week.
However, So'oto has yet to make his NFL debut, and despite being taken off the injury list last week, he was not activated against the Falcons. This could cause concern because if he's no longer injured, it could mean the coaches are not be impressed by what they have seen him do in practice.
I'll give So'oto the benefit of the doubt, because after all, back injuries need to be taken seriously. But if he can add an element to the Packers pass rush, Green Bay should try to find out as soon as possible.
Frank Zombo may have been winning the battle in the preseason, but by all accounts, he wasn't winning by a large margin. That could mean he won't be as great of an upgrade over Erik Walden, but I'll take whatever upgrade we can get.
Mike Neal in my opinion is the most promising.
Though he has yet to play a full season, Thompson was more than willing to let a proven pass rushing veteran go in place for Neal.
Remember how good Peprah played last season? After he struggled for a few weeks in his position, Peprah began to really fit into his position, and the question arose whether Morgan Burnett or if Peprah would get the starting job in this year.
Thompson never even thought about it and just threw Burnett in there, and it has showed.
Burnett has three interceptions, 38 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Thompson was probably thinking the same thing would happen with Neal, but it obviously didn't turn out that way.
My point is that if Thompson has that much confidence in a player, then there's a good chance he'll be a good player. Once Neal does return, I personally fully expect him to immediately contribute to the pass rush.
So that's three players of which that can potentially bring a new element to the Packers' defense, and Neal is the one I have to say that I'm most excited about.
With all those players coming back from injury, one would say that something has got to give here.
If you add that with Clay Matthews and how he'll be another four weeks removed from his quad injury, and how the secondary has really began to pick it up, I think it's safe to say that Green Bay's ability to get to quarterback will at least be a little more effective following the bye week.
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