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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Defensive Line

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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Defensive Line

Over the course of the next several days Cheesehead TV will have a brief position-by-position offseason preview, taking a look at what's in store for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and the NFL Draft..

Overview

The story of the Packers' defensive line in 2013 can be summed up by looking at the performance of Mike Daniels and then everyone else.

A compelling argument can be made that Daniels was the team's Defensive Player of the Year after making 6.5 sacks and holding up well against the run despite his small stature. Favorable comparisons to Geno Atkins are starting to be made, and they're not unwarranted.

Apart from Daniels, the performance of the rest of the Packers defensive line was average at best and many times below average.

The wide-bodied trio of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly occasionally did well holding their ground and controlling gaps, but none was a premier run stuffer, as evidenced by the Packers ranking 25th against the run among all NFL teams.

Among Raji, Pickett and Jolly, none of them excel at rushing the passer and all three of them are scheduled to be free agents in March, along with C.J. Wilson.

It's too early to call first round draft choice Datone Jones a disappointment, but he did little to make much of an impact in 2013 outside of a couple flash plays as a pass rusher. He needs to add weight in order to be more than a situational pass rusher and play end in the team's base defense.

Jerel Worthy, a second round draft choice in 2012, was limited in second year in the NFL because of a knee injury, but he has yet to show anything more than being interior pass rusher that relies on quickness.

The emergence of Josh Boyd late in the year was an encouraging sign, and he could be asked to play a much bigger role next season depending upon what happens to the other defensive linemen in free agency.

Although Mike Neal was used occasionally as a defensive lineman in 2013, he'll be included in the outside linebackers preview.

 

Long-Range Free Agency Outlook

B.J. Raji––It's probably safe to say the contract extension averaging $8 million per season reportedly offered to Raji is off the table after a season in which he made a career-low 17 tackles in 2013.

The Packers certainly must have considered the age-old argument about motivation regarding Raji, and it's a valid one. If he didn't play at a high level the year before his contract was set to expire, how will he play once he receives a fat contract and has little intrinsic motivation?

It's also fair to say that Raji does some of the dirty work that goes unnoticed in the run game, but it certainly wasn't enough to merit breaking the bank to keep him in the fold.

Because he moves so well as a player who weighs in excess of 330 lbs., Raji will likely receive a generous offer on the free agent market from at least one NFL team, and as the saying goes, all it takes is one. It might not be in the $8 million range, but the Packers will have to decide whether they'll want to match or exceed any other offers Raji receives that will still be worth multi-millions.

Ryan Pickett––The casual fan has probably forgotten that the last time Pickett was a free agent, he actually received the team's franchise tag and a contract that averaged in excess of $6 million per season.

Pickett will sleep easy knowing he's had a very long and lucrative career, but in his next contract, he'll be lucky to get much more than $1 million per season.

In interviews with the media, Pickett has said he wants continue playing and wants to return to Green Bay, and the Packers will probably welcome him back for a minimal investment. At 34 years old, he just may not have many years left in his body.

Johnny Jolly––Jolly was the feel-good story of 2013, returning from a three-year NFL suspension and a stint in prison to turn his life around. He made a positive impact on the football field and was a motivational leader for the team.

Unfortunately for Jolly, his season was ended by a bulging disc in his neck, which complicates his free-agent status.

There's probably not many NFL teams that would be willing to take on the risk of a player with an injury history and a questionable background, which will drive down Jolly's asking price. Taking that into account, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers offer Jolly a minimal contract with little guaranteed money and just continue to monitor his progress before clearing him to return, if they clear him at all.

C.J. Wilson––Wilson does a surprisingly good job standing up to the NFL run game, doing his best to track down opposing ball carriers, but offers little in the way of a pass rush.

His value to the Packers may increase if one or more of the afore-mentioned free agents departs, but he's definitely not above replacement value. The Packers will likely let him test the market but may only bring him back at a price they deem to be fair.

 

Long-Range NFL Draft

So much of the Packers' perceived need at the position depends on what happens to Raji.

Even if Pickett and Jolly were both to return, the Packers can hardly afford to rely upon their biggest run-stuffers to be a 34 year old and one with a serious spinal concern.

To be sure, Boyd figures to add some weight and play a bigger role in 2014, but if Raji departs, the Packers might have to add another big defensive tackle/five-technique end in the first half of the draft.

Beyond big Louis Nix of Notre Dame, however, there's not many nose tackle type of prospects who figure to go on the first two days of the draft.

Green Bay Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji. Photo by Corey Behnke of CheeseheadTV.com.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (78) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

L's picture

I still think despite Raji apparent performance downgrade this year he's way way to valuable of a player for the Pack with their 3-4 Defense to let leave via Free Agency this year. I think there's a good chance they might end up franchise tagging him (or S.Shields) if a multi-year contract can't be worked out that fits within the team's budget plans.

Walty's picture

Whatever value he has, I really don't think the amount required for a franchise tag would be worth it for Raji, even if it secured him for a much lower contract long term.

Not unless he suddenly changes in 2014.

