It shouldn't surprise many of you that there is an interesting competition shaping up along the defensive line. This is a position that has lots of new faces competing with guys who disappointed last year. The result is players pushing each other for reps and times, which coaches and GM"s always says brings out the best in their players. It's working right now. The defensive line is looking good, and there is a bit more energy coming from those front two or three players right now than before.
What makes this particular battle interesting is the different personnel used by the Packers defensive line thus far. It seems like there are two different player types being used for two slightly different defensive styles. The first is the "base" 3-4 defense. Here the defensive linemen are two gappers trying to seal the edge and focused on the run; your classic five technique. The other defense is the 2-4-5 where the linemen are shooting the gaps in order to put pressure on the QB. This tends to have a flavor a bit closer to a three technique in a 4-3 where you want a guy who can get inside pass rush or push.
Even though the jobs are fairly distinct, and all of the players on the team have skills that fit one job or another better, there is a mixture of players playing all different positions on the line...so breaking down the competition is a bit messier than it looks on paper. That said, there are some trends emerging and some players moving up and down the depth chart based on what has been seen in camp and in the first preseason game.
The 2-4-5 Personnel:
Of coarse I should highlight B.J. Raji here. He is the one guy who is a starter in both packages and so far has been doing pretty well in one on ones. He had a relatively quiet day last Thursday, but so far he is looking forward to a pretty good year.
Another player who had a pretty quiet game on Thursday was Jerel Worthy. Worthy has been consistently starting with the ones in the 2-4-5 set up and has been known to get some push in practices. Against San Diego he only registered one tackle and did not get much pressure. This means he didn't stick out in any obvious way positively, but he also wasn't push around and blocked out of any play completely either.
The big surprise out of camp so far has been Mike Daniels. He has shown an ability to get off blocks and get up to the QB. Daniels was held out of the game on Thursday due to an injury, but has had a couple good flashes in practice since the game and should continue to make a push for playing time if he can build off of what he does day to day in practice.
Philip Merling is a player who has been coming along slowly in camp. He had the most tackles of any of the defensive linemen in the game against the Chargers with two, and was able to get some pressure late in the game. He has been working with the number 2's in the 2-4-5 and may have a good shot of making the team to cover the absences of Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove.
The 3-4 Personnel:
Ryan PIckett and C.J. Wilson are the two main hold overs from last who are holding on to starting spots. Both were able to log a tackle in the game against the Chargers and both are experienced two gappers in the Packers scheme.
Daniel Muir is the guy who has been getting attention so far. He is a scrappy player who has been getting reps some reps in the base, and increasingly the 2-4-5. He's a player who has been listed as one of the new voices adding a hunger to the unit. He's a player to keep your eye on down the stretch due to his high motor and energy he brings to the unit.
Lawrence Guy is final guy really pushing for a spot right now. Guy was able to get on the box score with a tackle in the Charger game as did many of the other linemen. He looks like a good five technique and two gapper, but he's also not standing out in any special way like say Muir or Daniels are in the battle for a roster spot.
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