It is nobody's secret that 2013 wasn't the year for the Green Bay Packers' defense. Rookie Datone Jones was brought in to help the defensive line create pressure in getting to the quarterback. Previously-troubled veteran Johnny Jolly made his triumphant return to the team. It was supposed to be magical.
In the end, it was anything but that. It was like dark magic. Or something very un-magical. As the 2013 position reviews continue on here at Acme Packing Company, we take a look at the big guys on the defense side of the line of scrimmage.
2013 Packers Defensive Linemen
Starters: DT Ryan Pickett, DT B.J. Raji, DT Johnny Jolly (on IR)
Backups: DE Josh Boyd, DE Mike Daniels, DE Datone Jones, DE C.J. Wilson, DE Jerel Worthy
Practice Squad: None
This year, the big focus for Dom Capers and this defense was getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. After making roster moves such as drafting UCLA's Datone Jones in the first round and deciding to bring back a refocused Johnny Jolly back on the team, the defensive line positions weren't supposed to be the big problem on this defense. With talented younger players in B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels coupled with the experienced Ryan Pickett, consistency was to be expected up front defensively.
In the end, it was a frustrating 2013 for this group. Last year saw the Packers give up an average of 125 rushing yards per game (25th in the league) Mike Daniels was the bright spot on the line, as he provided the only substantial and sustained pass rush on the defensive line. Daniels and the rookie Jones were the only two defensive linemen to post sacks in 2013 (as long as you're counting Mike Neal as an outside linebacker). Daniels had 6.5 and Jones added 3.5 more, which is a promising look for these two young players. Jones was brought along slowly though,
What wasn't as promising for the Packers was the amount of rushers that managed to take advantage of gaps and holes in that 3-4 defense. In 16 regular season games, eight games saw 100-plus yard rushers gash through this defensive line. Here is a list of those rushers:
Alfred Morris (WAS) 107 yards
Matt Forte (CHI) 125 yards
LeSean McCoy (PHI) 155 yards
Adrian Peterson (MIN) 146 yards
Reggie Bush (DET) 117 yards
DeMarco Murray (DAL) 134 yards
Le’Veon Bell (PIT) 124 yards
Matt Forte again (CHI) 110 yards
Note that only one of these games (week 2 against the Redskins) came before Aaron Rodgers was injured. It might be a coincidence, but it's an interesting note.
Overall Grade: D
Mike Daniels' performance exceeding expectations was the best thing to see here for Packers fans. Jones didn't live up to the expectations that were (probably unfairly) laid on him by fans. Seeing the defense gashed week in and week out definitely hurt this grade. Improving the play of the line will definitely have to be at the top of Dom Capers' offseason agenda in 2014 and with several players being free agents, he will probably have a few different pieces to work with. We'll have more on that later today.
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