Stroh's picture

THe 8M offer to Raji was slightly below the Franchise Tag for a DT/NT. An offer of 6-7M would be in the ballpark for Raji IMO. Can give some incentives to earn more if his level of play is closer to '10 Raji playing NT.

Derek in CO's picture

These comments are gonna be good!

Hank Scorpio's picture

When everyone was healthy early in the year, they set a tone of aggression on Defense that I haven't seen in GB in quite some time. They were hitting people. There was often 4 or 5 guys around the ball. They were playing great vs the run. Then, it all went to hell. I don't know if it was injuries or the grind of the season or what.

I'm not at all down on Datone Jones. Rookie DL are often non-productive. I think he'll bump those 3.5 sacks up in more snaps next year. Boyd should be better, too, for the same reason. Mike Daniels played really well. He made a big jump in year 2. Worthy may not be a stud but he's a NFL player, capable of chewing up snaps. With 2013 being a lost year for him with the injury, he might make a jump as well. If they want Pickett, Jolly and Wilson back, I think it will be doable to bring all 3 back. Neal still seem more like DL than OLB to me.

To me, it all adds up to DL being a lower priority this offseason, IMO. Even if Raji walks (as I expect).

MarkinMadison's picture

I think it was more a matter of looking good against teams with poor running games.

I'm not sure what up with the switch with Neal. Pure speculation, but setting aside need, it makes me wonder if he had to tone down his training/drop weight in order to play without fearing the pee cup. At 275, he may play healthier. Whether that is enough weight/strength for him to play 3-4 DE in Capers' scheme is a different question.

Evan's picture

"I think it was more a matter of looking good against teams with poor running games."

I don't think it's that simple.

The first Bears game in week 8(where Rodgers got hurt) was really the line of demarcation. After that it was a free fall.

Week 1 49ers: 27 carries, 68 yards, 2.5 ypc
Week 3 Bengals: 20 carries, 79 yards, 3.9 ypc
Week 5 Lions: 18 carries, 65 yards, 3.6 ypc
Week 6 Ravens: 20 carries, 43 yards, 2.15 ypc
Week 7 Vikings: 13 carries, 60 yards, 4.6 ypc

Those aren't "bad" running teams. I have no idea what the answer is, though.

4thand1's picture

Rodgers went down and major depression set in followed by drunkenness and drug abuse. Then they started logging on to CHTV and reading posts by cowpie, mundumbdane, and arloser and just gave up, saying we have the worst fans in the world.

Evan's picture

Ha!

As good of an explanation as I've heard yet.

MarkinMadison's picture

Since Evan has gone and confused me with facts, I'm voting for THIS.

L's picture

Non-season ending injuries to R.Pickett and J.Jolly as well as the injuries to the OLBs also played pretty big factors in my opinion toward the downward slide in run defense. Their effectiveness just wasn't and couldn't be the same when you're talking about some pretty banged up players -- J.Jolly and C.Matthews eventually became season ending. Plus, the younger and likely less disciplined players were then being relied on to provide equal results as to the healthy group of starters that started the season and it's probably this combination of things that helped lead to the downward trend throughout the season.

fish and crane's picture

Tough to pinpoint the problem as a fan- but maybe the line wasn't as bad but the linebackers were?????

Bert's picture

I see very little value in keeping Raji based on his previous play. He will never be motivated at least not in GB so it's best to say "good-bye" rather sink $$ into a lost cause and at least recoup a comp pick. Hopefully somebody will way overpay based on potential. Given Jolly's questionable health and Pickett's age and FA status we may be in a pickle once again on the DL. Looks like DL, ILB and safety may all be in trouble. Probably gonna need another big body DL but please not Raji.

larry valdes's picture

There are 3or 4 free agents dl that are a lot better than raji and less expensive.ttompson do your job.

The TKstinator's picture

He will.

cLowNEY42's picture

yep... 2 more rookies (TT "doin' his job").

The TKstinator's picture

No, I mean 2 ten year Pro Bowl veterans.
And still stay under the cap.
And beat SF and Seattle.

Sheesh.

Brian's picture

Names please?

Stroh's picture

Linval Joseph and Randy Starks are the only 2 that I see as possible NT's. But how much they cost would be the question. You can look for yourself here.

http://walterfootball.com/freeagents2014DT.php

The TKstinator's picture

Thompson will come up with what he (with the input of the staff) considers a reasonable offer to Raji. If another team exceeds it, adios, BJ.

How likely is it that another team exceeds GB's offer? I don't know. All it takes is one.

Evan's picture

That same staff that came up with an $8 million per year offer a few months back? Hopefully they've looked up the definition of the word "reasonable" since then.

4thand1's picture

I think BJ will be regretting not taking the offer.

The TKstinator's picture

Well yes I mean reasonable including this season's body of work.

And it's a big body.

Phatgzus's picture

Small on the work.

Hank Scorpio's picture

I think the chances are pretty good that some team will think they can get good production from Raji if they ask him to attack instead of occupying blockers. He's still a 330 lber that can move. Guys like that get lots of chances.

