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2009 Season Defensive Player Grades

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2009 Season Defensive Player Grades

Nose Tackle:

Ryan Pickett: B

Quieted doubts about his ability to fit the scheme. Was a first-rate run stuffer and more than held his own against constant double teams. Set to be a free agent, the team is currently in discussions with his agent to bring him back. A big (no pun intended) positive in the locker room.

B.J. Raji C+

Hampered by injury earlier in the year, Raji was never the difference maker the team was hoping it was getting. Extremely versatile, Raji did everything he was asked, including playing downfield in coverage. The problem was he didn’t do any one thing extremely well. It will be very interesting to see what an offseason spent in Dave Redding’s program will do for his conditioning.

Defensive End:

Cullen Jenkins B -

Feasted on inferior competition while disappearing against the better offensive lines the team faced. Allayed most fears about his ability to stand up to the down-after-down pounding the 3-4 end position requires. Supplied pressure on the quarterback, which is always a luxury from a 3-4 end.

Johnny Jolly B

By almost any measure, Jolly had an excellent season. The worry, of course, is how much of what was on display was the dreaded ‘contract year’ doing the motivation. Given his perceived attitude both on and off the field, it’s impossible not to color all examination of his play this year with that brush. That said, his play was superb across the board.

Jarius Wynn D +

Wynn (friend of the show, though maybe not after he sees his grade…) was pushed around in the run game and offered next to nothing on passing downs. Needs an offseason to define the mass he has. The bigger problem? Doesn’t seem to have a motor at all.

Michael Montogomery D –

Barely played. For a reason.

Justin Harrell I

The man fans love to hate who’s name isn’t Jarrett Bush.

Outside Linebacker:

Clay Matthews B +

Ok. Mark this down: I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Matthews was worth every bit of draft real estate that Thompson gave up to get him. An incredible motor. A welcome addition to a defense with far too many terrible tacklers. And most importantly – provides a pass rush for a team that was desperate for one. A star in the making.

Brad Jones C

Jones only saw the field after a series of injuries to the players in front of him but when he finally played, he showed he could more than hold his own. Not flashy and not a physical specimen, Jones gives you solid play every down.

Brady Poppinga D +

Lost the starting right outside linebacker job to Matthews after the first month of the season. What you see is what you get – a physically limited athlete with an intensity that causes him to play out of control on occasion. OK against the run, offers nothing in the pass rushing department.

Cyril Obiozor I

Never got a chance to show anything during the regular season. Made some plays in preseason and has a chance to be a factor if he can make noise early in camp next year.

Aaron Kampman C -

‘Miscast’ is too big an understatement. Gave everything he had to make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 OLB work. He just doesn’t have the tools necessary. Would be a shock to see him back with the Packers next year, but his injury makes it impossible to tell what will happen this offseason.

Jeremy Thompson D

Seeking second and third opinions about the ongoing ‘stinger’ issue. Fell from the top of the depth chart when the team was in shorts to unable to get on the field when the games mattered. Has the tools, but the switch just won’t come on.

Inside Linebacker:

Nick Barnett B

Made an amazing recovery from a 2008 Week 10 season-ending knee injury. Limited snaps early in the year slowed his transition into the 3-4, but Barnett did an excellent job once he got acclimated to his new surroundings. Was at his best when slipping past offensive guards when rushing the passer – was at his worse when matched up with backs in coverage.

A.J. Hawk C +

The ultimate hot-and-cold player. Hawk would look like a man on a mission one week and then look like his 2008 version the next. Was phased out of most passing packages with Brandon Chillar’s ascension in preseason, but was back on the field nearly full time once Chillar went out with injury. His lack of consistency is maddening. I know fans think he might be cut or traded this offseason – I doubt either of those things are happening.

Brandon Chillar C

Looked to make the leap and to be pushing Hawk for the starters job early in camp and at the start of the season. His play trailed off after the first month before getting injured. Didn’t make a play after coming back. The team must like what it sees, due to the contract extension, but I think the team vastly overrates his ability. For a supposed ‘coverage’ player – was beaten repeatedly by lesser tight ends and backs.

Desmond Bishop C -

Not ready for prime time. That sums up Bishop, the peoples choice over Hawk and Chillar in camp (and yes, I was on board that train). Came in during the second Vikings game and was promptly exposed – again. Did some nice things in the Psycho package and was a stalwart on special teams.


