Cory's Corner: It's Letroy Guion's time to shine

Letroy Guion knows all about challenges.

He walked into a self-made mess at the beginning of last season. After his truck was initially pulled over for failing to stay in his lane, Guion was given a three-game suspension for having 357 grams of marijuana and a firearm in the vehicle.

After something like that, many people would just pack it in and perhaps call it a career.

Not Guion.

He played well and became a key cog on the Packers defensive line that sets things up for the linebackers in the 3-4 scheme.

And a year after making a terrible decision with the money, marijuana and a gun, he was rewarded by the Packers with a three-year $11.25 million deal.

But now comes an even tougher challenge. Nearly one month to the day after signing that deal, Guion learns that he must get better…fast. B.J. Raji has decided to step away from the game, which will leave plenty of responsibility for the 29-year-old.

The Packers are so thin at defensive line that they only have three guys that started games last year. And Mike Pennel will miss the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Add in rookies Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Tyler Kuder, Reggie Gilbert, Brian Price and Demetris Anderson, not to mention Christian Ringo and BJ Mcbryde — who are second year guys that didn’t play at all last season — and you’ve got plenty of green horns.

This is your basic Fight or Flight response. Guion can scratch, claw and battle his way into not only keeping his coveted nose tackle position, but earning the respect of his opponents as well.

One of the main reasons the Packers struggled defensively last year was because they simply could not get off the field. The Packers gave up 119 yards a game on the ground and didn’t get much push up front which left the linebackers exposed at the second level.

Guion proved everyone wrong after he got busted in Florida. He made a mistake but was able to turn his life around and help solidify things.

The Packers need more this year. With no Raji, Guion needs to put up numbers. He needs to have sacks, quarterback hurries and tackles for loss. He needs to be a problem for opposing offensive coordinators because Clay Matthews cannot give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.

Guion proved that he belongs in this league after getting the three-year contract. Now he needs to prove that he isn’t just a stopgap until Clark gets his feet wet. He must show that he can improve and excel.

Sometimes you truly never know what you have until it’s gone. That was probably racing through Guion’s head on Feb. 3, 2015 when he saw the police circling his vehicle.

Now the script is flipped. With Raji, the Packers will employ more of Guion. Granted, he may not possess the same raw talent as Raji but you cannot mimic his heart or motivation.

And those two things are huge when you’re talking about winning one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage. Guion has been through too much in his life to fret about anything. He just does it, because he has come to understand that playing in this league is a privilege. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (23)

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Bearmeat's picture

July 16, 2016 at 07:49 am

1. Green Bay did not struggle defensively last year. They were the only unit that performed to expectations. If the offense had been putting up 25 a game like they are paid to do, Green Bay would have been 13-3 last year, and been the #2 seed.

2. Admittedly their running defense wasn't great. It's the main reason why I'm not terribly upset that Raji left. Aside from about 8 games in 2010, he never lived up to his draft stock. Hopefully the combination of Pennel/Clark/Guion at NT will be better. And they have to think that either Ringo or Lowry can be an effective 5 Tech - because they are definitely short on talent at DL. It's my biggest concern on the roster.

3. You do realize GB ranked 7th in sacks and 10th in QB hits last year right? Their pass rush will be fine.

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Nick Perry's picture

July 16, 2016 at 08:32 am

I think the Packers have to move Matthews around quite a bit for him to be as successful as we all hope he'll be. I still have visions of the 2.5 sacks through the first 8 games Matthews put up in 2014. Matthews is best either moving around or coming off the left edge of the defense. In 2014 they kept crashing him into those LT and he wasn't having much success. Jones and Perry need to stay healthy and play like they did towards the end of the season and Playoffs. The more they get from players like Jones, Perry, Elliott, and Fackrell, the more they'll get from Matthews and Peppers. I can see that group of 6 players putting up around 40 sacks realistically between them.

I like Guion, he's a nice rotational player for sure, but the Packers are going to need him to play a lot of snaps the first 4 weeks while Pennel is out and Clark get's up to speed. Lowry is a player I like a lot, yes he has those alligator arms but he's big, strong, and has a non stop motor. The Packers seem to have several players new and old who have non stop motors. That's a hell of a quality to have in a player.

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marpag1's picture

July 16, 2016 at 01:23 pm

I'd say the defense was OK-ish last year, but my expectations would be higher. The Packers defense finished the regular season last year 12th in points allowed, 15th in total yardage, (6th against the pass and 21st against the run), and tied for 18th in takeaways. Sounds more average than good to me. I'd say that some improvement is still needed.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 16, 2016 at 03:03 pm

Yeah marpag, they were ok-ish. But that's all they're designed to be. As long as ARod is around, the money and the wins are going to come from the offense. The defense just needs to hold its own and create some turnovers. You can't create an invincible full team in the salary cap era. It's either you pay for points or you pay to keep them off the board. Can't do both.