4thand1's picture

I heard the Lions were 4.5 mil over the cap with 51 signed players.

cLowNEY42's picture

All the DLmen who "fit" the 3-4 mold are gonna be gone.
All the DLmen who will be left are better suited to play in a 4-3.

So, of course, stay with the 3-4. I mean, how can they not? Been working sooooooo well.

P.S. The Packers' best DLman is playing OLB (Perry).

Stroh's picture

There's 2 prototypical 34 DE that are rated right in the Packers neighborhood in the draft. Ra'Shede Hageman and Tuitt. Both are 6'6 and 310 lbs. Don't let that stop you from spewing lies and stupid comments tho!

The TKstinator's picture

Right on Stroh!

What I object to is blind pessimism.

(I find blind optimism nauseating as well.)

The comments I respect are the ones that seem realistic and reasonable.

Phatgzus's picture

They may be rated there, but I'd be surprised if they end up getting drafted there-it's no secret NFL GMs subscribe to the Sir Mixalot School of booty huntin'.

cLowNEY42's picture

i was referring to the players on the team not players in the draft.

Stroh's picture

"All the DLmen who “fit” the 3-4 mold are gonna be gone."

That's not referring to anyone on the team. Anymore lies?

cLowNEY42's picture

I was referring to Jolly, Raji, Pickett.

Stroh's picture

More lies? Any of those 3 could easily be back. And its likely at least one of them is, maybe 2 of them.

cLowNEY42's picture

"Any of those 3 could easily be back. "

Hope not.

I guess I'd welcome Jolly back - but I think his career's over.

As for Pick and Raji... they're useless.
No QB pressure, no sacks, AND the run D is pitiful.

Why bother with either?

Stroh's picture

Cow... Casey Hampton played NT for Pitts. He went 3 straight years w/o a single sack! And a 4th w/ only 1/2 a sack. That's 4 years total in his Prime years when he was voted to the Pro Bowl a couple times. When are you gonna understand that the DL in the base 34 of Capers D is never going to get stats! There job isn't to make plays!

Brian's picture

Trade up and draft Nix, let Raji walk.

Derek in CO's picture

How about this Hageman guy from Minnesota? How good is he? Heard a lot about him lately

Stroh's picture

He was a bit inconsistent in his college career, but his talent is undeniable! Prototypical 34 DE w/ pass rush ability as a DT in nickel. He's a strong possibility in the 1st rd IMO. His determination in pursuit is questioned. But he's very strong at the Point of attack and consistently gets in the backfield. Just doesn't consistently make the plays that are there for him.

Absolutely no denying his potential, far from a finished product tho.

Phatgzus's picture

I never really understood that knock on big D-linemen-do (youniversal) you really expect a 320lb. lineman to spend all his energy fighting gravity to attempt to chase down someone half his size, who gets paid millions to do his job, which usually involves being faster than everyone else?

Stroh's picture

We need a NT, so I'm assuming either Raji or Pickett returns. Pickett's play really took a significant drop this year, especially later in the year it seemed. I would say his career is about finished and if not he would be on a one year vets min deal.

Raji has been playing out of position at DE. He's a 34 NT! He needs to be put at NT and left there from now on. Remember how he played NT in '10? Casey Hampton in his prime had 4 years w/ 1/2 of a sack total, so trying to judge a NT by that is meaningless.

We have plenty of good 34 DE/DT that can play in nickel. Unless Hageman is available in the 1st, which is possible, I wouldn't look that direction. Jones, Daniels, Worthy, Boyd and possibly Jolly.

Still think its likely Raji re-signs in GB, but we'll see... But w/o him we don't have a good option at NT.

The TKstinator's picture

What kind of $ do you expect GB to offer?

zeke's picture

Jody Reed money.

Stroh's picture

Right now I would guess in the 6-7M range. I would give him some incentives for play that could boost his pay. So if he plays like the '10 Raji, he can get paid like it. His play the past year wasn't good enough to warrant the 8M he was offered before the season.

And don't look at stats like sacks as the basis for his contract. Casey Hampton is his prime had a 4 yr stretch where he had 1/2 of a sack and 3 straight years w/o ANY sacks! People think that cuz he's not penetrating or getting sacks that he isn't good. Neither is how you want to judge a NT, or 34 DE for that matter, especially in the Packers 2 gap style 34 D. Guys like JJ Watt or Wilkerson at 34 DE are the exception. The Packers drafted Datone Jones to be in that mold.

BTW Wilkerson had only 3 sacks as a rookie and he started 16 games. Datone had 3.5 sacks in a limited role as a rookie. Wilkerson had 5 sacks in his 2nd year and then 10.5 this year. That's the typical growth for a DL. Anyone down on Jones for his play this year is delusional!

Bert's picture

Personally I wouldn't pay Raji $6-7MM. It's not the lack of sacks that bothers me, it's the lack of effort on a consistent basis. Anything above $3-4MM is way overpaying IMHO. One option may be to let him test the market and then if he gets low balled sign him to a 1 year deal so he can retest again 2015. Maybe (I doubt it) he will show a little motivation to prove himself for 1 year. I really don't think he wants to be in GB anyway.

