NFL players generally improve from their rookie year to their second year.
The Green Bay Packers are counting on just that to improve their pass rush in 2010, according to Dan Arkush.
The Packers ranked 12th in the league in sacks in 2009, which isn’t bad. At the same time, no one would really consider Green Bay to be a dominant pass rushing unit.
Outside of Clay Matthews, no one on the Packers registered double digits in sacks. Cullen Jenkins was second on the team with 4.5 sacks.
Before the draft, quite a few observers were clamoring for the Packers to add another pass rusher at outside linebacker. The Packers, of course, didn’t address the position at all, instead opting to let second-year man Brad Jones continue to develop.
The team’s lack of action left more than a few of us scratching our heads, but the coaching staff seems to believe Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji, last year’s top draft choice, will help the Packers generate more of a pass rush by their improvement alone.
Start with Matthews, who genuinely believes the sky’s the limit for him after bulking up to 261 pounds this offseason courtesy of the MMAthletics workout regimen endorsed on a national scale by Fox football insider/workout fiend Jay Glazer.
Matthews said he was “in the best shape of my life!!” in a recent Twitter message. Considering that he didn’t crack the starting lineup as a rookie until Week Four a truly special sophomore campaign could be fast approaching.
An equally big reason for optimism, we hear, is fellow ’09 first-rounder B.J. Raji, who is widely expected to greatly improve the interior pass rush as the team’s new starting nose tackle.
Raji takes over the starting nose tackle role from Ryan Pickett, who was moved to defensive end in preparation for Johnny Jolly’s potential suspension/prison sentence. The move was a good one, as Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL on Friday.
Raji’s presence in the starting lineup still does nothing to address the constant double teams Matthews faced last season. Jones will also have to show marked improvement to take some of the pressure off Matthews for this plan to play out.
If he doesn’t, the Packers may be forced to pressure the quarterback like they did last year — with smoke and mirrors.