Raji and Matthews Named To All-Rookie Team

LB Clay Matthews had a great rookie season for the Green Bay Packers. He's also in the running for NFL Rookie of the Year (follow the link to vote). So it's no surprise he was named to the all-rookie team.

When was the last time the Packers had a rookie as good as Matthews?

You can point to a lot of Packers who emerged in their 2nd or 3rd years, WR Greg Jennings in his 2nd season is one example, but few players emerged in their first season. LB Nick Barnett had 86 tackles and 2 sacks in 2003, and he was probably the best rookie I've watched play. DE Vonnie Holliday had a great rookie season in 1998 with 34 tackles and 8 sacks, but it was apparent he was the beneficiary of all the attention devoted to DE Reggie White. Statistically I'd say it was WR James Lofton, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but I wasn't watching the Packers back in 1978 so I can't compare the two.  

On a completely unrelated note, as I was scanning Pro-Football-Reference.com to look at past Packer drafts, I threw up in my mouth at the sight of the horrible draft class of 1981. Though the 2004 draft class isn't much better, with only DT Corey Williams and C Scott Wells to redeem it.

It was surprising to see B.J. Raji named too. He did what was expected of him as a rookie: rotate in as a backup on the defensive line and occupy blockers, while not necessarily piling up any big stats. But I would have put him behind Matthews, OL T.J. Lang, and LB Brad Jones in the Packers' rookie class. He probably made it because it wasn't a banner year for d-line rookies. Here is the complete all-rookie defensive line:

DL: Tyson Jackson, Kansas City; Terrance Knighton, Jacksonville; B.J. Raji, Green Bay; Matt Shaughnessy, Oakland.

Raji finished with 25 tackles and 1 sack. Jackson was the 3rd overall pick and had 38 tackles and no sacks. Knighton had 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but also started all 16 games as a 325 lb. tackle and was a steal in the 3rd round. Shaughnessy had 29 tackles and 4 sacks. 

It was also strange to see Mr. Irrelevant (the last player taken in the 2009 draft) K Ryan Succop also made the all-rookie team.

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