BradHTX's picture

Question: What is it specifically that makes Raji's natural position NT rather than DE in the 3-4 defense? I remember reading that the ideal NT is very heavy, but not tall; Raji is only 6'2". Is it that the reason, or is there something else?

Ben's picture

Raji most natural position is 3-4 DE. Not 3-4 NT, not 4-3 DT, not 4-3 DE. His ideal position is the one he's been playing and he's not worth a top 8 pick there or even 5 million per year. Should have taken Orakpo at #8 that draft. I would have and still moved up to get Matthews.

Just think how different things would be if Rodgers didn't fall into TT's lap. It sure is nice to have one of the most dominant QB's to ever play the game covering your ass.

fish and crane's picture

and add a dominant running back, an soon to be all pro wide receiver or two and others that seem to be covering his ass

Stroh's picture

Raji is NOT a natural 34 DE! A 34 DE needs to be long to control and reach blockers. Raji is neither long or tall. His play at NT in '10 was excellent but then they moved him to DE thinking he had more agility than Pickett for DE, which is true, but he still doesn't have the agility to play 34 DE! Both Pickett and Raji are true 34 NT! Ideal 34 DE are 6'5 and between 290 and 310. Is that anything like Raji? Hell NO.

Stroh's picture

Raji is short and stout build which is what you generally look for at NT. A NT needs to play w/ leverage and being shorter gives him a leverage advantage. A 34 DE should be taller and longer. Generally 6'4+ and 300 lbs w/ good lateral agility to slide sideways and extend the edge. Raji is only 6'2 but over 330 and doesn't have length or agility to move laterally very well. Raji has good quickness to attack gaps inside but not to move laterally. Look how he played NT in '10. He was tremendous... He hasn't played NT since then which coincides w/ his play not being as good.

So his size is perfect for NT and his abilities suit NT much better than 34 DE.

BradHTX's picture

"A NT needs to play w/ leverage and being shorter gives him a leverage advantage."

Thanks Stroh, that's exactly what I was looking for confirmation on. I think a lot of people are under the simplistic impression that the NT is the biggest guy on the line -- which is true in terms of overall mass, but not height when you take into account the way the NT is used.

With the way Pickett faded down the stretch this year, it would seem like a natural evolution of the DL to keep him on board for limited snaps as a relief NT and shift Raji to the main NT. considering how little time the Packers actually play in the base D, Raji should be able to handle the workload without wearing down.

But is he worth the $6-7M you suggest they would offer? I don't know; as has been said, big men who can move are always worth a lot of money. Was his lack of production this year strictly due to being played out of his natural position? That's been the case for three seasons, and his play this year seemed worse than ever; lack of motivation/drive? I don't know.

I would love for the Pack to bring him back and move him to NT, but boy, I sure want it to be a HEAVILY incentive-laden contract and I'm not sure he accepts that. I fear that he thinks he's worth more than the $8M he left on the table. And while he might not be worth it, that doesn't mean he won't find someone willing to pay it. My guess is he's gone.

Ben's picture

It doesn't matter how tall he is, raji get washed out too often and too easily to be relied upon at the 3-4 NT position period. Especially for $8million per.

Length is not the determining factor on whether or not somebody can play a position or not. Let's not all pretend it is, shall we.

Thanks

Stroh's picture

He didn't when he was playing NT! Since they forced him outside his play has declined, but that's as much from playing out of position IMO.

Phatgzus's picture

Nah, I choose to believe his decline's due to Seasonal Depressive Disorder operating in insidious conjunction with your theory of Cow's utterly (;P) demeaning and caustic pessimism.

John's picture

Very good article Brian. Most Packer fans and writers overestimate Packer Players worth. Here is something I wrote for a group of friends who were wondering what the Pack should do with the 17 free agents. I believe in statistics and science so I use Pro Football Focus for my evaluations. If you are not familiar with them, go to their site and read up on how they grade.

Out of 103 DT/NT that played at least 1 game, PFF grades Pickett at 72nd best. Considering there are 49 starting DE/NT, not so good. He actually was grading out as a starter for the first half of the season but got tired and dropped significantly. If resigned, it would be logical to expect the same. I suppose he should play very limited snaps. I would not give him much more than the minimum. I doubt if he would sign for that.

Of 62 3/4 DE that played at least 1 game, Raji grades out as 3rd worse in football. For those that believe Raji played better at DT/NT his grades since 2009 were -13 for DT/NT and -3 for DE. A grade of zero is just doing your job at an average level. Raji did have a couple of real good years but my guess is we are seeing the real Raji now. He is worth no more then the Minimum, if that. This could be a huge mistake the Thompson might make. Why is it all right to drastically overpay Packer free agents and not pay the market for other teams free agents? If Raji was a free agent off another team, would you pay 5-8 million for him. I think not. Thompson made mistakes paying for future promise when he overpayed, Hawk, Finley and Burnett. Please don't do it again. What if Thompson used the Raji money to pay Jarius Byrd? Safety problem solved.

