Defensive Line: B+
Green Bay ranks in the middle of the league in rush defense, allowing an average of 93.3 yards per game on the ground. However, this number doesn’t quite reflect how well the Packers defensive front has held up against the run in the first three games of the season.
They held a powerful San Francisco rushing attack to 90 yards on 34 attempts. Frank Gore was held to only 44 yards rushing with a 2.1 average. The Packers also held the Cincinnati ground game to 84 yards rushing on 24 attempts.
Their one blemish was giving up 108 yards to Washington in week two, but even then, 49 of the 108 yards were given up during “garbage time” when the Packers held a 31-0 lead halfway through the third quarter.
A better indication of how well the Packers defensive front has been doing against the run is looking at the opponents’ rushing average against them. Green Bay is tied for tenth in the league in opponent rushing average, allowing only 3.7 yards per carry this season. This is a big improvement from the 4.5 yards per carry they allowed last year.
The improvement in run defense has largely to do with the consistent play of Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji and the addition of Johnny Jolly on the defensive line. All three have been outstanding against the run this year and form a stout defensive front.
Where the Packers defensive line still needs to improve is in quarterback pressures. Typically, this isn’t the first responsibility of 3-4 defensive linemen, but so far this season, the Packers’ defensive line has only produced two sacks. One by Jolly in the season opener when he forced Colin Kaepernick out of bounds, and one by Mike Daniels against Cincinnati.
Daniels has been the Packers most improved defensive lineman this year. He has played well as a down lineman in the nickel defense. The Packers still need more from Raji, Mike Neal, and first-round pick Datone Jones in the pass rush. Jones is off to a slow start in his rookie season. Hopefully, he’ll bring some interior rush to the Packers defense as the season progresses.