Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013: Looking Around The Division: DL & LB

So far, this blog has posted several different times about different offensive positions regarding the rankings of the different teams in the division.  Now, that we have wrapped up the offensive side of the football, it is time to see how we stack up on the other side of the ball.  I'll start with the defensive line, then move on to the linebackers and the secondary.  The final post to wrap this up before training camp is going to be on special teams.  Training camp starts July 26th, so let's get going.

4.  Green Bay Packers
  1. B.J. Raji #90 (26, 6'2" 337 lbs)
  2. Datone Jones #95 (22, 6'4" 283 lbs)
  3. Ryan Pickett #79 (33, 6'2" 340 lbs)
  4. Mike Daniels #76 (24, 6'1" 291 lbs)
  5. C.J. Wilson #98 (26, 6'3" 290 lbs)
  6. Josh Boyd #93 (23, 6'3" 310 lbs)
  7. Mike Neal #96 (26, 6'3" 294 lbs)
  8. Jordan Miller #91 (25, 6'2" 315 lbs)
  9. Gilbert Pena #63 (26, 6'2" 330 lbs)
  10. Jerel Worthy #99 (23, 6'3" 308 lbs)
The Packers are getting stronger on the defensive line then we were last year, but we also had many injuries on the line last year.  It's just tough when Raji, who is the front-runner for our best defensive lineman, didn't even get a single sack last year.  Jones and Boyd are both rookies.  Pickett hasn't had any sacks since 2010, and he only had 51 tackles last year.  Daniels is probably a little undersized for what we would like to do on our defensive line.  Wilson was in the rotation and is a good rotation lineman, he had a tackle in all but one game last year that he played in, and that was against Detroit before Thanksgiving.  Neal had 4.5 sacks last year, and has been taking snaps at OLB during our most recent minicamps, plus he's had injury issues before.  Miller was on our Practice Squad last year, Pena is an older rookie, and Worthy has a torn ACL from week 17 against the Vikings, so who knows if he'll hit the field this year.  Hopefully we can improve this year, last year our defensive line was just awful.  If we can get pressure up the middle of the defense, then our linebackers will look better, and so will our secondary.  I'm excited to see what Jones will do for our defense as well.

3.  Chicago Bears
  1. Julius Peppers #90 (33, 6'7" 287 lbs)
  2. Henry Melton #69 (26, 6'3" 295 lbs)
  3. Corey Wootton #98 (26, 6'6" 270 lbs)
  4. Stephen Paea #92 (25, 6'1" 300 lbs)
  5. Shea McClellin #99 (23, 6'3" 260 lbs)
  6. Nate Collins #93 (25, 6'2" 296 lbs)
  7. Cornelius Washington #78 (23, 6'4" 265 lbs)
  8. Sedrick Ellis #91 (27, 6'1" 305 lbs)
  9. Turk McBride #94 (28, 6'2" 278 lbs)
  10. Corvey Irvin #79 (28, 6'3" 302 lbs)
Let's start with what has been happening for so long.  Julius Peppers has been around for quite some time, and he has 8 seasons with 10 or more sacks.  He has 11.5 sacks for the last 2 seasons, he is quite strong and has been doing so far quite some time.  Melton is an up and coming DT.  Wootton has 7 sacks in the rotation last year.  He is going to take the spot for Israel Idonije at LE.  Stephen Paea is a space filler at DT.  McClellin is a decent DE, didn't play as much last year as he will this year.  He's probably a little bit undersized for DE, and right now he's battling Plantar Fasciitis in his right foot.  Collins has rarely played.  Washington is a rookie.  Ellis and McBride are both coming over from little playing time in New Orleans, and Irvin has been a rarely used journeyman.  The starting 4 are pretty decent, and Peppers is great, but there simply isn't enough for me to put them higher on the list.