Of the 98 TE that played at least 1 game, Finley grades out at 63. Finley has never graded out per his reputation. Packer management and fans have always greatly overrated him. His estimated value per his grades is usually about 2 million. The packers dodged a bullet with this one. If he hadn't had the serious injury, Thompson would have drastically over payed him on promise like he did in the past. Can you imagine if the 8 million spent on him last year was spent on a safety or ILB what might have been? Pay him 1-2 million eems reasonable if his neck is healthy or cut him. Makes no difference. The packers do need a TE, but defensive help is a much more drastic need, in comparison, TE is a luxury.

Of the 162 WR that played at least 1 game, James Jones grades out at 60. That's a starting grade considering 64 starters for a 2 WR offense and 96 starters for a 3 WR offense. Nelson, Cobb and Boykin grade out at 2, 34, 41 respectively. Impressive. So if money needs to be saved Jones can be let go. If he is willing to sign for reasonable money, IE: 60th best reciever money, by all means keep him.

Of the 150 corners that played at least 1 game, Shields grades out at 68. His pass coverage grade his .9 and would rank him as the 48th best in coverage. Not bad but certainly not the super star that some say he is. His tackling grade is -4.7 which brings him down. If he can be signed for reasonable money, what an average #2 corner on a team should get paid. Pay him, but please don't over pay him because he is a Packer. For comparison sake, Williams ranked 44 in all aspects of playing corner, Hyde 46, Bush 56 ( surprised, not a Bush fan ), Hayward 62 ( he ranked 4th best last year but had hamstring problems this year, if he can get over them he is a Gem ), House 93rd.

Of the 25 FB that played at least 1 game, Kuhn grades out at 3rd. In years past I thought it was silly to be spending 2-3 million on Kuhn. I thought that money was more well spent elsewhere. I was wrong. Please resign him for the 1.8 or so he made this year.

Of the 45 Centers that played at least 1 game, Evan D-Smith grades out at 8th. Keep him.

Of the 97 Tackles that played at least 1 game, Newhouse grades out at 15th worse. Since 2008 Newhouse grades out as the worse player on the current roster. Hawk grades out as the 2nd worse. Stop the madness. It shouldn't take this long for professional coaches this long to figure this stuff out. Get rid of him.

Of the 98 TE that played at least 1 game, Quarless grades out at 78. Not much difference than Finley's 63. Granted, they are completely different types of TE's. Finley is a receiver and Quarless is more complete, although not anywhere near the receiver Finley is. Bostick grades out at 69. Between Quarless and Boskick we may have a Finley. Which isn't great but with our defensive needs is enough. One other thing, please do not use a high pick on a TE. We already don't have a chance at winning a Super Bowl because of our horrific defense. Our offense is very good when not trying to cover up for a horrible offense, TE is a luxury. If a draft pick must be used. Please use it after drafting a safety or 2, ILB or 2, DT/NT and DE.

Seneca Wallace. No need for him. He should un-unretire.

Of 62 3/4 DE that played at least 1 game, Jolly grades out as 14th worse in football. Consider that there are 30 starting 3/4 DE's, not so good. I love and root for Johnny Jolly. I think he brings a toughness and nastiness to the Packers that is missing. But, the Pack should only resign him to a Min contract. He may be done anyway with a neck injury.

Rob Francois only got 13 snaps this year before tearing his right Achilles. He had no snaps in 2012 also. In 2011 he had 166 (approx 80 defensive snaps a game ) snaps at ILB and graded out at 33. Considering there are 47 starting ILB positions, not bad. Much better than Hawk who graded out as the 13th worse ILB in football. Please stop the madness! I am guessing that returning from a torn Achilles is next to improbable, and he never will be the same, and the Packers have enough injured players, so he probably should not be signed.

Of the 59 3/4 OLB that played at least 1 game, Neal was the 3rd worse. When Neal was drafted in the 2nd round by Thompson, he was considered by many experts as a 6th or 7th round pick and many had him as a rookie free agent. This was a drafting mistake by Thompson. I consider Thompson to be a good drafter, especially lately, earlier in his career he took to many gambles with higher round picks. This was one of them. If Neal can be signed for close to the Min, go ahead and do it. If not, no loss.

Of the 89 HB that played at least 1 game, Starks grades out as the 24th best HB in football. It seems that he ran better when fresh, although I do wish McCarthy would have given him a few more snaps with Lacy's ankle hurting him so. Starks coming in with speed after Lacy beats the hell out of the defense is a good game plan. Do more of it. I think Starks also played so well because of contract motivations. By the way, Dujuan Harris's 71 snaps in 2012 graded out as the 48th best running back in football, not the greatest, but good for an in season free agent, really, he does not deserve all the excitement and high hopes that Packer fans have dropped on him. Starks should be signed at a salary no more than twice the Min. Again, save money for defense. Franklin will be back and another late round draft pick or rookie free agent can be signed, plus Harris.

