Packers defensive lineman Ryan Picket does a good job at stopping the run, but is limited in the pass rush. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Start of Training Camp Will Mean a New Beginning for Packers Defense

With training camp quickly approaching, every team around the NFL will be having competition battles at various positions.

Focusing specifically on the Packers, it comes as no surprise that their main focus point will be to determine which 11 guys on defense will give the Packers the best chance to win. If we are just focusing on winning, then the Packers’ defense brought in a record of 15-1.

Unfortunately, this was because the offense carried the defense to victories last season and is how, ultimately, the Packers would fall in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Giants.

So as training camp approaches, nearly every position on defense will have a battle of some sort. Considering how the Packers, this offseason, drafted mainly defensive players and even dipped into free agency for defensive players, there will be a lot of competitors fighting for a job. With that said, let’s break down the key battles Packer fans should keep an eye on for this training camp.

Defensive End: Ever since the Packers lost Cullen Jenkins in free agency last year, the Packers have been struggling to find a replacement. Ryan Pickett on the other side has been doing an adequate job stopping the run but he cannot generate pressure on the quarterback which was severely lacking last season.

Raji in the middle, after the Super Bowl season, was thought to have a breakout year with the Packers but never quite reached the level that most thought he could. Then we had the right defensive end which was a huge question mark all of last season. Players from Mike Neal, C.J.Wilson, and Jarius Wynn all took turns at the position last year but none really stood out from the rest of the pack. Some brought Packers fans a spark of hope for a little while but none of the three had complete consistency. This forced the Packers to make moves by drafting Jerel Worthy in the second round, bringing in Anthony Hargrove from free agency, and bringing in Phillip Merling also from free agency. These are three players who seem to be right in the mix to contend for the starting position in training camp. Players from last year like C.J.Wilson and Mike Neal also have been working hard and should get a fair shot to fight for the position.

Who will take over the outside linebacking position opposite Clay Matthews for linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Outside Linebacker: Similar to the defensive end position of last season, players on the opposite side of Clay Matthews generated nearly no production and the Packers had to flop starters from week to week in order to find someone who could separate from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, nobody ever truly stepped from the pack and the Packers’ defense suffered tremendously.

Players who took turns starting last season included Eric Walden, Frank Zombo, and Brad Jones. Also, we must keep in mind that injuries at this position plagued the Packers all season with all three having injuries at different points during the season. The Packers’ management responded by drafting Nick Perry from USC in the first round of this year’s draft. \ Perry has major athleticism and the Packers hope that he could be the missing piece to the defense.

Other players to have a shot in training camp include another rookie in Terrell Manning, second-year veteran in Jarmari Lattimore, and another second year veteran in Vic So’oto who had his moments in his short playing time last year. This will be arguably the most intriguing position battle this camp.

Safety: It’s a lock that Morgan Burnett will hold his starting position this season but losing Nick Collins on the other side threw up another question mark in the Packers’ defense. I have to say that many, including me, believed that Nick Collins was a big part of the defense but never really thought of him as being the leader on defense. Once he went down with his injury, I and many others were stunned at how important Collins truly was for the Packer defense.

With perennial Pro-Bowler Nick Collins no longer with the team, the question about who will replace him is one of the biggest heading into training camp. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

With Collins once being the player who made sure everyone was lined up right on defense being gone, the Packers’ defense seemed lost at times. Many big plays occurred and could have been avoided if everyone was lined up correctly. The player who took over for Collins was Charlie Peprah, who played very well, but the lack of communication hurt the Packers severely last season.

With that said, training camp is approaching and so is a successor to Nick Collins.

But who will it be?

Names that come to mind will be Charlie Peprah, second-year player M.D. Jennings, practice squad standout Anthony Levine, and maybe even rookie Jerron McMillian. Regardless of who it is, it is going to be a very difficult task to replace Nick Collins.

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Tags: Anthony Hargrove Brad Jones Broncos-packers Game Charlie Peprah CJ Wilson Clay Matthews Cullen Jenkins Defense Draft Eric Walden Frank Zombo Free Agency Jerel Worthy Mike Neal Nick Collins Nick Perry Packers Phillip Merling

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