Senior writer jclombardi presents defensive players grades.
JC vs JS Report Card.
DE/LT Green: B- vs C+. “Big Green” became a fixture at RE in the base defense and at LT in the 4-4 defense. The 360-pound big man is an unsung hero of the big veteran pickups. He ranked second on the D-line in tackles per snap (one every 9.5) and surprisingly showed some pass rush. The biggest play of his career was the Super Bowl knockdown of Ben Roethlisberger that resulted in Nick Collins’ pick-six.
DE Pickett: B+ vs B. The “Grease” made a solid shift from NT to LE leading the defensive line in tackles per snap. He has good instincts to find the ball. Also, he is great team leader.
NT Raji: A vs A-. The “Freezer” led the defensive line in tackles for loss (4½) and batted balls (3), while he tied Jenkins in sacks (7½) and he was behind Jenkins in knockdowns (six) and hurries (19½). He needs to improve at point of attack, but he is becoming a great inside pass rusher.
DE Jenkins: B vs B. Although he had another nagging injuries year, he led the defensive line in pressures per snap with one every 16.1 snaps. Whether the aging star stays or not, either way, he will get a big payday. He is a great inside pass rusher who can play DE and DT on passing downs.
DE Neal: C vs C+. With a strong start, the rookie has a promising future at right De. He can stack the point, bull rush, and get to an edge.
DE Wilson: C vs C+. With all the injuries, the rookie got to play showing improvement over the season. He ranked third with 12 pressures. He has good instincts finishing rushes and finding the ball. He finished third in tackles per snap with one every 10.67 snaps.
DE Jolly: Incomplete vs Incomplete. He can be eligible for reinstatement. His LE position has been filled capably by Ryan Pickett. Jolly easily could play RE, but the Packers have Green, Neal and Wilson for that position. If Jolly is reinstated, the Packers can give a reduced role to him.
DE Jarius Wynn: D vs D+. He had nine pressures, one for every 18.1 snaps, ranking him second to Jenkins. He may get another chance in training camp.
DT Harrell: Incomplete vs Incomplete. He was a horrible first round draft pick; forget it.
ILB Barnett: C vs C+: After the fourth week, an injury finished Barnett’s season. At his best, Barnett is reckless on the blitz and solid against the run. While he has speed, he is only okay coverage. Since he may not be able to play OLB in a 3-4, his future with the Packers is in doubt. Who goes Hawk or Barnett?
ILB Bishop: A vs B. With Barnett out, LB Bishop came in producing a stellar performance. He is an authentic strong ILB starter with the menacing glare his eye reminding fans of the LBs of old days. He has good instincts. He ranked as the team’s top blitzer with one pressure every 5.5 snaps. Although he did not start until the fifth game, he finished second in tackles with 151. He simply must improve his tackling skills to become the perfect ILB.
ILB Hawk: C+ vs B-. An injured Barnett allowed Hawk to become a full-time player commanding the defense. He is not a big hitter, is a mediocre blitzer, and gets stuck on blocks. For any game, he is good for several missed tackles and giving up several complete passes. Yet, he is strong in coverage having not given up touchdown pass in years. Yet, his future is uncertain, since the Packers will not pay him the $10 million base salary (2011).
OLB Matthews: A+ vs A. The all-pro linebacker had a great year. He led the Packers in sacks (17) and pressures (55). He was third in tackles for loss (6½). He had six take-away plays.
OLB Walden: B vs C. Due to injuries, the veteran pick-up he started six games. He had 3½ sacks among his 9½ pressures and did okay in coverage. He improved his run defense at the edge as the season progressed. As advertised, he is a fine backup or fill-in starter meaning he will be back.
OLB Zombo: C+ vs C. The rookie free agent finished fourth on the team in sacks (five) and sixth in pressures (14). He can also hold the edge against the run. He is physical, consistent, smart, and tough. Yet, he must improve his play in space.
ILB Wilhelm: D vs D. Another veteran pick-up who mostly played on special teams. With his contract expiring, he probably won’t be back but he has a ring.
ILB Chillar: C- vs C-. Although he began with high expectations, his disappointing season ended with an injury after just eight games. He may be back for training camp.
LB Briggs: D vs D. Another veteran pick-up who mostly played on special teams, he ranked sixth in special-teams tackles with 12. He may be back for training camp.
LB Francois: D vs D. He was a free agent who can play inside or outside position, but he is stronger against run than pass. He may be back for training camp.
OLB Jones: D vs D+. He had the starting job at ROLB, but he suffered a season ending injury after week seven. He has natural leverage against the run, but his pass rusher skills are below-average.
OLB Poppinga: D vs D+. Although a decent backup, he suffered a season ending injury after six weeks. With his age and injury history, he probably will not return. We wish the “Storming Mormon” well.
CB Williams: A+ vs A. He played like an all-pro getting rave reviews. He had nine interceptions, recovered two fumbles, and forced another for a total of 12 take-away plays. He became a good tackler.
CB Woodson: B vs B+. His speed has decreased meaning he gave up big plays at times, but the all-pro cornerback led the team in forced fumbles (5), tied for first in tackles for loss (7) and was the third most effective blitzer. Yet, he led the team in penalties (12), missed tackles (20), and TD passes allowed (five).
Safety Collins: B vs B. Collins is an all-pro safety. He had five interceptions dropping five more. He still has good speed passing at a steady stellar pace.
Safety Peprah: B- vs C+. Replacing an injured rookie Burnett, he did an adequate job. While he lacks size and athleticism, he has tough smart instincts. The Packers need him and he may compete with Burnett for the starting job.
CB Shields: B vs B-. The emergence of the rookie cornerback solidified the secondary allowing more press-man coverage. He did play like a rookie, but he got better throughout the season. He is a future solid starting cornerback.
CB Lee: D vs D+. After a solid Super Bowl performance, he improved his chances to be back after a disappointing year.
Safety/CB Martin: D vs D. A solid special-teams teams player who can play safety or cornerback.
CB Gordy: Incomplete vs Incomplete. Small raw free agent rookie CB who can run, turn and cover. He may be a sleeper.
Safety/CB Smith: Incomplete vs Incomplete. Acquired for a conditional seventh-round draft choice, he played briefly in four games and went on injured reserve.
CB Underwood: D vs D-. While he has the size, speed and talent to be a solid cornerback, he has not developed to be a good one.
CB Bell: Incomplete vs Complete. Ditto.
Safety Bigby: Incomplete vs Incomplete. After playing only six games with several players ahead of him, he will probably not be back. No big loss.
Safety Burnett: D vs D+. In week four, rookie Burnett’s season ended with an injury. As the starting strong safety, he matured and developed in the four games showing good speed and ball skills.
CB Bush: C vs C. A premiere special teams player leading in tackles with 19, forcing one fumble, drawing several holding penalties, and downing a host of punts. Unfortunately, he is very limited in the coverage game