OF the 62 3/4 DE, Wilson grades out at 41. Are you sensing a pattern here, Raji 3rd worse, D. Jones 6th worse, Jolly 15th worse, Boyd 18th worse, Wilson 21st worse, Hawk 8th worse, B. Jones 31st worse, Pickett 32nd worse, Neal 3rd worse, Mulumba 8th worse, Palmer 9th worse, House 58th worse, McMillan 10th worse, Jennings 21st worse, Burnett 28th worse, Banjo 50th worse. In a previous analysis I tried to prove that the Packers has failed in there philosophy of "Draft and Develop". Going back to 2008 I could find no significant consistent improvement of young players. The Philosophy is really "Draft and Play", which seems to work alright on offense with Rogers running the show, but is a complete and utter disaster on defense. There is a reason why no past or present team has wanted to play only the most supremely talented young, experience players on defense. They leave too many holes that are exploited by NFL QB's and Offensive Coordinators. Like taking candy away from a baby. Stubborn Ted needs to admit his horrific defensive mistakes and plug the starting and backup holes with judicious lower cost free agent signings, or waste one more year of a finite Roger's career. After Rogers we may be back to the 30 year no QB Abyss that we are all to much familiar with. Even more so now, the NFL is a QB driven league. Don't waste even 1 year of the best QB in the leagues career. We will be sorry. If Thompson doesn't change his ways and sign some or many defensive free agents this year, I believe he should be fired. Schneider from Seattle is an incredible GM, both at drafting and free agents. He cedes power to Carrol at Seattle and might love a chance to come to GB and have complete control.

Jennings is a restricted free agent and is the 21st worse safety in football. I don't see the Packers ever being an average defense with Hawk or Jennings on the team.

Of the 77 ILB who started at least 1 game, Lattimore graded out as the 20th best ILB. He ended the season with two bad games in week 16 and 17. Before those games he was ranked even higher. A keeper at a reasonable price. Pair him with a high draft pick, cut or bench Hawk, and we may see immediate improvement on the defense.

Of the 116 safeties who played at least 1 game, Banjo was the 52nd worse. Better than Jennings or Burnett but not very good. I like Banjo as a young player. Just don't give him important playing time. Min contract.

That's it. That's the 17 free agents. If you noticed that not many should be resigned, that is a result of an incredible horrible defense over all. Makes sense doesn't it, if most of the defense is horrible, you probably don't want to resign many of them. This defense needs a complete rebuild, and, "Draft and Play" will never solve the problem.

I don't think Thompson is a bad drafter. His picks lately have made logical sense and he has not reached or gambled with the higher picks. Stubborn Ted is a horrible GM at plugging holes in the defense with lower cost free agents. I hope he sees the error of his ways but I wouldn't hold my breath.

On offense Ted has done an incredible job. 1 QB grades out as a starter and 2 HB, 1 FB, 4 WR, 2G, 1C do also. The two tackles weren't Teds fault. Bulaga has graded out as a starter in the past, and Sherrod probably would have also. Ted did hurt the team by not having veteran backups at Tackle though. Of the 97 Tackles that played at least 1 game, Bahktiari graded out as the 19th worse in football and Barclay the 29th worse. The praise these two received, especially Bahktiari, confounded me. In their defense, Barclay graded out as the 38th best pass blocker and Bahktiari the 43rd, not bad considering their are 64 starters. Its the run blocking that was a complete failure, Bahktiari was the 5th worse in football and Barclay was the 8th worse. Given that Bahktiari is a rookie, one can hope that he builds up strength in the off season and becomes a complete tackle. In Barclay's case, he did have an off season to get stronger but didn't improve his run blocking. It may never happen for him, this next year will be the test.

Hope you enjoyed this.

Calabasa's picture

Loved it! Great read.

fish and crane's picture

John made all of that up btw. He has a lot of time on his hands. jk

BradHTX's picture

I fell asleep last night at James Jones and when I woke up this morning, I was only at Lattimore!

Just messin' with ya, John. Interesting thoughts.

Phatgzus's picture

I respect you took the time to at least attempt a statistical analysis of an intended portion of the team; I also have the utmost respect for PFF and I believe they are one of (PFR, PFO) the best websites for statistical analysis of the NFL.

That said, here are my qualms with your experimental procedure.

1) Stats are not Gospel, they are Cliff Notes-they are incomplete, that is to say they provide one with the key analytical points but without the feeling and true understanding of the story (explicitly-the football game/season).

To that end, they don't (at least I haven't found such stats)
account for the psychological and physical ramifications that major life events, such as injuries (e.g. Finley, Quarless, Matthews, etc.) present in both the immediate and distant aftermath.

Additionally, stats either don't attempt to project future success (potential) or must be analyzed via a highly convoluted methodology that accounts for their interrealation in order to do
so.

The dynamics of football (the generally directly proportional relationships of offensive, defensive, and special teams performance) complicates statistical analysis in a similar manner as the previous.

