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2014 Packers Defensive Grades, the Total Packers Way

Julius Peppers strips DeMarco Murray

Alright, let’s finish it. You already got the Green Bay Packers offensive grades. Here are the defensive grades (plus grades for some of the guys not on the field).

This is Monty and I will once again be italics because I live life in italics!

Letroy Guion: B-

The acquisition of Guion from the toxic waste dump across the Mississippi River wasn’t looking too keen when Guion caught the Green Bay hamstring disease on the flight over and then sat like a lump of lard throughout training camp. Fortunately for him, the injury to B.J. Raji cleared the runway for Guion and thrust him into the starting lineup in week 1, ready or not. Not was the answer. Guion got pummeled and pushed around for four weeks and the Packers run defense was looking to make franchise history for ineptitude. However, that all changed when Guion’s ex-pals in purple showed up in week 5. From that point forward, Guion was a force in the middle against the run and even got a couple sacks. Guion is what he is, and I think the only thing more the Packers could hope from Guion would be a full season.

B — I’m handing out the rare generous grade for this guy right here. He’s not a world beater, nor is he an All Pro waiting to happen. He’s probably not even a poor man’s Gilbert Brown. Guion did set career highs in tackles (32) and sacks (3.5) in his first year in Green Bay, though. More importantly, you could clearly see he made a huge difference in the defense. When he started to play, the whole defense got better. 

Mike Daniels: B+

Daniels was expected to be the Packers best defensive linemen in 2014 and he was. After a rough game against Seattle, Daniels’ play matched his mouth for the rest of the season. He led the defensive line with 41 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Daniels promised to bring some fire and some attitude to the defense and he did that, boiling over into foolishness at times. Still, Daniels is the kind of guy every defense needs. If he can pick his game up just one more notch, he’ll be a Pro Bowl caliber defensive tackle.

B+ — I totally agree with everything Shawn just said. When I think of Daniels, I think of “motor” and I hate that term when used to describe a football player. That being said, I think Daniels gives more effort than anyone else on the defense. He needs to take the next step in 2015.

Datone Jones: D+  

Datone made more plays than his 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1 interception would suggest. Still, the Packers need more from him. By now we all know that Datone is undersized to play as a 3-4 defensive lineman. He was drafted for his speed, and that dedication to getting faster and more athletic on defense showed up in a big way against Seattle in the NFC Championship game. It was a small step forward instead of a breakout for Jones in 2014.

D- — I’ve been itching to break out the bust label for this clown for a while now. Next year, Datone! Next year! Quick, name one time Datone Jones made a play in 2014… Couldn’t do it, could you?

Josh Boyd: D 

The season-long good health of Jones and Daniels along with Boyd’s own injury issues limited Boyd’s impact this season. He did finish with 19 tackles, which is about as much as B.J. Raji usually finished a season with, but it certainly wasn’t the season we were hoping for from Boyd. Next season.

C — A pretty nondescript season from Boyd, but he’s a backup defensive lineman. He wasn’t going to have 30 tackles and five sacks. From what I saw, he was average. A body you could throw out there that probably wasn’t going to make a play, but also probably wasn’t going to totally fuck up. 

Mike Pennel: D   

Mike Pennel basically made the team because he’s big and after Raji went down, the roster had few big guys on it. The durability of the starters in front of him limited Pennel’s opportunities in 2014. When he was in the game, you rarely noticed. He had eight tackles and no impact plays.

C — For an undrafted rookie, Pennel got plenty of playing time. That says something right there. Shawn is correct in that he didn’t make any plays, but his fat ass was good enough to absorb some blockers from time to time. I believe this guy can be a contributor in time. Right now, he’s another average backup like Boyd.

Julius Peppers: A-   

Ted Thompson grabbed Peppers in free agency in the hope that the big man had just a couple good years left in him and for one year at least, Peppers delivered. Peppers finished with 44 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 INTs, both of which were returned for touchdowns, not to mention the veteran leadership that Peppers brought to the locker room. After a lull from Peppers near the end of the season, he was huge in the playoffs, with sacks in both games and forcing two fumbles against Dallas. If the Packers bring him back, which I expect they will, they may want to ration Peppers’ snap count a little tighter than they did in 2014.

B+ — Julius Peppers was the playmaker this Packers defense needed. He was also Julius Peppers, which is both good and bad. He dominated at times, but then would disappear for long stretches. That latter reason is why he isn’t getting an A from me. 

