Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Packers: 5 Sophomores Who Will Make Big Defensive Impact in 2013


The Green Bay Packers seem to find great rookies each and every year, and 2012 was certainly no exception.  The young additions to the defense were solid contributors, and will be even better next season.

The defense for the Packers has let them down the past few seasons.  They historically had the worst pass defense of all time after the 2011 season, and didn't do much to stop teams from scoring this past year.

Luckily, the Packers have several young players who were quite impressive in their first seasons.  A few key rookies will come back healthy and ready to prove they were worth a draft pick.  Another will be proving the Packers were right to sign him as a free agent.

With that being said, here are five rookies from this past season who will be big parts of the defense in 2013.

5. Jerel Worthy

Jerel Worthy was a logical pick for Ted Thompson in the second round.  The team had struggled with their defensive line, and Worthy had been a dominant lineman at Michigan State.

Unfortunately, Worthy wasn't able to do much during the season, as he battled multiple injuries before finally ending his year with a torn ACL.  He did, however, record 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his short time on the field.

With an ACL injury, it's always quite difficult to predict when a player will be back.  In Worthy's case, it will be just as hard.  The one bright spot was that the now famous Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery, which could mean a quicker recovery. 

The Packers sorely need another dominating presence on the defensive line next to B.J. Raji.  The team was pushed around far too easily, and were dominated by some good running backs.

Regardless of when Worthy comes back, he will make a big impact on this defense.  The numbers may not show it, but that's not what being a defensive lineman is about.

4. Jerron McMillian

Jerron McMillian is another one of of those late draft picks taken by Ted Thompson that quickly found their way onto the field.  He was taken in the fourth round by the Packers, and stepped in quite smoothly to the rotation.

With the injury to Charles Woodson, McMillian saw himself with quite a bit more playing time, especially in nickel and dime packages.  He ended the year with 27 total tackles and an interception. 

Woodson is beginning to show signs of age, and other players will have to step in his place soon.  McMillian is one of those candidates, and he will be splitting a lot of time with M.D. Jennings. 

Regardless of where and when McMillian plays, he is sure to give it his all, as he showed this past season.  Look for him to make some exciting plays next year.

3. Dezman Moses

After the injuries to both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, the Packers were depleted at the outside linebacker position.  Luckily for the team, they found a new one in Dezman Moses.

Moses was an undrafted free agent after playing at Tulane.  He went under the radar by most professional teams, but the Packers saw something in him, and signed him shortly after the draft.

As soon as Moses got his chance, he made the most of it.  He scored his first career touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars after recovering a blocked punt. 

Once Matthews went down, Moses was asked to step in at linebacker.  He quickly became a force, recording a very impressive four sacks in only a few games. 

Moses will become a very frightening player in 2013.  He likely won't start, but he will be subbing in when Matthews or Perry need rest.  He certainly knew how to get to the quarterback this past year, and he will do the same next year.

2. Nick Perry

When the Packers struggled getting to the quarterback in 2011, they realized that Clay Matthews couldn't be the only one to put pressure on the quarterback.  This is why Nick Perry was the best choice in the first round, putting him opposite of Matthews.

The plan went well for a while, as both players were getting some good hits on opposing quarterbacks.  Perry recorded two sacks, while Matthews went on a tear thanks to the attention that Perry was getting.

Unfortunately, Perry was another player to have his season shortened.  After suffering a knee injury, he was put on injured reserve during Week 6. 

With Perry returning next season, the pass rush will become even more frightening.  He will be able to attract a lot of attention while players like Matthews can get in the pocket without getting triple-teamed. Offensive coordinators will have nightmares figuring out how to cover two frightening pass rushers.

1. Casey Hayward

There were few rookies in the NFL that were as truly dominant as Casey Hayward was this past season, and he will be just as dominant next year.

Hayward was another second round pick by the Packers, and became a regular player on the field quite quickly.  He recorded his first career interception against the Indianapolis Colts, where he was able to get inside of Reggie Wayne for a big turnover.

The Defensive Rookie of the Year award was a real possibility for Hayward, but he finished third in voting.  He still had an incredible season, with six interceptions and 21 passes defended.

The Packers are now quite deep at the corner back position, as Hayward joins both Sam Shields and Tramon Williams.  Davon House also began to prove himself at the position. 

Hayward will be a force on this defense, as he has proved that he can cover almost any wide receiver in the league.  His tight coverage frustrated a lot of big names, and he will continue to do so in 2013.

Tyler Brooke is a contributing analyst for

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