Charles Woodson: A

Simply the best player on the team, Woodson played the corner position better than anyone has ever played it in a Green Bay uniform, with the possible exception of Herb Adderly. Quarterbacked the defense, played corner, safety and linebacker, sometimes all in one game, and shut down the opposing teams’ top receiving threat week after week. Yes, except when he was getting pushed to the ground. (sigh)

Tramon Williams B –

A good cover corner being asked to play way too much zone, Williams did a better job this year of not gambling for interceptions. No, he didn’t snag as many, but he also (mostly) stopped giving up the big play that repeatedly killed the team last year. Did a nice job of rebounding from a terrible game against the Ravens that would have shook the confidence of a lesser player.

Jarrett Bush D

The man fans love to hate who’s name isn’t Justin Harrell.

Brandon Underwood D +

Looked absolutely lost in preseason and did not look much better when he cracked the dime package later in the year. Was serviceable down the stretch and improved his technique but needs a good offseason in the weight room. Also needs to work on moving his feet when tackling – way too much arm grabbing.

Josh Bell D

Midseason pickup. Got his shot in the dime against the Steelers and blew it. Anxious to see what he looks like after a full offseason with the team. Did not look terrible when he was in Denver last year. If coaches can get through to him, has the skills to be a player.

Al Harris B -

There was much hand-wringing last offseason regarding Harris' ability to play the zone coverages required by Dom Capers' defense. Harris was successful, for the most part, and even did a good job of keeping his famous temper-in-big-games in check. (Though he did explode on Martin in MIN - but Martin deserved it.) Lost for the season to injury the week of the 49ers game, Harris has promised to be back for training camp. After he came back from a ruptured spleen last year, I would never bet against the man

Will Blackmon I

Unable to stay healthy yet again. People talk about him as if he were an excellent returner. He’s better than average, but special. Didn’t really get to see what he could do from scrimmage in the scheme as Capers didn’t go to the dime package until after Blackmon was on IR.

Pat Lee I

The secondary’s answer to Justin Harrell. Simply can not stay on the field. I contend he’s got the ability to be a decent corner. The jury is most definitely out.


Nick Collins: B +

Not as good as he was the first 8 games of ’08 but much more consistent all the way through the year. Proved to be a true ballhawk and a better tackler than last season, possibly a testament to the coaching he’s getting. One of the most important ‘in limbo’ players when it comes to the CBA, Collins has earned a new contract, but probably not the one he and his agent think he has.

Atari Bigby C

Injured for part of the year (again) Bigby was nearly invisible for a good part of the year. Tough to tell how much of that is scheme-based and how much is Bigby just being slow to the play. Made a big hit or two toward the end of the season, but really is ‘just a guy’ at this point.

Matt Giordano D

Midseason pickup. Inactive most of the year. Nothing special in any capacity.

Derrick Martin D+

Was a catastrophe from scrimmage but was the best special teams player on every coverage unit. His intensity was a big bonus on teams and was definitely missed when he went out with injury later in the year.


Mason Crosby: C –

Maddeningly inconsistent. Had major issues with field goal attempts from the right hashmark that were never solved. The miss in Detroit on Thanksgiving (from 43 yards in a dome) should have been the big wakeup call for the coaching and personnel staffs that this kid needs to be broken down and built back up. Slocums’ advice to ‘call other NFL kickers for advice’ rather than having Crosby see a kicking specialist is some kind of sick joke. Right?

Jeremy Kapinos D

The worst punter in the league, both statistically and in the eyeball test. The guy is terrible. Should not be on an NFL roster.

Brett Goode Pass

In my class, long snappers are graded pass/fail because, well, they either do the one job they are supposed to do or they don’t. Goode did, with only one real bad snap, that I can remember, all season.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackRat's picture

Good job again.

First, how can you not give Clay Matthews an A-- Or do you feel he really deserves the same grade you gave BRANDON JACKSON!

Cullen Jolly and Pickett all deserve Bs, occupying the OLs and making our other LBs look better than they were. Hawk rarely plays downhill and never needed to be accounted for by other teams gameplan. If we don't get a better cover 'backer and a SS (AB peaked two years ago) that can play better, the middle of the field is going to become a feasting area as all teams study the Cards/Queens/Steeler film.

You really are in love with Tramon--but when we played teams with TWO very good receivers he was the one who let up the yards for first down after first down (yes, I was watching the same film).