Nick Perry: C

Perry stayed relatively healthy in 2014, which was a positive. A shoulder injury that he played through in the second half of the season did take away some of his power, which limited his effectiveness. After getting only sporadic playing time in the first half of the season, Perry essentially became the starting OLB after the bye when Matthews was moved to ILB. With the combination of Matthews on the inside, this immediately improved the defense against the run, since Perry is the best edge setter on the team. Perry finished with 23 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble, which are disappointing numbers for where Perry is in his career. However, Perry had a strong postseason, and if that represents the beginning of an upward arc, then next season could be a big one.

C- — I really don’t know what to think about this guy anymore. He’s seemingly always injured, although he played through it this year. He’s obviously never going to put up big sack numbers. He is very solid against the run, however. Of course, doing that one thing well doesn’t mean he’s living up to his first-round draft pick status. And because of that, he’ll probably always be a disappointment to me. Nick Perry is just a guy. 

Mike Neal: C-  

Neal appeared to be developing into a formidable OLB through the first quarter of the season. Unfortunately, as Nick Perry’s time increased, his went the other way. He finished with 33 tackles and 4.5 sacks and I thought he was improved against the run on the edge this season.

B — For the amount of playing time Neal got, which didn’t seem like much, I thought he did a hell of a job. His 4.5 sacks were fourth on the team. His 33 tackles were the most of any reserve, unless you count Jamari Lattimore, who started five games at inside linebacker. What puzzles me is why the Packers didn’t get Neal on the field more. 

Jayrone Elliott: I  

I am going to give Elliot the benefit of the doubt by concluding that he just didn’t get enough reps to show anything. He rarely saw the field at OLB and was unable to get any sacks even in junk time. He was fine on special teams. As I believe Clay Matthews should be permanently moved inside next season, Elliott should get his chance.

I — Incomplete. Also a great song by Bad Religion.

Clay Matthews: B  

It really was a mixed bag for CM3 in 2014. He was having his worst season as a pro on the outside through the first eight weeks. He was on pace to finish the season with 5 sacks and he was terrible at times at holding his edge, allowing several long runs. After the bye, Matthews was moved inside and from there, he recorded his best statistical season as a pro with 61 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 INT, which was good enough to get him to the Pro Bowl. However, instead of embracing his new role and the success that was coming from it, Clay seemed unhappy with being moved from the flashier outside position and grumbled his way out of a leadership role with the defense. It was simultaneously, a great year and a disappointing year for Matthews.

C — That last line sums it up. A great year and a disappointing year. Matthews was garbage through the first eight weeks. He was a game-changing playmaker in the final eight, which is what his huge contract dictates he needs to be at ALL times. And then of course, Matthews quit on the Packers in the NFC Championship game. To me, Matthews has become a disappointment. He’s not a leader. He hasn’t lived up to his contract. He’s not a team player. This guy SHOULD be the best outside linebacker in the NFL if not the best defensive player in the NFL. He’s too worried about his fucking hair though. 

Sam Barrington: C+

Sam finished the season with 53 tackles and 1 sack. That is pretty good for having officially only started 7 games. He’ll have the chance to start all 16 next season if he stays healthy. Barrington is a good, but unexceptional athlete in the mold of Desmond Bishop. The one thing I love about him is unlike every other inside linebacker on the roster not named Matthews, when Barrington hits ball carriers, they go down immediately. As a former seventh-round draft pick and Letroy Guion’s cousin, by the way, Sam will need to keep improving and likely knows that.

B — Barrington was a pleasant surprise to me. He came out of nowhere to help solidify the middle of the Packers defense. He was a huge improvement over both A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. He’s certainly not great, but he doesn’t get run over by opposing ball carriers like Hawk and doesn’t totally whiff on tackles like Jones. Sometimes, all you need is good enough.

A.J. Hawk: D

Hawk’s ninth season as a Packer was likely his last. He started out in his normal spot — starting inside linebacker for the base and nickel defense, and he ended the season with only spot duty in the base when Matthews was lined up outside. Always a liability in coverage, Hawk wasn’t good at anything by the end of the season. Many may feel his late-season ineptitude might be cause for a failing grade, but that would be forgetting that Hawk did have 89 tackles this season, which was third on the team. He also once again played in all 16 games.

F — I don’t care if A.J. Hawk had 8 million tackles in one season, he would still get an F from me. Look up liability in the dictionary and see a picture of A.J. Hawk.