Assuming the offense is back to 31 pts/game this year like it was in 2014, I'd take that 2015 defense and call this a super bowl team.

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marpag1's picture

July 16, 2016 at 05:21 pm

Yeah, I'd mostly agree with that, Bearmeat, although "assuming the offense is back to 31 pts/game" is assuming a heck of a lot. Since 2002, only 9 out of 448 teams - 2 percent - averaged 31 points or more, and four of those nine were from NE. No other team has done it more than once. GB did it only in 2011.

I've always felt that the NFL was won by truly transcendent players, and that the talent pool of normal players is really a lot deeper than many people realize. There are plenty of "good" or "decent" players out there. There's even a fair number of "very good." But there's only a handful of guys that can really tilt the field, and unless GB can strike gold with one of their recent draft picks, I don't believe that such a player is on their defensive roster. Some may disagree (and that's OK), but I don't think CM3 or Daniels can really be "that guy." They're both very good, but the Packers defense needs at least one guy who is great. Otherwise, it will be difficult to see significant improvement.

On offense, the Packers have had "that guy" for the past two decades.

One thing about TT as a drafter is that TT hits for average. And he's always among the league leaders when it comes to "getting on base" in the draft. But he doesn't hit a lot of home runs, although he surely did with Rodgers. Even if just one of the recent 1st round defenders had turned into a flat-out stud, the Packers would have had to build another trophy case. I'm not knocking Thompson, I'm just saying that I really think you need "that guy" if you want your offense/defense to be truly great. There will be plenty of other players that you can plug in around him to fill the gaps. But obviously, finding "that guy" is pretty tough to do.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 16, 2016 at 06:40 pm

To be fair, GB would have averaged 31 a game in 2014 as well, but MM isn't a dirtbag like BB. Once a game is over, he calls off the dogs. I don't root for injuries, but when an important Pats player gets hurt in a blowout someday, I won't shed a tear either.

I agree with you that CM3 isn't all world. I would be lying if I said it didn't concern me that his play declined significantly after 2011, when Cushing got busted for roids and HGH.

Hopefally Randall/Rollins/HHCD grow to be those guys.

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4thand1's picture

July 16, 2016 at 09:50 am

The league changes all the time. They put the best LT against the best pass rusher. Von Miller seemed to reek havoc from the right side. CM was better moving around. I think you'll see defenses changing all the time by leaving offenses guessing where the pressure will be coming from. QB's are more mobile and the pocket moves. The best defenses seem to be the ones that get pressure up the middle. A straight line is the quickest way to any point.

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Bohj's picture

July 16, 2016 at 09:52 am

I'm excited to see our D take that next step this year. They really came together last year in spite of Matthews playing out of position and having two rookie DBs on the field most of the year. I especially like that part where the Pack held a dangerous AZ team that had previously curb stomped us, to just 7 points in the first half. And 10 points through 3 quarters. Barrington will be back, Ryan, Rollins, Randall are a year older with quite a few starts under their belt, and this is the year for Ha Ha to be an ultimate stud. Add in some new pass rushers in the mix. This roster isn't perfect, but it looks better than the last two years in terms of depth and experience now. Hope to see some goods from Guion and Elliot too. GPG

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

I was never a Raji fan because I questioned his motivation and consistency, but he came to play in the postseason. Against Washington, we gave up 18 points and just 84 yards on the ground. A fair amount of that was Raji playing well. Against Arizona, we have up just 40 yards on 19 carries. Raji had 3 tackles for loss in those two games. I do think that Rollins, Randall, Dix and Ryan maturing helped improve the D.

I don't view Guion or Clark as a pure NT. TT opted for versatility. The good news is that Guion quietly improved down the stretch and during the postseason. He does not have the pure talent that Raji had, and probably doesn't have as much talent as Clark. If necessary, we still have Datone and Peppers who can play some snaps on the DL, if not at NT. Our first 4 games are against teams that don't have good OLs at least.