2.  Minnesota Vikings
  1. Jared Allen #69 (31, 6'6" 270 lbs)
  2. Kevin Williams #93 (32, 6'5" 311 lbs)
  3. Fred Evans #90 (29, 6'4" 305 lbs)
  4. Brian Robison #96 (30, 6'3" 259 lbs)
  5. Everson Griffen #97 (25, 6'3" 273 lbs)
  6. Sharrif Floyd #95 (21, 6'3" 297 lbs)
  7. Lawrence Jackson #94 (27, 6'4" 271 lbs)
  8. Letroy Guion #98 (26, 6'4" 303 lbs)
  9. D'Aundre Reed #91 (25, 6'4" 260 lbs)
  10. Christian Ballard #99 (24, 6'4" 283 lbs)
The first thing I noticed with this team is that they have one of the oldest groups of defensive starters across the line.  But they are all very experienced.  It will be interesting to see what they choose to do after this season, with Allen, Williams, Robison, and Griffen all in contract years.  Allen has had 10 or more sacks each season he has been in Minnesota, and that's pretty impressive, clearly they got the better end of the deal when they sent Kansas City their first round pick.  Kevin has been in Minnesota for 10 seasons now, with a large majority of those being in the "Williams wall."  His quality has been down lately though.  Less than 30 tackles for the last 4 seasons.  Evans is probably going to be the new starter instead of Guion, seems to be impressing the coaches.  Robison has 8 sacks each of the last two years.  Griffen has been rotating in, and he had 8 sacks last season, including 3 in Game 17 against the Packers last year.  Floyd was a first round pick for the Vikings this year, and is likely to be the long term solution for Kevin Williams.  Jackson is a rotational end that they are bringing over from Detroit.  Guion only has 4 career sacks in 5 years, and averaged out to 2 tackles a game last year.  Reed never made a tackle last year, and Ballard is at the end of the rotation, probably losing his spot to Jackson this season.

1.  Detroit Lions
  1. Ndamakong Suh #90 (26, 6'4" 307 lbs)
  2. Nick Fairley #98 (25, 6'4" 298 lbs)
  3. Jason Jones #91 (27, 6'5" 276 lbs)
  4. Ezekiel Ansah #94 (24, 6'5" 271 lbs)
  5. Israel Idonije #NA (32, 6'6" 275 lbs)
  6. C.J. Mosley #96 (29, 6'3" 305 lbs)
  7. Willie Young #79 (27, 6'4" 251 lbs)
  8. Ogemdi Nwagbuo #95 (27, 6'4" 312 lbs)
  9. Devin Taylor #92 (23, 6'7" 266 lbs)
  10. Jimmy Saddler-McQueen #63 (25, 6'3" 298 lbs)
Suh has had a couple of down years since his amazing rookie season.  He has 22 career sacks in 3 seasons as a DT though, and that is very impressive.  He didn't get to Rodgers last season with any sacks, but he always brings pressure up the middle.  Because of our focus last year on Suh, Fairley had 3 sacks on us this past year.  Fairley needs to try to stay healthy if he wants to go to the next level as a high defensive lineman.  Jones is listed as a 3 down lineman, and he is new to the division, after spending last year on the seahawks, and 4 years before with the Titans before that.  Ansah is a top 5 pick.  Suh and Cunningham are both pleased with how he is progressing with picking up the defense, which could be bad for us since Ansah was considered raw to be drafted that early.  Idonije is coming over from the Bears, where he had 51 "quarterback disruptions," just 3 less than JPP.  It looks like the Bears will probably use him as a run stopping end instead of a pass rusher.  Mosley was doing well on the Jaguars last season, but Gus Bradley doesn't see him as a fit in their new system.  Had a career high with 45 tackles.  Young is probably in the zone for a rotation of defensive ends, but with Idonije there, he probably won't get a lot of playing time.  Nwagbuo signed on after Fairley was hurt last year, but with no results.  Taylor is a 4th rounder.  Should be able to make the roster, but someone in front of him is going to have to falter.  Saddler-McQueen played in the final game of the year last year, but also with no stats.  Now that the defensive line is done, let's move forward to the linebacker portion of this drill.