Brad Jones: F   

In 2012, Jones was thrust into action as an inside linebacker after both Desmond Bishop, and then his replacement, D.J. Smith went down with injuries. Jones started 10 games at the position and had his best season as a pro. That offseason, the Packers faced a tough decision — pay Jones or leave your roster with only a declining A.J. Hawk as a healthy inside linebacker. Jones got paid. That essentially was the end of his story. After a mediocre season last year, Jones started week 1 against the Seahawks and was so bad that he was immediately benched for the following week. He would not start again all year. He did get his spot in the dime defense back in the last quarter of the season, which was more the result of no other viable options than of his ability. Jones was fine on special teams and even forced a fumble against the Seahawks in what was likely his final game as a Packer.

F — Is there a grade lower than F? I have no words for this piece of shit. 

Jamari Lattimore: D-

Lattimore came in for Jones and lasted five starts before getting injured and then benched himself. He finished the season on IR, which may at least give him a shot to come back next year. Lattimore continued a propensity for ignoring his coverage assignment altogether and typically gets dragged for three yards whenever he makes a tackle. He will need to be a better player to serve the Packers in any capacity next season.

D — I used to be high on Lattimore’s potential. After this season, I don’t think he has any. He did have 39 tackles and a pick before getting injured. He was also an improvement over Jones. However, Lattimore plays stupid. He can make plays, but he gives up too many plays. 

Tramon Williams: B

In virtually every measurable respect, Williams was the Packers best cornerback in 2014. He led the corners with 70 tackles, 13 passes defended and 3 interceptions while starting all 16 games. He also led the defensive backfield in penalties and had his up-and-down moments. Still, the Packers would take a leap of faith if they let Williams go in favor of a younger player next season.

B — I would agree that Williams was the Packers best corner in 2014. He reminds me a bit of Al Harris at this point. He’s not really spectacular anymore, but he’s damn sure still solid. Frankly, I hope to see Tramon back for another go.

Sam Shields: B-

Last season Shields had 61 tackles, 16 passes defended and 4 interceptions. He then was paid like a top corner. This season, while starting the same number of games (14), Shields had 40 tackles, 11 passes defended and 2 interceptions. That’s not quite what the Packers paid for.

C — Yup. Shields played balls out during his contract season, got a huge deal and then promptly regressed. Somehow, this clown made the Pro Bowl this season. Yes, as an alternate, but he was still there. Totally undeserving. 

Casey Hayward: C-

Hayward does have a nose for the football. In a limited role, Hayward tied Williams for the team lead in interceptions with three. He also made 42 tackles and defended 10 passes. His tackling was spotty at best, and his coverage on the playoffs was costly. He needs to improve if he ever wants to be a full-time starting corner for the Packers.

C — I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with Hayward. He’s the kind of guy who can and will make a huge play and then also give up a huge play. Kind of like Jamari Lattimore, now that I think of it. Hayward’s problem is that he’s a shitty tackler. A real shitty tackler. If he can ever learn some form, he might be legit.

Davon House: C- 

Partially due to injuries, House had an even more limited role than Hayward. He finished with 27 tackles, 10 passes defended and 1 INT. He matches up well against big receivers, but his concentration seems to fail at times. He is a decent special teams player when he applies himself. House’s injury history should be a concern for any team interested in his services.

B- — To me, in 2014, House showed what we saw in training camp in 2012 — that he has the potential to be a starter. He’s the only guy that I saw in the Packers cornerback group even remotely capable of covering big receivers. He had his moments against guys like Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson and that’s no small feat. Of course, he also showed what he’s shown his entire career — that he can’t stay healthy. House missed the last three games of the season and that’s a recurring theme. 

Micah Hyde: B+  

Perhaps not the “every down” player Mike McCarthy suggested he was in the offseason, Hyde nonetheless saw a lot of action as either a slot corner or a safety. He finished with 59 tackles, which was sixth on the team, 1 sack, 7 passes defended and 2 INTs. Hyde was also the Packers’ best return option and his 15.8 yards punt return average was No. 1 in the NFL. Only he and Darren Sproles had more than one punt return for a touchdown in 2014.

B — I’m not quite as fired up about Hyde as I was after his rookie season. That being said, he was pretty solid in 2014. He needs to keep growing as a player.

Morgan Burnett: B+

After much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes over Thompson giving Burnett a big contract a couple offseasons ago, Burnett finally broke out with the best season of his career. He had 130 tackles, which led the team and was good for ninth overall in the NFL. He also had 1.5 sacks, 5 passes defended and 1 INT. Those numbers tell us clearly what we already knew — that Burnett is better near the line of scrimmage than he is as a centerfielder type.

