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Best & Worst Case Scenarios: Defensive Line

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Best & Worst Case Scenarios: Defensive Line

It's time for the fifth annual Best and Worst Case Scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster, a feature that goes back to the days when Railbird Central had its own domain.

I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.

As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not what's best for the team.

B.J. Raji

  • Best-case scenario: With Raji's move to end in the Packers' Eagle alignment, it opens up more opportunities for the up-and-coming defensive lineman. Raji improves upon his sack numbers from a season ago, which helps people forget about the loss of Cullen Jenkins. He's named to his first-ever Pro Bowl and is a second-team All-Pro.
  • Worst-case scenario: Raji ends up with a statistically similar season to last year, which can hardly be classified as a disappointment. He has in the neighborhood of six regular season sacks, but by playing in a 3-4 defense that occasionally asks him to cover two gaps, his opportunities for sacks don't come as regularly as they could. He's still the anchor of the Packers' defensive line.

Ryan Pickett

  • Best-case scenario: Pickett's move to nose tackle in the Eagle alignment allows the Packers to become one of the NFL's better defense's against the run, similar to 2009. He provides the Packers with roughly the same production, durability and reliability he's given them since 2006, which has an underrated value.
  • Worst-case scenario: Age starts to catch up to Pickett, and while he's not a liability, his future in Green Bay beyond 2011 is in question. He just can't hold up against NFL linemen like he used to and has the fewest number of tackles since his rookie season.

Mike Neal

  • Best-case scenario: Even though he misses time during training camp, Neal proves healthy throughout the course of the entire regular season and becomes a solid, reliable performer for the Packers defense. He becomes a three-down player by playing in both the base defense and becoming one of their interior pass rushers in the nickel defense. He accounts for a half dozen sacks and holds up surprisingly well against the run, probably because he's strong as an ox.
  • Worst-case scenario: Whether it's the knee or the shoulder or some new ailment, Neal can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season. And when he does play, he doesn't show up on a consistent basis. He shows flashes of brilliance but has yet to show he can do it over the course of 16 regular season games plus the playoffs.

Howard Green

  • Best-case scenario: Green is utilized as a run-stuffer in the base 3-4 and plays his role to perfection. As a result, the Packers take a large leap up the NFL run defense rankings. He's a good veteran influence and worth keeping around if he can play 20 snaps per game or so.
  • Worst-case scenario: Green is either weighs too much, is out of shape, or both. He seems to tire easily, wears down as the season progresses and just isn't effective as a season ago. He finds himself inactive in more games than not.

C.J. Wilson

  • Best-case scenario: Wilson is able to overcome his training camp concussion, and with injuries that will invariably occur to other players over the course of a season, he sees plenty of playing time. Wilson is mostly a role player, but he has a handful of sacks and holds up well against the run, and he's viewed as a possible full-time starter in the future.
  • Worst-case scenario: Wilson is just a minor role player at best. He sees occasional time on a rotational basis, but he doesn't do anything to "wow" anyone. He has a sack or two by the end of the year, but he's part of the game day inactive list once in a while because he doesn't play a large role on special teams.

Jarius Wynn

  • Best-case scenario: Wynn carves out a role for himself as a pass-rushing defensive lineman, used primarily in the nickel defense and in the "Psycho" package, a role that grows larger as Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson remain unavailable. He sets career highs in sacks and tackles, and while that's not exactly going out on a limb, it's improvement.
  • Worst-case scenario: When Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson become healthy, any chance of Wynn getting significant playing time goes out the window. In fact, when the Packers decide to go with only six defensive linemen, they decide to keep rookie Lawrence Guy ahead of the veteran.

Lawrence Guy

  • Best-case scenario: Guy is able to get over his recent concussion issues to impress the remainder of training camp, and the Packers see more of the same out of him that they saw in the first preseason game: an active force on the defensive line. He doesn't get a ton of playing time, but he makes the roster and makes his NFL debut in 2011 notching a couple tackles by year's end.
  • Worst-case scenario: Guy either goes on injured reserve or is cut. Either way he doesn't make the 53-man roster. However, if he is cut, he'll be asked to be on the practice squad, and should compete for a roster spot in 2012 as long as he doesn't sign with another team.

Jay Ross

  • Best-case scenario: Ross has one thing working in his favor, his year of experience in the Packers' system going back to last year when he was on the practice squad. He can also play both the nose and end. Because of this, he is asked to be on the practice squad, which gives him a chance to be called up to the 53 at some point during the middle of the season if injuries occur.
  • Worst-case scenario: The Packers cut Ross and don't ask him to be part of the practice squad when they decide one or more of the rookies shows more upside.

Eli Joseph

  • Best-case scenario: Joseph shows enough promise to be invited to the practice squad after he's cut on the final roster cutdown.
  • Worst-case scenario: He's mostly remembered for having a twin on the same team at the same time following his unceremonious cut when the Packers have to trim their roster to 53 players.

Chris Donaldson

  • Best-case scenario: Donaldson avoids being cut after the third preseason game to 80 players, to keep his audition alive for one more week. He's cut on the final roster cutdown to 53 players but not asked to be part of the practice squad.
  • Worst-case scenario: Friday's game against the Indianapolis Colts is Donaldson's last game in a Packers jersey, and his injury troubles didn't help his chances of making the team or sticking around longer.
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (4) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Chris K's picture

Hey queston for ya: when a player is put onto IR he may no longer practice with team even once he rehabs sufficiently, correct or can he practice later in the year(although not going to contribute gamedays)??

packeraaron's picture

Once you're on IR you're done. No more practicing.

BTF's picture

Guy/Wynn seems like it could be an interesting battle. Wynn is by all accounts having a good camp but would seem to be a situational player at best-though that may not be a bad thing in a Capers D.... Guy has more the ideal size by all accounts but obviously needs to get back on the field. Does he make it to the PS and stay there without being claimed do people think ?

lars's picture

Wynn is much improved from last season and will make this team barring injury. The best thing about this excellent analysis is that it doesn't include the name Harrell for the first time sice 2007.

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