CB, SS, LB and DL--all can stand for major upgrades. It wasn't the offense that let us down in the four big games we lost.

Brett Goode was EXCELLENT. NEVER a scary moment. Especially replacing Rob Davis.
No grades for returners?

nypacker's picture

Intriguing critique on cullen jenkins' confusion as a standing DE. He certainly didn't play the position as well as he could have. However if he wants to improve he should consult his brother Kris from the jets. The other day i was watching espn first take and they showed a clip of kris rotating as a standup DT and he consistantly mauled the other teams line.

keeley2's picture

No grade for Al Harris? Hmmm. . .

packeraaron's picture

Harris' grade got cut off in a rushed cut and paste job while I was at work. Will get it up as soon as I can. (taking wife out for her bday in a few :)

nerdmann's picture

Give Ragi a B. I'm a believer.
Wynn is gonna add enough weight in the offseason and come back to be very good. But Harrell will be the starter. MARK IT DOWN!
Brad Jones is another guy who will benefit from the offseason. He's gonna bulk up and be a player. He's only gonna get better.
Cyril Obiozor is a wild card. I heard he was pretty raw coming out, but has skills and a little of that craziness that can intimidate opponents. Keep an eye on him.
Kampman will get tendered and then traded. To keep him away from the Queens.
Barnett is almost making me a believer. Keep playing that well, Nick. I'd love to see it.
Bishop. I still like him.
Bush is coming along. He's better in coverage than he was, and from what I could tell, his ball skills were improving.
Underwood is another raw rookie. The coaches publicly questioned his heart and he responded. He's improving. I have alot of confidence in our coaches' ability to bring these players along. I think Underwood's got some skills.
Pat Lee was stashed, plain and simple. Needed another year. We'll see what he can do this year, and I think he'll come along. Kind of a make or break season for him this coming year.
Not worried about Bigby either. I'd like more depth at S, but our starters are good. I'm confident in them.
As for Blackmon, yeah he's had injuries, but he's smart and shifty. Good returner, pretty decent CB. This coming year could be his statement hear as a CB. I'm not real concerned about his injury history. The injury this year wasn't a foot bone.
As for Crosby, I heard the new punter we signed is "an excellent holder." Still, I think he gets challenged in camp.

FITZCORE1252's picture


If Kapinos is on this team when they report... I just don't know what I may do!


packsmack's picture

How was the DPOY not given an A+?

FITZCORE1252's picture


Gotta save a little room for improvement? NAH, F--- THAT, Smack's right, give Wood an A+!


slapinem's picture

I would have given clay an A and jones a B, woodson A+++!,jarrett bush F- GET RID OF THE FOOL TED!, aside from those i can't disagree to mutch.

Now as for the comment nerdmann made about harrell, are you crazy or stupid, Harrell is the biggest bust since tony mandarich and if you look back at his college career it's just more of the same the guy never went through a whole college season without missing time due to injury, now go back to high school and guess what more of the same. Let's just face it the guy is made of glass, he was a waste of a 1st round pick, He's a waste of whatever the packers have already paid him to keep the doctors and training staff busy and he's a waste of a roster spot that could go to an able bodied football player! MARK THAT DOWN BUD!!!!!

WoodyG's picture
Ron LC's picture


Before your analysis I thought LB was solid. Now ........? Actually I still do. the starting group is good and getting better, The backups have few slugs but some potential. Once again the draft this year will be very deep because a lot of good college prospects will be coming out early. Should be some good players available in the later rounds. FA will be confusing and probably not offer much so any activity in FA will have to be judicious.

WoodyG's picture

Resign AK & Pickett .... Go back to 4-3 with AK, Raji, Pickett & Jenkins upfront with CM3, Barnett & AJ (or ???) as LBs ...... Put Harris & Woody back on man to man coverage .......... Or ...... find another CM3 to play OLB in 2010 & stick with the 3-4 ......... If your defense is just 'average' rushing the QB, you better hope you have a high-powered offense because you'll need to score & score some more ......The rules all point to the theory that the NFL wants to become the new 'arena football' league.

andyman's picture

I have always been a huge mark for AJ Hawk, but the kid seriously needs to buckle down and get some consistency. He is maddening to watch at times from game to game. I know he has the talent to make it in this game, and I just hope it is with us in this scheme.

hyperRevue's picture

Did someone just seriously suggest going back to a 4-3?

