Now that the offensive grades are in it's time to switch to the other side of the ball. Most, if not all, Packer fans are comfortable with what the offense can do; that leaves most of the big questions on the defense. Although improvement is needed at each level of the defense, perhaps the defensive line is in need the most improvement in order for the Packers to make the championship run we are anticipating.
Starters - B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy
Primary Backups - Anthony Hargrove, Mike Neal, Mike Daniels, Lawrence Guy
Depth - Daniel Muir, Philip Merling, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson
Confidence in starters - High: Raji has had one injury plagued year, one great year, and one mediocre year. He has all the physical tools to be a dominating defensive lineman and the main hope is that reducing his snap count can make for a fresher and more disruptive player. Pickett isn't going to get a bunch of sacks but he is a strong anchor for the line and can stuff the run better than any of the other D-linemen the Packers have. Worthy is a bit green right now but he's the best hope of finding another dynamic 5 technique to free up Raji.
Confidence in backups - Average: Here is where the question marks come fast and furious. Will Neal finally put it together? How will the Packers handle the suspensions facing this group? What can Guy do? How effective can Daniels be given his stature? Every guy in that primary back up range has got at least one question about him that won't be answered until a good way into the regular season.
Confidence in depth - Average: The dirty secret of the D-line is that the depth could just as easily turn into the primary backups. Muir, Wynn, and Wilson may not be as good of players as Hargrove or Neal, but there are more reliable at this point. Merling needs to show what made him essentially a first round pick if he wants his NFL dream to continue.
Final Grade - C+: I tend to be an optimist when it comes to the Packers, but when looking at this group I had to struggle just to avoid giving them an "Incomplete" grade. Thompson did a good job bringing in a bunch of new bodies but at this point there aren't many great answers, other than Worthy had better live up to his promise. If Worthy doesn't, or comes along slow, then the Packers are right back where they were last year with guys like Wynn, Wilson, and Muir holding down the fort until week 4 (week 8 if Neal can't improve his play either).
Previous Pre-Training Camp Grades