Packers: Believe It or Not, Green Bay is Building a Championship Caliber Defense

Packer fans may find this hard to believe and may think I’m full of it — but the Green Bay Packers are building a championship caliber defense and despite struggles in recent years, it’s going to come to fruition in 2014.

That may seem like a bold statement to make after the Packers finished 24th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed last season, while also forcing just 22 turnovers, which ranked 21st in the league.

However, despite it’s performance last season, the Packers defense has the pieces in place to take a huge step forward. With the development of some young talent and a few pieces being added in the draft, the Green Bay defense will once again be a force to be reckoned with.

Some of you may think I am crazy and no this isn’t solely because Packers general manager Ted Thompson went out and signed Julius Peppers this offseason, although adding a pro-bowl caliber pass rusher certainly helps.

It’s about more than just Peppers, in fact it’s about a lot more than him.

As we all know, the Packers build their team mostly through a draft and development philosophy. Over the past two seasons, the team has invested heavily in the draft on the defensive side of the ball without seeing lots of dividends — or so it seems.

In reality, the Packers have added some very solid players over the past two drafts and as those players start to mature, their continued development should finally payoff.

Some of the names I’m referring to are Mike Daniels, Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, Micah Hyde, Datone Jones and Josh Boyd. All of these players are ones I expect to make a big jump in 2014.

Perry, the Packers 2012 first-round pick, has been hampered by injuries. In two seasons, he has played in just 17 games and started 11.

Yet, when he’s been on the field, he’s been effective, registering six sacks, three forced fumbles and 37 tackles. He is stout holding the point of attack in the run game and has enough pass rush skills to be a solid player, he simply needs to stay healthy.

Hayward is in a similar boat, he was outstanding in 2012 then missed almost the entire 2013 season due to injury. But after intercepting six passes and breaking up 21 as a rookie, there is reason to believe he can return to his playmaking ways.

Daniels, a fourth-round pick in 2012, has already begun establishing himself as one of the top interior pass rushers in the game with 6.5 sacks last season and should only continue to improve, particularly with the likes of Peppers, Clay Matthews, Perry and Mike Neal rushing beside him.

Then there’s Hyde, who impressed as a corner last season and should see time at safety this year – and finally Jones, the Packers 2013 first-round pick, who notched only 3.5 sacks last season but after battling injuries and learning a new scheme, should be vastly improved.

The bottom line is that in the NFL great defenses generally have three things in common; they can stop the run, rush the passer and cover.

Believe it or not, the Packers have the ability to be great in all three of those areas.

For starters, when talking about pass rushers and corners, there are few teams in the NFL that can compare with the depth of talent that Green Bay possess.

At corner, the Packers are as deep as anyone in the NFL with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Hayward, Hyde and Davon House.

In terms of quality pass rushers Green Bay is just as talented with Matthews, Peppers, Neal, Perry, Daniels, Jones and B.J. Raji. The thing that makes the pass rush even more dangerous is the versatility.

There are four players; Matthews, Perry, Peppers and Neal that can rush from the outside and have proven successful at it.

Neal has also shown he can excel as an interior rusher along with Daniels and Raji, who also posted 6.5 sacks when he was rushing the quarterback more frequently in 2010.

Then there’s Jones, who is a solid interior pass rusher and should see some opportunities to rush from the elephant spot, which is more akin to a defensive end.

This versatility and depth will give Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers the ability to be very multiple with his fronts. He will also have the flexibility that allows him to move players around to find the best match ups and apply the most pressure to the offense.

Depth also means players can be rotated in and out, so Green Bay always has fresh pass rushers on the field.

There is no question that talent still needs to be added, particularly at safety an inside linebacker. This will help the Packers improve both their run and pass defense but the fact of the matter is, with another piece or two in place, Green Bay’s defense could be elite in 2014.


  • We’ll see how this all unfolds week 1 at Seattle! Hope you’re right here.

  • I agree Chris. Raji was effective rushing the QB when he played NT and had a player of Jenkins caliber playing next to him. Raji is really quick and is a mismatch for most centers. With Matthews, Peppers, Neal, Daniels, Jones and even Worthy Raji is going to see a lot of one on one matchups. QB’s hate pressure up the middle more than anything and that’s what will happen. With Matthews, Perry, or Peppers coming off the edge, QB isn’t going to have anywhere to step up with Raji, Neal and Daniels coming from the middle. All this team needs is to stay healthy and the defense will hold up it’s end this season. A pass rush makes any defensive backfield better. I see at least 25 Interceptions again this year. Raji?? 5 sacks.

    • I completely agree with everything you said. I think you are right on the money. Remember in 2011 when Clay only had 6.5 sacks. He would get around the edge super quick but the QB only had to step up in the pocket to get away from him. Daniels has helped that a lot and I think with Neal, Raji, Jones and Worthy (I agree he can do more that what we have seen so far) they are going to get that constant pressure up the middle. The thing that has me so excited about the pass rush is the depth. I mean Matthews, Peppers, Neal, Perry all can rush outside while Daniels, Jones, Neal, Raji and Worthy can all do it inside. Jones can do both and I think he will do the elephant position as well but it reminds me of all the pass rushers Seattle had last year. I think our rush can compare with the Seahawks if all the pieces are healthy, I really do. Plus with Hayward back, we have four pretty good corners. AND we can now run the ball as well as anyone in the business. I believe the talent is in place to be a Super Bowl defense. They need depth sure and a safety really bad but no team is perfect right now. If TT gets it right in the draft and we finally avoid some of the injuries because you can’t avoid them all, then this team could be very, very good in 2014.

    • I think Raji is going to get about five sacks too. I think he is going to be a beast this year, after all, he wants to get paid.

  • Kind of a stretch to list Raji as a “quality pass rusher” when he has not had a sack in 2 years!

    • Lambeau Guy,

      I can see why you would say that and yes he hasn’t had a since in the last two years. But he did have 6.5 in 2010 and three in 2011. The biggest problem with Raji’s pass rush last year is he never really got the chance to do it. It was really weird how he was used last year. They moved him to end in the 3-4 and didn’t really play him much on third downs. So if he was given more opportunities I think he would have been more productive. Plus, even if he is not getting sacks, he can still collapse the pocket, which is an important for edge rushers. If there is no one pushing the pocket the quarterback can simply step up and avoid the outside rusher. I am not saying Raji is the best interior rusher on the team I think Daniels and think Jones will be much better this year as well. Plus, Neal is a great interior rusher, in fact MM said he thinks that is what he’s best at. But I still think there are a lot of teams that would love to have Raji be their third or fourth best interior rusher. Those guys are usually hard to find and I do think if Raji were given more opportunities to rush he would rack up a few more sacks.

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