4. Minnesota Vikings
  1. Erin Henderson #50 (27, 6'3" 244 lbs)
  2. Desmond Bishop #59 (28, 6'2" 238 lbs)
  3. Chad Greenway #52 (30, 6'2" 242 lbs)
  4. Tyrone McKenzie #58 (27, 6'2" 245 lbs)
  5. Audie Cole #57 (24, 6'4" 246 lbs)
  6. Michael Mauti #56 (23, 6'2" 243 lbs)
  7. Marvin Mitchell #55 (28, 6'3" 249 lbs)
  8. Gerald Hodges #54 (22, 6'1" 243 lbs)
  9. Nathan Williams #59 (23, 6'3" 249 lbs)
  10. Larry Dean #51 (24, 6'0" 226 lbs)
Henderson, Bishop, and Greenway are the all injury starters.  Bishop missed all of 2012 for our Green Bay Packers, and I'm assuming they didn't see the best from him in OTA's.  Henderson has never played a whole season, and Greenway just got finished with knee surgery on his torn meniscus.  Bishop and Greenway are both good tacklers, when healthy getting 100 tackles a season easily.  McKenzie has barely any tackles.  Cole has 0 tackles in his career.  Mauti has 2 left ACL tears in the last 2 years.  Mitchell is a special teamer who has a chance to see the field, and even has been getting some first team reps at OTA's.  Hodges is Mauti's rookie teammate from Penn State.  Williams only has 40 tackles in 10 games last year at Ohio State.  Dean ran a 4.5 40 yard dash at his pro day with 22 bench reps.  It's just a group of talent but questions about longevity during the season for health, and then no experience and a lot of questions after the starters.

3.  Detroit Lions
  1. DeAndre Levy #54 (26, 6'2" 238 lbs)
  2. Stephen Tulloch #55 (28, 5'11" 240 lbs)
  3. Ashlee Palmer #58 (27, 6'1" 236 lbs)
  4. Cory Greenwood #53 (28, 6'2" 235 lbs)
  5. Alex Elkins #53 (22, 6'3" 230 lbs)
  6. Carmen Messina #47 (24, 6'2" 236 lbs)
  7. Tahir Whitehead #59 (23, 6'1" 233 lbs)
  8. Jon Morgan #49 (23, 6'1" 233 lbs)
  9. Brandon Hepburn #57 (23, 6'2" 240 lbs)
  10. Travis Lewis #50 (25, 6'1" 246 lbs)
Levy is probably not their best linebacker, but he did get 81 tackles last year while playing through a hamstring injury, but only 1 Sack.  Tulloch came over from the Titans, where he would have played for Jim Schwartz for many years.  Tulloch, like any MLB should be in a 4-3, is their primary tackler, with over 100 the last two seasons.  The Lions have listed Palmer as the frontrunner for the 3rd linebacker spot, but he has primarily been a special teamer.  Greenwood was recently cut by the Chiefs, with only 11 tackles last season.  Elkins had 75 tackles for Oklahoma State last year, leading the team, but hadn't played football before he was at a JUCO.  Messina was on the practice squad last season.  Whitehead has hardly any playing experience as well.  Morgan is from the University of Albany, with 265 career tackles there.  Hepburn had 86 tackles at FAMU last year.  Lewis might start at OLB for the Lions, but he ran only a 4.88 40 yard dash at the combine, and has a lack of speed for linebacker in the NFL.  The best news for the Packers this season is that Justin Durant has left the Lions and is now on the Cowboys.  Durant was their clear #2 linebacker and they have lost some talent there this year.

