GREEN BAY – I feel sorry for opposing offenses lining up on 3rd-and-1 and having to look across the line of scrimmage at a Green Bay Packers defensive line consisting of Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Justin Harrell.
That’s 1,297 pounds of defensive goodness according to the weights provided by the Packers official website. And that’s exactly the lineup the Packers trotted out on the second day of training camp back on Sunday in their short-yardage “Hippo” formation. The Hippo is a 4-4-3 defense presumably used in short-yardage and goal-line situations designed primarily to stop the run.
Rookie defensive end Mike Neal took Harrell’s spot in the lineup when Harrell sat out due to heat-related symptoms. Neal is smaller from a weight-standpoint than all the afore-mentioned defensive linemen, but his bodybuilder’s physique makes one believe he could be every bit the anchor against the run as a Jenkins or a Harrell.
Now imagine an outside linebacker duo consisting of the 255-pound Clay Matthews and the 250-pound Brady Poppinga on the wings of the defensive line with Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk backing them up.
The Packers have gone very little if any goal-line or short-yardage situations so far during training camp, but that personnel grouping should be a unit every fan keeps their eye on over the course of the month of August.
Ideally, they’ll be stout against the run. And even if they encourage teams to pass against that look, the Packers should have a very talented secondary to rely upon with Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams.
For a defense that struggled in the red zone last season, this group may be able to force a couple more field goals instead of touchdowns this season.
And it’s scary to think that a defense that ranked No. 1 against the run last season and No. 2 overall in terms of yards allowed could be even better. That’s impressive, at least on paper.