WoodyG's picture

" Did someone just seriously suggest going back to a 4-3? "
Maybe not seriously but if GB's only bonifide pass rusher on the final 53 in 2010 is CM3, then GB will be hard pressed to keep up with the elite QBacked teams for another season ....... The rules of the pass-happy NFL allow WRs to basically run free ...... No pressure on the QB, you lose ..... Was Capers holding back something to use for next season? ....... I doubt it.

hyperRevue's picture

Lack of pass rusher compliment to CM3 is a totally fair concern, but I don't think switching back to the 4-3 is the answer, at all. The answer is finding (draft, FA) a pass rush compliment.

Going from 4-3 to 3-4 is usually a 2-3 year transition. The Pack made HUGE strides in year 1. Things should only get better next year. Give it some time.

Ruppert's picture

Pat Lee's ability to not stay on the field in 2009 may be attributed more to management/coaches placing him on IR when they may not have needed to. McGinn called his knee injury "relatively minor" and said something like he looked like he could play in October. Would have been nice to have him around in the last month or so if he was healthy.

Pack66's picture

Ok. Aaron...

Good luck with Ted Thompson. I happen to think that you'll never be an elite team with him, but you beg to differ, I guess.

Ted Thompson is in love with Linebackers. Perhaps because he used to be one. He should fall for DB's a little more though, because you need them. If he drafts another LB, I will laugh my *** off. But somehow, I believe he will.

I think Ted is a decent talent scout, but does not know how to put together a championship team. That's always been the book on him...He's a collector of talent, not a builder of champions, imo...

greenbaypackerbob's picture

"TT is a collector of talent, not a builder of champions, imo…"

I wonder what GB would have done in the playoffs and regular season with Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell still on the team? Did we not just watch our secondary collapse and miss what could have been game deciding FGs? TT has released to many ‘washed up’ veterans way to early! (why many question if he's looking to build his own legacy).
… AND yes, we know what Favre could have done... (can you say another NFC champ game) We need to open our eyes a little more... e.g. if BF had had the season AR had, and lost the way AR did in the wildcard, he would have been hung (in metaphor) in GB - like many did in 07 after NCF game - (he sure would not have received an A- grade like AR).... and we give TT/MM to long and to many chances to get the job done.
Anyhow, now it appears (for 2nd yr) Chilly and the staff are better than TT/MM because they can do what TT/MM could not… e.g. accumulate and coach players to balance out a championship team as well as bring out the best in our legendary franchise QB (but I know I'm wasting words... the door on that discussion has been closed a long time ago in order to save face).
Check out the strength of schedule we have in 2010 ... ! We'd better start getting things 'really right' or I see a repeat.

PiedmontPackerFan's picture

We can argue over letters, but I the salient point is how each player ranks within the team and I overall don't disagree with your ranking.

Thank you for making a great season more enjoyable. I very much enjoy your leading this blog and creating a welcoming place for Packer fans to share opinions.'s picture

Nice your Hawk breakdown and agree but I gave him a B. Not Flashy at all but after he settled down he had his moments.
As a former Safety I gave Collins an A- ...he deserves a raise and needs a teammate that can help him out back there.

andrew's picture

i agree with most of what was said i think hawk is definitly someone we need to keep on the team nd just help him keep getting better brad jones ithink will be a good olb soon give him some time chillar is a BUM it is a mistake to resign him he is not a cover linebacker at all hawk does just as well as chillar does when hawk has fresh legs bishop has more potential than chillar does in my opinion harris comes back healthy tramon runs nickel corner nd we are lookin solid we just need a safety that will replace bigby when bigby gets hurt again cause he will he has almost every season

ShowMe's picture

I have to say these are the best grades I've seen. It's amazing how all the other reports had so many C's and D's. I'm a big fan of Tramon Williams. I see so much potential in this young guy. With reps he get better. He ranges #11 in the cb postion on profootball focus. A lot of ppl don't see the little things he do. What corner doesn't give up plays? If the packers don't lock him down this year, I could see him in a Vikings unifrom with Cedrick Griffin out 6-9 months with a acl injury. I can see Williams learning so much from Woodson, and it really shows. i think Pat Lee will do big things for this defense next year as well. Noone can blame being hurt on a player all the time. You think the guys like being hurt?

packeraaron's picture

Thanks for the kind words ShowMe.

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