2.  Chicago Bears
  1. Lance Briggs #55 (32, 6'1" 244 lbs)
  2. D.J. Williams #58 (30, 6'1" 242 lbs)
  3. James Anderson #50 (29, 6'2" 235 lbs)
  4. Khassem Greene #60 (24, 6'1" 241 lbs)
  5. Patrick Trahan #59 (26, 6'2" 236 lbs)
  6. Jon Bostic #57 (22, 6'1" 245 lbs)
  7. J.T. Thomas #97 (24, 6'1" 236 lbs)
  8. Lawrence Wilson #49 (25, 6'1" 229 lbs)
  9. Blake Costanzo #52 (29, 6'1" 235 lbs)
  10. Jerry Franklin #53 (25, 6'1" 245 lbs)
Lance Briggs is clearly the best linebacker on the team, in the 10 seasons he has been on the Bears, he has had less than 100 tackles only twice, with one of them coming during his rookie season.  Williams and Anderson are new to the division this season.  Williams has spent many years on the Broncos, and was seldom used last year.  Anderson is coming over after being let go by the Panthers.  Both have had over 100 tackles in a season before, so they should continue to tackle well.  Greene is a 4th round draft pick from Rutgers.  Trahan is a former practice squad guy.  Bostic is in a position battle with Williams, and was a 2nd round draft pick from Florida.  Bostic is their highest linebacker drafted since they had taken Urlacher in 2000.  Thomas's name reminds me of the kid from Home Improvement.  Thomas barely played last year though.  Wilson has never played in a game.  Costanzo is another special team guy.  Franklin had been on the Cowboys practice squad last season.  Because of experience playing at each position, I had to put the Bears ahead of both the Vikings and Lions.  But, the Packers have much more depth.

1.  Green Bay Packers
  1. Clay Matthews #52 (27, 6'3" 255 lbs)
  2. Brad Jones #59 (27, 6'3" 242 lbs)
  3. A.J. Hawk #50 (29, 6'1" 247 lbs)
  4. Nick Perry #53 (23, 6'3" 271 lbs)
  5. Dezman Moses #54 (24, 6'0" 249 lbs)
  6. Rob Francois #49 (28, 6'2" 255 lbs)
  7. Jamari Lattimore #57 (24, 6'2" 230 lbs)
  8. Terrell Manning #56 (23, 6'2" 237 lbs)
  9. Nate Palmer #51 (23, 6'3" 240 lbs)
  10. Sam Barrington #58 (22, 6'1" 235 lbs)
We all know that Matthews is a beast whenever he stays healthy.  His main issues have been with his hamstring.  I've been a huge Matthews fan since he took the ball from Adrian Peterson and ran it back for a touchdown in 2009.  In only 12 games last year, he still had 13 sacks.  Jones had 77 tackles last year, with all of them coming in the Houston game and after, which is a decent amount at 7 tackles per game.  Hawk had 120 tackles last year, which is higher than any but his rookie season.  Perry is probably one of our biggest question marks coming into this season, because of his injury from the prior year, but Perry wasn't that productive in his few games as a rookie, totaling only 2 sacks through 6 games.  But I think we all want to see Perry strong the first few weeks as we play read option quarterbacks, instead of playing Dezman Moses.  Moses had 4 sacks last year, but we all remember him getting torched as the 49ers game kept going, but for a rookie UDFA last year, he is better than we might expect.  Francois is a special teams player.  Lattimore had 7 tackles last season.  Manning had bad knees in college, and had a parasitic infection last year.  Napalm and Barrington are our late round draft picks, probably both going to play special teams until they learn the defense a little bit more.  The Packers need to pick it up on defense, and our linebackers need to be a lot better since they are one of the strengths of the defense.

Now it's time for us to do a points review.  With the newest rankings included.

1. Detroit Lions-21
2. Green Bay Packers-18
3. Minnesota Vikings-16
4. Chicago Bears-14

Next up will be the secondary and special teams will close the preview.  Hope that you all are enjoying these.

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