RE- Cullen Jenkins- A+
Cullen Jenkins, once a DT/DE in the 4-3 scheme, made a smooth and successfull transition into his new role as a 3-4 DE. As most will tell you, a defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense is not a glorious role. The sacks rarely ever come up. Even though he wasn't sacking the QB, he was applying pressure and making our linebackers job a lot easier. Jenkins is perhaps the biggest reason why Clay Matthews had such a successfull rookie season as he made Clay's job a lot easier. I can honestly say that Jenkins is no doubt a Top 5 3-4 DE in the NFL.
NT- Ryan Pickett- B+
Pickett isn't the best NT in the business, but he did the job well. Looking at a stat sheet, you may not come across his name. Looking at the game film, you will notice that he was one of the biggest reasons our run defense was so successfull. He did a solid job in plugging the middle of the line and not being pushed around.
LE- Johnny Jolly- C+
Jolly did a decent job in his first season in the 3-4 scheme. He wasn't getting pushed around as much as he was as a DT in the 4-3. His biggest plus was his awareness to what was going on around him. This lead to a couple interceptions and sniffing out screens. He still has room to improve in gap control and pass rushing when asked to, but overall he did a solid job. Compared to other 3-4 DE's, he is an average contributor to our defense, but I would say slightly above average.
Analysis- The defensive line is the biggest reason why our run D was so successfull. Our LB's had an easier job controlling their gaps and attacking the ball carrier. Add in a solid rotation with BJ Raji, and this line should be the same if not better next season. The expectation of course will be a significant improvement.