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Bohj's picture

July 16, 2016 at 10:09 am

Guion is no stud. He was rated as perfectly average 66/123 for his position last year. Average player at NT for average money is just fine by me. If he's going to be playing more NT, he just basically needs to be an immovable object. If he can stay lower than the guy(s) in front of him, that's all we need him to do. For a guy that weighs 322 he should be fine. As far as getting more QB sacks and hurries.......not really his job. If he holds the point, and stuffs the run, I'll be happy. Sometimes NTs get sacks and hurries because the QB isn't mobile and gets forced into the NT when the pocket collapses. Raji got more sacks than most NTs because he would often just blow up the center and pursue. That won't happen as often with Guion. I also think Raji got burned on the run sometimes because of that pursuit. If Guion just does his unflashy anchor job, his use will be fine.

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Bedrock's picture

July 16, 2016 at 10:38 am

Agreed, we need him to hold point. Sacks are gravy.

However, Raji's sacks were relatively few to quantify as blow up the center and pursue. If anything, I'd say his sacks were garbage sacks or holding up the middle and catching the flushed up in the pocket qb.

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Spock's picture

July 17, 2016 at 06:36 pm

Bohj,
Guion may not be "a stud" to you, but checkout this from Larry McCarren (a former Packer center whose opinion I respect):
http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/The-Rock-Report-The-big-man/c...
Larry's analysis: "Don't sleep on Guion". Granted, it's "season highlight" type film, but it still shows "the big man" is pretty darned good. One thing I will miss is the t.v. guys always showing Raji ON HIS KNEES to get low for those great goal-line stops last year. Never was a big fan or big hater on Raji (especially when he was out of position), but I thought he came up big last year when it mattered. I think Guion is more than an "unflashy anchor" kind of guy, but, hey, that's why we have these discussion boards!

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dobber's picture

July 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I think we've seen Letroy Guion at his best, and to expect him to play much better is probably asking too much. He is what we've seen.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

July 16, 2016 at 01:07 pm

"He is what we've seen."

True. And I'm totally fine with that. He excels in the role player/X-Factor role. I'm not certain how he and Pennell will look with a significant increase of snaps this season though.

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dobber's picture

July 16, 2016 at 01:14 pm

I didn't mean to disparage him. He's a useful guy and has played a lot of good snaps for the Packers. I just don't see him making a tremendous leap at this stage in his career.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

July 16, 2016 at 01:46 pm

Yea, I know. I didn't take it that way. I'm in agreement. Lol, I understand your reasoning for throwing the disclaimer out there though.

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Tundraboy's picture

July 17, 2016 at 04:36 pm

I would be happy with the same type of steady improvement as last year. If anyone, I think it's Perry's time to shine and with some contributions from the second year players and rookies, we are going to be just fine on D. It's the Offense that needs to make a big improvement over last year. Lacy will shine!!

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Nick Perry's picture

July 17, 2016 at 09:20 am

Me too Tundraboy and I really think we'll get it. McCarthy is going back to "Fundamentals" yet again but the one thing I've found to be true about McCarthy is when his focus is on something to improve on from the year before, the Packers normally improve the following season. Last year it was Defense and ST, before that the Running Game or O-Line. I think the Packers have most of the pieces in place and a QB who's capable of making everybody better. Last year the WR position struggled, not being able to beat press coverage, not being where they need to be when they need to be there were just a few. A year of experience and coaching can help those problems get better or even disappear.

The WR's were blasted last year and rightfully so. But many of the problems can be resolved with good coaching, a healthy O-Line, and some quality depth which I believe they have, and most importantly are being coached up. Lacy WILL shine again as long as he reports to camp in better shape or at least the same shape when OTA's were over

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Tundraboy's picture

July 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

Absolutely agree with you NP. MM will have O clicking again. Here's also to a season of good health!!. We are long overdue.

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dobber's picture

July 16, 2016 at 04:14 pm

I worry about Clark hitting that "rookie wall" given that he's going to have to play a pretty significant number of snaps early on. Pennel and Guion will have to pick him up later on. I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers keep Ringo and show a lot of even fronts early on.

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Nick Perry's picture

July 17, 2016 at 06:20 am

Plus Clark is only 20 years old. If not Ringo then maybe a Veteran who's cut and could step in until Pennel is back, though it would be pretty awesome to see Ringo start to show some of that pass rushing skill that got him drafted in the first place.

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Tundraboy's picture

July 17, 2016 at 04:39 pm

Almost forgot about Ringo. Dark horse this year?

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Point Packer's picture

July 18, 2016 at 05:30 pm

Lets be real here. Letroy Guion is Letroy Guion. Has been since he's been in the league and will continue to be so till he retires. Who is Letroy Guion? A middle of the road rotational player whose best case scenario for this season is that he plays 16 games and performs at the average level he has since he came into the league. Dude is no Jesus on the D-line. Anyone who thinks otherwise, is on drugs or prone to developing an infatuation with false prophets.

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