2) Insufficient metrics for statistical analysis as well the increased level of difficulty and unilaterally of thought that would accompany an upswell of said metrics (I'd be willing to wager that not a great deal of professional mathematicians balled collegiately let alone professionally-thus even greater amounts of bias permeate the statistical analysis of the sport).

3) (at least I think I'm on 3...) Sample Size. in two senses. Firstly (outside of Raji), it seems as though you're simply only using analysis form one season-2013. Secondly, players such as Lattimore, Harris, and even Boykin just haven't had enough playing time to deem those numbers statistically significant.

Addendum to Point 1): The Human Confrontation. I have yet to discover a football stat that calibrates a ranking based on the caliber of opponent (Bakhtiari being the catalyst for my interest). Even baseball stats such as WAR and WAR+, while informative, are not without perceived flaws.

Again, thanks for actually bothering to Inject some objective scientific (redundant?) methodology into the conversation, it was certainly an interesting read. And, if you managed to wade this far through the muck and the mire, thanks for taking the time to peruse, read, analyze, or even parse.

The TKstinator's picture

I usually peruse, read, and analyze, but I never parse.
I leave that to the perverts.

WKUPackFan's picture

I like parsley in my fish chowder. Does that make me a pervert, or is it just all of the Internet porn?

The TKstinator's picture

Ask the fish.

Bert's picture

Interesting!! I'm not sure about all the stats but I do agree that the Packers and we fans do seem to over value our own. With few exceptions, when you compare our players position-by-position with either Seattle or SF we just don't stack up very well. Rodgers & receivers make up for a lot of otherwise average players on this roster. Too many "just guys" across the board.

Point Packer's picture

Whether you read PFF as god, or question their statistical analysis, our defense is even worse when you compare individual components against others.

In other words, both the individuals and the unit were awful this year.

Your quote about TT's philosophy being more suitably called "draft and play" stuck with me. Defensively, I think its spot on.

redlights's picture

First, for POC, or at a lower level, Stroh or Evan or a couple others that seem to have above average football IQ, could Boyd play NT? Just asking.

The problem with trying to pay based on past performance is that its two time frames. The past performance has already been paid by past contracts. The contracts that will be offered (or not), will be for future (projected) performance. Rookies will benefit from an offseason; 2nd year players many times blossom in their 3rd year; etc. Throw in that the statistics don't account for nagging injuries, and that chemistry plays a large role in each players' production.

Ben's picture

No

Stroh's picture

I don't think he does at his current weight. But it wouldn't be a stretch for him to gain about 15 lbs and be able to handle NT. He was the NT at Miss St, playing next to Fletcher Cox who was the 3 tech DT, so he's used to playing NT. I think at his current weight he would be a good one gap NT, but he would need to gain some strength and weight to be able to consistently take on 2 gaps as the Packers NT. He does have the build to be able to gain that and play NT for the Packers if that's what they have planned for him. IMO that might be how he can be most effective as he's not long enough for a true 34 DE.

Ben's picture

not long enough for DE? that's funny in itself. Not LONG enough. Even with another 15 pounds(a literal stretch)boyd still would be undersized at 325lbs for 3-4 NT. But whatever you say stroh, whatever you say.

the answer is "No"

His ideal position is as a 4-3 DT, by the way.

Stroh's picture

There's plenty of guys that play NT at 325. You don't have to be 350+ lbs. It comes down to his leverage. If he plays w/ good leverage at 325, that's enough to play NT. Leverage allows a player to hold his ground!

But of course you think you know more than anyone. Wrong!

RC Packer Fan's picture

In my opinion, Boyd could play NT, but not on a full time basis. He is better fit at the 5 technique.
Right now he is 6'3 310 lbs. ish... He is a bit short for the 'prototypical' DE and is to light for the 'prototypical' NT. He is a better fit at DE then NT.

Boyd seems to play with good leverage, and seems to have good strength. I thought he got a lot better at the end of the season and he is an ascending player, that I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next year.
He is a better version of CJ Wilson, IMO.

Ben's picture

There is no good options for the packers if they decide to stick with capers in the 3-4. Perry, Datone, & Mulumba are natural 4-3 DEs & played there in college. Daniels would be the next Cullen Jenkins in the 4-3. Neal, at his natural playing weight, is a much better 4-3 DE/DT than 3-4 OLB. Jolly, Boyd, & worthy could provide an excellent 4-3 rotation. Anything other than switching back to the 4-3 is a prelude to failure. The 3-4 is based on good linebacker play and a dominant nose tackle. We will have neither 2014. Matthews could be the next Urlacher as a 4-3 MLB. Datone,Neal,Daniels,Perry should be our nickel DLine with Matthews & LB#2 at the second level.

I don't see this change happening & see us squandering another valuable year in the career of one of the most dominant QB's to ever play the game. Too bad.

Stroh's picture

Datone played in a 34 in college, but you didn't know that did you? He also made all his plays from pass rushing as a DT, not a DE. He doesn't have the speed to turn the corner as a 43 DE! Mulumba is only 6'3 260, he doesn't have the size to play 43 DE. But he's the perfect size for 34 OLB. Quite making things up and trying to act like you know what your talking about!

