Why I Like Defensive Line for the Packers in the First Round
The NFL Draft is almost here and while the Green Bay Packers will tell you they don’t draft for need, that’s pretty much a bald-faced lie when it comes to the first round.
As such, most people have the Packers taking an inside linebacker or cornerback in the first round of this year’s draft. Inside linebacker is considered, by some, to be the weakest position on the team. Similarly, some people think the Packers need a cornerback after watching Tramon Williams and Davon House depart during free agency.
Well, I think those people are idiots. That’s not to say that if the Packers find a game-changing inside linebacker or cornerback available, they shouldn’t draft that guy. It’s overlooking the fact that those two positions are not in as bad of shape as outsiders like to suggest. It’s also overlooking the fact that the Packers defensive line is at least as much in need of improvement if not more.
First, let’s address inside linebacker.
What people aren’t understanding here is the Packers already have their starters at inside linebacker. They are Sam Barrington and Clay Matthews. While that second name may come as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Matthews was dominant after the Packers moved him inside last year. Meanwhile, he was pedestrian as an outside linebacker during the first half of the season, on pace for a total of five sacks for the year. The move inside increased his numbers dramatically, while improving the Packers defense as a whole. So why would the Packers move Matthews back outside?
They’re not stupid. Regardless of what you or Matthews think, he’s an inside linebacker.
That decision makes the need at this position much lesser.
What the Packers need at inside linebacker is depth. They’ve already got two capable starters.
Second, let’s address cornerback.
The Packers did indeed lose a very capable starter in Tramon Williams and a decent backup in Davon House. What people seem to forget here is this was the deepest position on the team in 2014. It was so deep that a talented guy like Casey Hayward could barely get on the field.
Well, guess what.
Hayward is finally going to get what he’s wanted all along — a chance to start at cornerback for the Green Bay Packers. And he should get that shot. If Hayward can improve his tackling, he’s more than capable of taking Tramon’s place on the outside. That leaves Micah Hyde, another guy who’s proven more than capable in a limited role, to play the slot.
So your top three cornerbacks are Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde.
Tell me what sounds horrible about that.
Again, the Packers could use some depth and perhaps someone to push those three guys, but this isn’t a huge need either.
So why defensive line?
There are two factors at play here.
First and foremost, I would argue that defensive end is the weakest position on the Packers defense right now. I’m specifically talking about the defensive end spot manned by Datone Jones.
Since being drafted in the first round two years ago, Jones has been average at best and a complete non-factor at worst. After barely getting on the field as a rookie, Jones was handed a starting job in his second season. He responded with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. That’s pretty much the picture of subpar.
People will defend Jones by saying, well, it takes a lot of guys three years before they really make a splash.
Maybe, but typically those guys will do something in year two to at least catch your eye. They’ll show a flash of greatness here or there. Jones has literally shown nothing.
He’s just a guy. One I maintain is better suited for playing defensive end in a 4-3.
What’s more, is the Packers have a couple question marks in the middle. They went and re-signed both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion to one-year deals earlier this offseason. While that’s swell and will surely get them through 2015, what happens then?
The fact that the Packers didn’t make a long-term commitment to either guy says that they don’t know if either guy is their long-term solution at nose tackle.
Really, the only thing that is certain about the Packers defensive line is that Mike Daniels is a boss.
It would sure be nice if he had another boss playing alongside him.