- Defensive Line – I like our D-Line. I like that Pickett’s here to stay for a bit, Raji looks to be a nice addition, Jolly is still good and Jenkins is OK. Beyond that though, we are a bit thin. I wouldn’t be surprised if TT went after at least one quality pass rusher (lighter DE/LB type guy) and one Jenkins-sized D-lineman. We could use depth here. One thing that wouldn’t surprise me is if Justin Harrell ends up playing decently. Because time has passed, I don’t think Harrell will feel the negative pressure he felt the first few years on the team. I think he may be able to finally just get in there and play…assuming of course, he stays healthy which considering his past, is a massive assumption.
- Linebackers – After cutting Poppinga (which hopefully happens early on), the team should have some room for a younger guy. I still think Hawk is not very good despite his improvement last year. He’s adequate yes, but I continue to worry that he’s playing in front of not one, but two players who could play better – Chillar, Bishop. Barnett was solid and Matthews was quite good and has loads of potential (though his coverage and run D need some work). Brad Jones held his own and didn’t do badly for a rookie, but let’s be honest, he has one pass rush move and considering the number of times he was rushing, this is something he needs to improve upon big-time. The tough question with Jones might be: what do we do if he doesn’t develop well this year? I would kind of like to see how his development progresses before benching him because again, he wasn’t terrible last year for a rookie – he was decent for a rookie. But I also don’t want us to be disadvantaged too much on defense because we’re trying to develop someone when there are guys behind him who may just plain be better (especially Chillar). Chillar is a decent player and I can’t help but wonder how things would be if he were a regular starter. I like him over Hawk (and maybe even Brad Jones as OLB) because of his speed and coverage abilities. I still think Desmond Bishop has the potential to step in and change games and I’d really like to see him be given a better chance this year to prove himself. I think he would outplay both Hawk and even Jones at OLB if he were given the chance. (Imagine the chaos that would ensue if Bishop and Matthews were called upon to rush the QB on the same play from opposite sides. Both have an energy level and a certain tenacity that few others have.) Like I’ve said before, while there are a number of names we all throw around at the LB position, that doesn’t mean necessarily that there is lots of depth. I’d rate 2 starters as above average (Barnett, Matthews) but the other two,Hawk and Jones, are average. I think we should add a LB from the draft to improve our depth and our potential going forward. One guy to keep an eye on this year is LB Cyril Obiozor. He struggled to pick things up early last year, but Kevin Greene has worked a lot with him and if I remember right from last year, Greene thinks this guy has loads of potential. He is a big dude and I think the coaching staff sees him someday filling a role as a punishing hitter having a nasty presence on the field.
- Cornerbacks – Al Harris will be back. For someone whose hair suggests a laid back, Rastafarian, pot-accepting outlook, Al Harris is a hard-working and motivated guy who will do whatever it takes to get back on the field. I like that about him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dom Capers experiments a little bit with Harris this year – kind of like he has with Woodson. Harris is a heady player, smart, savvy, good tackler. I could see Capers working with Harris on dropping off of man coverage on some nickel/dime situations and being more of a freelancer like Woodson. Maybe it wouldn’t work and would be too much of a departure for him from his normal gig. And maybe it would be dumb to pull Harris away from his strength which is man-to-man. But his man-to-man skills have declined especially against bigger WRs and I definitely think Harris has a mental understanding/veteran astuteness that might enable him to be a bit of a rover. Offenses have a hard enough time with Woodson improvising, having another veteran doing it could make things really messy for opposing offenses (or perhaps more disorganized for us…). Woodson is unreal – no concerns there at all. Tramon Williams is a guy many of us believe should be a bit further ahead right now developmentally. But whenever I worry about him, I try to remind myself that CB is one of, if not the most difficult positions on the football field and that guys like Woodson, Revis and Asomougha are big-time exceptions. With the precision passing games that so many teams have, even blanket coverage sometimes isn’t enough. I still like his potential and was pleased in particular with his ball-hawking/interception improvement last year. I would be a bit surprised if Will Blackmon figures much into the CB rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets back into returning. We’ll see how he’s recovered. One guy who could surprise this year because lots of us have kind of forgotten about him is Pat Lee. He looked a bit raw last preseason yes, but he also had flashes of quality play and one big hit I remember. I would love to see him jump right back in and give us a little different feel back there. Just when I decide again that Jarrett Bush should be cut, I think back to when he was a restricted free agent (I believe he was an RFA) a couple years ago and others teams apparently expressed serious interest in him. Must be his special teams work as his coverage abilities remain iffy. Brandon Underwood may be decent yet too – he could figure in there (not so sure about Josh Bell).
- Safeties – Glad we’ve signed Collins. He’s good – he’s not a superstar, but he’d pretty solid. I am very curious to see what Atari Bigby brings this season. He’s had flashes of tremendous play during his time here and he did show an increased ball-hawking talent last year. But he isn’t always steady and I remember him taking some particularly bad angles last year. I don’t mind him as the starter opposite Collins and right now, I definitely would prefer him there to any of the other options (Derrick Martin, Khalil Jones, Jarrett Bush). Now, Derrick Martin had a bad go of it earlier in 2009 when he was thrust into starting duty hardly knowing the defense. My guess is that if he ended up having to start, he’d probably do much better now – he’s a heck of an athlete and a quality special teamer. Still, I think the Packers should draft a safety. In the near-term, I think picking up a safety with good coverage skills in particular would be smart because having the option to bring a safety up to cover might free up Woodson to improvise leading to many more interceptions returned for TDs.