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Packers 2014 Roster Preview: Returning Defensive Linemen

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Coming back to Green Bay for another year are six defensive linemen, and most of them struggled in 2013.

Mike Neal (96) and Jerel Worthy (99) sack Jay Cutler.
Mike Neal (96) and Jerel Worthy (99) sack Jay Cutler.
Jonathan Daniel

To prepare for training camp, we will be breaking down every player on the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster in more detail, looking at contract terms and 2013 statistics, before we make our prediction for which players will make the 53-man roster at the end of training camp.

We continue on this morning by switching to the other side of the football. Over the past few days we have looked at the offensive line, but today we move across the football to the defensive linemen. First up under our microscope are the six players who return from the 2013 version of the Packers.

#76 Mike Daniels

6'0", 300 pounds
How acquired: 2012 fourth-round draft pick

2014 Contract Details (signed through 2015)

Base salary: $570,000
Salary cap number: $645,146

2013 Stats

16 games played, one start
28 tackles (20 solo), 6.5 sacks

Daniels spent the entirety of the 2013 season in rotation with the Packers' other defensive linemen, but he was far and away the most effective of all of them. A terror for quarterbacks, Daniels' best work came as a pass-rushing interior lineman, but he posted a positive performance against the run as well. Overall, he finished as the Packers' highest-graded defender by Pro Football Focus, the only one with a grade higher than +4.0 for the entire season. With the starting 3-technique job his to lose in training camp, expect big things from Daniels as he continues his ascent.

#90 B.J. Raji

6'2", 337 pounds
How acquired: 2009 first-round draft pick; re-signed to one-year deal in 2014

2014 Contract Details (signed for 2014 only)

Base Salary: $3.1 million
Signing Bonus: $500,000
Roster Bonus: $300,000
Workout Bonus: $100,000
Total Compensation: $4 million
Salary Cap Number: $4 million

2013 Stats

16 games played, 16 starts
19 total tackles (13 solo)

Whereas Daniels was the highest-graded Packers defender by Pro Football Focus a year ago, Raji was the lowest. He regularly graded out negatively in run defense from the end position, and railed to record a sack or a turnover play for the second straight season. Even though he moves back to his natural position of nose tackle this season, Raji will need to improve his game; he has been an average run defender at best in his career, and that is where he will be most critical.

#93 Josh Boyd

6'3", 310 pounds
How acquired: 2013 fifth-round draft pick

2014 Contract Details (signed through 2016)

Base salary: $495,000
Salary Camp Number: $531,140

2013 Stats

9 games played
6 tackles (5 solo)

Thought of as the current heir apparent at nose tackle, Boyd came on a bit late last season when Johnny Jolly went down with a neck injury. He filled in admirably during that against the Cowboys, and will likely be called upon as a run defender on the interior of the line. Boyd reportedly has bulked up this offseason and showed up much bigger than his 310 pound weight from last year. If so, look for him to rotate in with Raji on the nose.

#95 Datone Jones

6'4", 285 pounds
How acquired: 2013 first-round draft pick

2014 Contract Details (signed through 2016 with team option for 2017)

Base salary: $755,755
Salary Cap Number: $1,753,773

2013 Stats

16 games played
11 total tackles (8 solo), 3.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery

During a rookie year hampered by an early ankle injury, Jones failed to live up to the hype that accompanied him to Green Bay after being drafted in the first round. Partially due to that injury, he never saw more than 23 snaps in a single game. Still, he posted more combined pressures than any defensive linemen not named Mike Daniels in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (a combined 18 from 10 hurries, 3 hits, and 5 credited sacks), a sign that he can develop into a disruptive presence from the 5-technique position.

#96 Mike Neal

6'3", 285 pounds
How acquired: 2010 second-round draft pick, re-signed to two-year deal in 2014

2014 Contract Details (signed through 2015)

Base salary: $2 million
Signing Bonus: $2.5 million
Roster Bonus: $300,000
Workout Bonuses: $200,000
Total Compensation: $5 million
Salary Cap Number: $3.75 million

2013 Stats

16 games played, 10 starts (all at outside linebacker)
50 total tackles (39 solo), 5.0 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception, one pass defended

Despite playing almost all of his snaps at outside linebacker a year ago, Neal finds himself lumped in with the defensive linemen once again for a few reasons. First, the additions of Julius Peppers and Carl Bradford to the linebacker corps will provide that unit with more depth this season. Second, the multiple formations likely to be used by the Packers this season would probably dictate that Neal will play with his hand on the ground as an Elephant end or interior pass-rusher most often.

Neal's ability to move out to linebacker was critical for the Packers last year when Clay Matthews and Nick Perry were hurt for long stretches, but he won't be asked to do that nearly as much this year and can focus on rushing the passer, likely from the 5-technique end position, once again.

#99 Jerel Worthy

6'2", 304 pounds
How acquired: 2012 second-round draft pick

2014 Contract Details (signed through 2015)

Base Salary: $748,928
Salary Cap Number: $1,076,783

2013 Stats

Two games played, no official stats

Worthy spent the beginning of the 2013 season on the PUP list after suffering a torn ACL late in his rookie year. He returned in time for the week 12 game against the Vikings at home, in which he played 10 snaps, then was not active again until week 17 against the Bears. He probably needs a big performance in training camp to make the team this year, but his second-round draft status may buy him one more chance in Green Bay regardless.