B+ — With this grade, it would appear the best I am giving anyone on the Packers defense is a B+. Burnett bounced back from that turd of a 2013 campaign with his best season yet. He really should have been a Pro Bowler. The only reason I can’t give Burnett an A is because I really don’t feel like he provides anything special in pass defense.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: C+

Clinton-Dix was quickly inserted as a starting safety and his presence helped Burnett have the kind of year that he did. It was an inconsistent year for Clinton-Dix, who did finish second on the team in tackles with 93 and also led the team in missed tackles. He also had seven passes defended and 1 INT, which was the first INT for a Packers’ safety in over a year. If Clinton-Dix can develop into the kind of centerfielder that we saw against Seattle, then the Packers could quickly have an outstanding duo at safety.

B — Clinton-Dix certainly made his share of rookie mistakes, but he also supplied the Packers two things they drastically needed. First, was the ability to let Burnett do what it is he does best, which makes the defense better overall. Second, was an improvement over M.D. Jennings, which makes the defense better overall.

Sean Richardson: D

With Clinton-Dix’s emergence as a quality starter and neither him or Micah Hyde missing a game all season, Richardson’s opportunities were limited. He finished with 25 tackles, many of those on special teams, where he happens to be a solid contributor. Richardson was brought in as a third safety near the end of the season for run-heavy formations, but he did nothing to distinguish himself.

C+ — Not many opportunities for this guy, but I think he did do some things to distinguish himself. First, he was a solid special teams player on a team with a dearth of those. Second, that three-safety look actually appeared pretty effective at times. It allowed the Packers to play nickel with an extra DB who can actually tackle a running back. That has been an Achilles’ heel for Green Bay — not being able to stop the run in the nickel. 

Jarrett Bush: D

Bush was injured a lot and did not have a great special teams season. He saw little action on defense due to the Packers’ depth in the secondary and good health. Bush’s value continues to dwindle and may have expired.

B — I don’t care what you say. Still the best special teams player on the team. Still my boy. Long live Jerry Bush!

Demetri Goodson: I  

That same depth allowed Demetri Goodson to stay off the field on defense all season, which is probably a good thing. He looked good at times on special teams. He finished with six tackles there.

I — I am still a Jumal Rolle fan. And by the way, he had 19 tackles and 3 picks for the Texans in 2014. That second number would have tied him for the Packers’ team lead. 

Tim Masthay: F

There was a time there when the Packers actually appeared to have a punter for once. Wrong. Masthay was terrible down the stretch and ultimately finished ranked 27th in the league in average and 34th in net average. Yes, that means some teams have two punters better than Masthay in net average. May I suggest over-inflating the balls?

G — G is for ginger. 

Mason Crosby: C+

The plus is for Crosby’s performance in the playoffs. The C is for the regular season. When you look at the numbers, a seemingly decent year for Crosby is pretty poor when put up against the rest of the league. Crosby ranked 24th in FG percentage, which some blocks that weren’t his fault played a role in that. Crosby ranked 34th in kickoff distance. Yes, that number again. There are teams out there with two kickoff options better than Crosby. May I suggest finding a punter who can kick it deep on kickoffs? Making it worse is the fact that thanks to the Packers offense, Crosby had more kickoffs than anyone else in the league.

B — I can live with an 81.8 field goal percentage. That was actually the third-highest of Crosby’s career. If he hadn’t had three kicks blocked, that likely would have been even better. What I can’t live with is Crosby’s kickoffs. He’s just not good in this aspect of the game, which makes no sense, since he can easily hit field goals from 50-plus. The Packers need to do something about that.

Mike McCarthy: B+  

Mike McCarthy’s offense finished No. 1 in scoring and No. 6 in total yards. We asked him to make changes that would keep the team healthier and he did with resounding success. McCarthy collected his fourth straight NFC North title, a 12-4 record and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs despite another slow start. With another 5-1 record, McCarthy remains the most dominant coach in Packers history within the division and he will face yet another new coach within the division next season. McCarthy also got the Packers over the playoff hump at home with a huge win against the Cowboys. He had the Packers ready to play against Seattle and was four minutes away from one of the most dominant and surprising wins in franchise history. Criticisms would be the decision not to use the 4-3 defense in preseason before unveiling it in week 1, his 0-5 record on challenges in the regular season and his confounding decisions to play the game against the Saints as a shootout and the game against Seattle as a defensive battle. That mindset was reflected in the players’ approach to each game and contributed to those losses.

