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B.J. Raji Needs To Step It Up

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B.J. Raji Needs To Step It Up

It's interesting while reading about the draft prospects this year to think back to this time LAST year and remember what everyone was saying about B.J. Raji and to remember how euphoric Packer fans were on draft day because of the visions they had of Raji blowing up offensive lines and spearing into backfields and being an overall hurricane of disruption.

Well, Raji's rookie year wasn't quite like that.

First, there was the holdout which came, of course, after Raji said there was no way he would hold out. Then there was the ankle injury in the last preseason game that severely limited him for the first part of the season. To my eye, Raji never really recovered from those two occurrences, though he seemed to finally show some burst around the Dallas game. But when Ryan Pickett went out at the end of the season and Raji got a chance to show what he could do at the position he was drafted to be th future of, nose tackle, he was less than a force to be reckoned with.

Now, if this is the proverbial 'rookie wall', lingering injuries or the product of being asked to do too much without the benefit of training camp reps, I don't know. What I do know is that Raji is getting paid a ton of money to be a monster in the middle of Capers' defense. Packer fans should expect Raji to benefit from a full offseason with Mark Lovat and crew and to show up to training camp ready to give the team the disruptive force it thought it was getting with the ninth overall pick in last years draft.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

bomdad's picture

Pretty high expectations. 1) as you said he was a rookie who missed camp and was hurt in the preseason 2) the scheme does not require penetration by the NT on every play 3) he was in a rotation to keep everyone fresh and healthy so his snaps were further limited 4) he split time taking practice reps at end and tackle so less concentration time on either technique.
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Yes he should step up, but in reality he is still going to be splitting reps with Pickett and the ends. Whats the criteria for success for him? Hard to be all pro splitting time.
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on the DL topic, Jolly had his court date moved back past the deadline for tagging rfas.

Dilligaff's picture

IMO with the needs of the O-line and the secondary in this up and coming draft, the pass rusher for our front 7 will not be able to be addressed this year. So it will be up to Raji and Jones to step up their games for this defense to take the next step. Pass rush is key, even if we draft a Woodson twin, the lack of a pass rush will bite us in the butt every time. I often wonder if we kept the old defense, drafted well like we did in 2009, got a new coach, if we would be further along going into the 2010 season, as more players fit the old system. Kampman would be playing his natural position with a Mathews type player playing on the other side. The defensive needs would only be in the secondary, as our front 7 would be solid, even Hawk would be in his natural position.

CSS's picture

DT's rarely have an impact until year 2, and sometimes even 3. Seddrick Ellis (08), Haloti Ngata (06). You can find only a handful of DT's in undertackle system (4-3) drafted since 2000 that had anything but a rotational impact their 1st year. Raji can/will add a pass rush dimension this year. The 3-4 is all about the linebacker. I expect a marginal impact in 10' according to Raji's 'stat-line', but I expect much better production out of our linebackers as a byproduct of Raji's disruption.

packeraaron's picture

CSS - great points, as usual. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect Raji to collect sacks or make a ton of tackles. But too often you saw him getting pushed around by lesser guards. That's got to stop.

CSS's picture

I agree Aaron. Consider this, as well: Hutchinson's play is/has been on the decline and Josh Sitton very well could be the best guard in the NFC North next year. Raji has NO excuse to not dominate the interior within his division. Name even average NFL caliber starting guards/centers in the NFC North? That was a very short exercise, wasn't it?

He should dominate this division for years if he's even half the prospect Packer scouts thought he was.

Packallday555's picture

I think your expectations of him may be a little unrealistic. Like you mentioned he missed camp, and then sprained his ankle in the preseason. He didn't get back to full strength until probably week 9 or 10, and still was good before that.

He was in a rotation spelling guys who were tired. He made a lot of really great plays doing so, but a guy can only do so much when he is only out there half the snaps.

He is too athletic and strong not to have an impact, and seeing him make 4 or 5 tackles in the backfield for losses of 3-4 is something we haven't seen from one our of DTs in a long time.

With a full offseason under his belt, and probably a starting spot at LDE I would guess he will have that impact that many of us are expecting him to have.

PackersRS's picture

If Raji holds up to half the hype this year, we will not, I repeat, will not be burned but those elite QBs. If their pocket is being disrupted by the inside, there's no way the can deliver the ball so peacefully.
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What we really lacked, besides CB help, was disruption of the pocket, moreso than pass rush. If Raji can bring that, along with Jenkins, our D will go to the next level.

JohnRehor's picture

The progression of Raji is tied into the resigning of Pickett and Jolly as well as the future of Harrell. IF the Packers believe that Raji showed enough progress in the season, they could pass on resigning Pickett longterm, optioning to Franchise him instead. IF they think Raji could step into a starting end position, they could let Jolly walk (especially considering his legal issues). and lastly, IF they still believe in Harrell and hes heatlhy for once, they could slide him into the rotation, moving Raji to either Nose or End, with Harrell plugged in somewhere.

Raji needs to improve. And the Packers better have a solid plan in place in case he doesnt.

PackersRS's picture

jrehor, I doubt the packers will let anyone on the DL walk.

They did so, expecting Harrell to replace Williams, and we got thin at the DL, and lost all D.

TT won't do that again. He won't lose anyone in the front 7, unless he brings in replacemens.

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