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Football Outsiders: Defensive line is Packers biggest need

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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Football Outsiders ranked the top offseason needs for each NFC North team and, not surprisingly, the Packers' centered on the defensive line. The pass rush was clearly a weakness in 2012 with the departure of Cullen Jenkins. Clay Matthews, with no other pass-rushing threat, was held to a career-low six sacks one year removed from being the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Football Outsiders uses a series of new statistical analysis as the basis of its evaluations. But the most basic statistic, 29 sacks, leaves the Packers ranked in a tie for No. 27 in the league. Here is the Football Outsiders breakdown: "Green Bay's defense isn't quite as bad as raw yardage would have you believe (the Packers checked in at 24th by DVOA) (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), but that is damning with faint praise. The steep decline in play from the hybrid 3-4/4-3 line affected the linebacking corps by not soaking up blocks; Clay Matthews saw his sack total fall from 13.5 in 2010 to 6 in 2011. Because the pass rush wasn't getting to the passer, quarterbacks made fewer mistakes, and the team's interception total dropped from 31 to 24." "In fact, the Packers were near the bottom of the league in sacks despite the fact that Green Bay's high-octane offense caused its defense to face more passes than any other team in the league. The Packers' defense was last in ASR, 1.9 percent below the league average." "The rushing defense didn't have the same precipitous fall from grace as the passing defense but nonetheless fell from relatively average to near the bottom of the league in every single category aside from open-field yards, where the aging but still talented secondary, led by Charles Woodson, was able to bail out the rest of the defense. In fact, of Green Bay's top five tacklers, four (Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Woodson and Tramon Williams) were defensive backs. That is always a bad sign." "Assigning blame among a line is never easy, but the team is secure with Pro Bowler B.J. Raji, who regularly draws double-teams on running and passing downs. End/three-technique tackle Ryan Pickett also played well when he was actually on the field, which was infrequently. The rest of the assembled squad was extremely unimpressive, particularly second-year end C.J. Wilson, who fits the physical profile of an end/linebacker hybrid but, in two years attempting to replace Aaron Kampman, has displayed none of his talent." "Another youngster, Jarius Wynn, had similar struggles and was a complete liability in the running game, contributing greatly to the league-worst ALY (Adjusted Line Yards) on runs to the offensive left end. The good news for cheeseheads is that Green Bay's defensive scheme is possibly the most flexible in the league, so, when the draft comes around -- and general manager Ted Thompson is a strong believer in building through the draft rather than free agency -- the front office should be able to find a few orphaned players other teams cannot find roles for."

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