In the next two weeks, I’m going to take a look at the 10 most important players for the Green Bay Packers in the 2009 NFL season. They may not be the best players, but their roles have a distinct impact on how far the team can go.
Yesterday, I covered the punting battle between Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks and how it affects the team in 2009. Today, we’re going to be looking at something that you’d expect me to talk about: the defense.
When Cullen Jenkins went down with a torn pectoral muscle in an emotional Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, it dealt a huge blow to the Packers defensive line. Jenkins is a rare player with the size, strength, quickness, and speed to play both inside and outside on the defensive line. Throughout his career, he has played both defensive tackle and defensive end.
In 2009, Jenkins will have to both adjust and rebound. His presence was sorely missed down the stretch in 2008 as opposing offenses just rolled over the Packers. His biggest adjustment will be the switch to a 3-4 defense, where as a 3-4 end, he will have to stop the run and rush the passer. The team feels that he has the versatility to make a huge impact rushing from the inside, as the team loved playing him at defensive tackle on passing downs when he was healthy.
Another reason that Jenkins is so important is what is behind him on the defensive line. Aaron Kampman is now a linebacker. Johnny Jolly is facing possible jail time. Outside of Jenkins, Kampman, and Jolly, none of the other defensive ends on the roster have seen substantial playing time on an NFL field. Possible uber-bust Justin Harrell has been working at defensive end, but based on his injury history and inability to get on the field, I doubt he will see that much time. That being said, I’d love to see him work hard and reach that potential he had when Ted Thompson drafted him with a first round pick. Another defensive end possibility is rookie B.J. Raji, who the Packers were working at some defensive end during mini-camps so they theoretically could put Raji and fellow nose tackle Ryan Pickett on the field at the same time in a definite running situation. But that remains to be seen.
Jenkins is an important cog to the wheel that is the Packers. He is the most versatile lineman on the roster with his rare physical package. He just needs to stay on the field. If he has a great season, it would be to the benefit of the entire defense and the team total.
Jenkins is No. 9 on my list of Top 10 Important Players for 2009.