B+ — Ah, Buffoon. I will be giving you some credit here for a change. There were certainly the usual buffoonish decisions. The refusal to ride Eddie Lacy in Buffalo and willingness to hand the ball to John Kuhn at the goal line come immediately to mind. Despite these things and a number of others like them, I think McCarthy did a hell of a job with the Packers overall in 2014. Shit, they made it to the NFC Championship game, where I thought they had a tremendous game plan. Winning that game might have been McCarthy’s most impressive career moment if the players hadn’t botched it. He also got rid of the annual hamstring epidemic, as Shawn noted, and finally canned that dickwad Shawn Slocum. Maybe his best coaching job to date. 

Dom Capers: B

The Packers defense finished 13th in points allowed and 15th in yards allowed, which was a considerable improvement from where they were at the bye. The plan for the 4-3 defense or the quads formation was a complete failure and contributed to the losses at Seattle and Detroit. However, Dom had the balls to move Clay Matthews, the Packers’ highest paid defensive player, to inside linebacker and that move changed the fortunes of the defense. After a mediocre game against the Cowboys, the Packers defense seemed inspired against the Seahawks and were minutes away from one of their best postseason performances of all time. Unfortunately, those minutes saw the defense collapse in surrendering three straight touchdowns on Seattle’s last three drives.

B+ — It was refreshing to see Capers change it up for once. Normally, we all go through the season, the Packers defense sucks and, oh well, that’s just the way it is. We’ll keep doing the same thing and maybe one of these times, the results will change! Capers actually experimented with some things this year. They didn’t always work, but for the first time I feel like he maximized the personnel, rather than trying to cram the personnel into his preferred scheme. 

Ted Thompson: A-

After some poor drafts in 2011 and 2012, Ted appears to have rebounded with his drafts in 2013 and 2014. The 2013 draft appears to have netted four current or future starters with Eddie Lacy, David Bakhtiari, Micah Hyde and Sam Barrington, while the 2014 draft appears to have the same with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Corey Linsley. In free agency, Ted was correct to let Evan Deitrich-Smith go and he obviously improved the defense by bringing in Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion without losing any draft picks in doing so. There are always ways to improve and holes to fill, but the talent is on this roster right now for the Packers to win another title.

A — Frankly, I am no fan of Big Ted. That being said, I just tried to think of a position where I could say that if we would of had a guy in that position, the Packers would have won more games. Couldn’t do it. It’s not as if the Packers had All Pros at every position. There’s certainly room for improvement, but they don’t really have any glaring holes. The holes they did have, like inside linebacker, were filled just fine by other guys on the team. I really don’t think the Packers could have assembled a better roster this year. And with that, I will never praise you again, Big Ted. 

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Shawn

Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.

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7 Comments

  1. Gingy February 4, 2015

    G for ginger, classic.

  2. Lynn Fuckin' Dickey February 4, 2015

    Guion was arrested for possession in Florida. You can take the player out of the Vikings but you can’t take the Vikings out of the player.

    1. the real russ letlow February 4, 2015

      so sad, but so true……..

  3. rebelgb February 4, 2015

    Excellent write ups. I wouldnt change a thing. Good to see Monty giving some props to the coaches and the GM.

    I too am no big Mccarthy fan, and he certainly did things that gave me migraines; however, his record cannot be questioned and the way he had our team ready to play against Seattle was impressive.

    Really if Arodge can be above average in the playoffs just one damn year, we will be Super Bowl champs again, and MM will look like one of the best of all time (in Green Bay).

  4. Jeff February 4, 2015

    Great write-up of the defense. I think Clinton Dix was a bright spot especially early in the season when the defense was struggling. Seemed like he was making lots of tackles from the secondary, and missing very few.

    Quite a generous assessment of the coaches, but after all the Packers were in the NFC championship game and it was the players who let the game drift away.

    Hate to harp on this, but I still think Matthews should be traded for some good draft picks. Monty is right, he’s not a leader, has not lived up to his contract and is not a team player. Let’s go back to Alabama or other SEC teams and get some of that talent in the draft.

  5. Cheese February 4, 2015

    What, no grade for Shawn Slocum???? I wonder what that would have been..

  6. pf4l February 5, 2015

    You can give Capers credit for moving Clay to ILB if you’d like, but it wasn’t Capers that did that.