Ben's picture

If your arguing against my point that our personnel better fits a 4-3 scheme your an idiot. Plain and simple. As far a datone goes, I guess these professional evaluators were just making things up as well. "offers great value to NFL teams featuring the 4-3, Jones ranks as an intriguing hybrid defender who can hold up against the run as a base defensive end, while beating interior lineman with his quickness if moved inside on passing downs." "Has the ability to rush from the 4-3 End.If needed he could add 10-15 pounds and move inside to 3-Tech where I believe he could develop into a stud as a pass rushing defensive tackle.""He has the ability to play nearly every position along the defensive line." "He was an integral part of UCLA's defensive front, a mixture of three and FOUR linemen that were moved around like chess pieces.
When he wasn't lined up at five-technique defensive end, he was in at the three-technique. If he wasn't at the three-technique, he was at the zero-technique. And if he wasn't at the zero-technique, then he was just about at any other technique."

He made all his plays at nose tackle? ok stroh, I'm the one making things up.

& as far as Mulumba not having the size to play 4-3 DE your also wrong, obviously WRONG. He's the same size as Jason babin, john Abraham, Jason pierre-paul, jared allen, cliff avril, Dwight freeney, & brian robison coming out of college. These are the best of the best 4-3 Defensive ends in the league. He's also slower but stronger than most of these guys. But for some reason, according to you, despite playing there his whole career, is not 4-3 DE, but a OLB only?

take your own advice, "Quite making things up and trying to act like you know what your talking about!" moron.

WKUPackFan's picture

UCLA uses a base 3-4 defense. They use four linemen in some of their sub packages.

Stroh's picture

Hey IDIOT did you even read what I said?

Datone played in a 34 D in college and was used in the same fashion as he will be in GB! He's 6'4 290, JJ Watt plays 6'5 295, same basic position. Datone was drafted to play a role very much like Watt plays. Could Datone play 43 DE? Yes, but the days of 300 lb 43 DE are over. Teams want fast, quick pass rushers at DE now. You can count on one hand the number of 43 DE that play at 300 lbs. Datone's best position is what he is in GB. 34 DE and nickel DT rushing the QB. I never said a Damn thing about him playing NT did I?! NO, I didn't... Start learning to read a little better moron! The role Datone is in now perfectly suits him. If he played DE in a 43 he would be better off dropping weight to be able to get the corner on the OT.

Mulumba has marginal quickness as an OLB. But if he gained 10+ lbs to play DE he would lose even more quickness and wouldn't be enough to turn the corner. JPP plays at nearly 280. Jared Allen at 270+, Freeney as closer to 270 but only 6'0. So he played more like a 280 lb player. Mulumba would lose too much quickness if he gained more wt to play 43 DE. Abraham is playing 34 OLB in AZ now, he doesn't even play 43 DE anymore. Where have you been?! Mulumba at his current size is about the IDEAL ht and wt of a 34 OLB. Matthews 6'3 255, Suggs 6'3 260. Aldon Smith 6'4 265... Seeing a trend? Mulumba fits right in w/ them in size, if not talent. Which is EXACTLY what I said!

Start paying attention MORON!

Start watching and learning for a change.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I don't know what to make of the DL. They have 4 FA's. I think 2 will be gone. IF Jolly is healthy to play I expect him back. Pickett looked about as done as could be, then he came out and played a hell of a game against the 49ers.
Raji is the hard one. He is a natural NT, and should be playing there. If they bring him back to play NT, I believe he would be better.
I don't see Wilson coming back.

For the d-lineman that are under contract for next year, I really like Boyd, Daniels and Jones. Worthy I think will really benefit from a full offseason. Last year he was recovering from a bad injury. I think we will see a much improved Worthy next year.

Pending on who they lose in free agency, I think they will have to bring in 1-2 players. Probably a NT and DE. They really could use a prototypical 3-4 DE. Tuitt or Hageman, would be 2 perfect fits.
Nix would be a great NT.
After that there aren't a lot of great NT prospects.

One guy that intrigues me is Daniel McCullers from Tennessee. He is 6'8 360. Massive guy. But what position would he play? Is he a NT, or is he a DE? He is probably to tall to play NT and to heavy to play DE.

Bob's picture

Good points from Brian and many commenters. Packers need to add length at DE and a young NT in this draft.

I felt Raji was a better NT than DE but that they moved him to DE because Pickett was a better NT than DE and Raji had the ability to play a good DE. He hasn't really shown that, consistently. I'd move him back to NT for the right price.

I'd consider trading Worthy for a draft pick or player that fits better with a 3-4. I would hope to get a 4th rounder as 4-3 DTs with his ability don't abound at that point in the draft.

WKUPackFan's picture

Have any of the reporters asked Raji to assess his play this year? Has Raji made any comments at all, or been on any the weekly shows/broadcasts? I don't recall hearing anything from him all year. I'm sure any statements would be the usual non-speak, but it would interesting to have the question asked.

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