In the Green Bay Packers third preseason game on the run up to the 2014 season they lost nose tackle B.J. Raji for the season to a torn bicep muscle.
Raji has been a fixture of the Packers defensive line since the Super Bowl season of 2010. Despite his longevity in Green Bay, Raji’s play has been up and down.
With a young and inexperienced defensive line looking to take the field in 2014, will B.J. Raji be missed?
Raji will be missed, but I don’t believe that he has been the dominating type of guy that cannot be replaced. In the Packers’ defense, the nose tackle position occupies blockers and plays the run.
I don’t know that it will be one guy that steps in for the veteran nose tackle; more than likely it will be a combination of second-year man Josh Boyd, undrafted free agent Mike Pennel, and a veteran from the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings, Letroy Guion.
The big concern the loss of Raji presents is a reasonable suspicion that a Packers team that gave up 125 yards per-game rushing in 2013 will be even softer against the run in 2014. This is a concern that is not unfounded.
Consider that third-year man Mike Daniels is now the most tenured Packer in the bunch and Letroy Guion a six-year veteran, was not exactly bringing Vikings fans to tears when he decided to exchange the purple for the green and gold.
If I was to pretend to be GM Ted Thompson I would assume the Packers defensive line appears as follows after the final cut down day:
- Datone Jones
- Mike Daniels
- Mike Pennel
- Josh Boyd
- Khyri Thornton
- Letroy Guion
With Raji now out of the picture there are not exactly an abundance of household names in that lineup. The defensive line is now clearly a situation of opportunity knocking and Packer fans wondering who is going to answer.
Mike Daniels is an ascending player who has seemingly been unblockable in the preseason. Datone Jones has yet to accurately demonstrate why the Packers made him a first round draft pick. The talent and athleticism appears to be there, it’s up to Jones to put it all together.
Mike Pennel, the undrafted free agent from Colorado State-Pueblo, has flashed potential in the preseason. This following an overall disappointing college career where he first played junior college football at Scottsdale Community College and then transferring to Arizona State where he played five games before being suspended and then transferring to Colorado State-Pueblo.
For some guys the collegiate system might not be the best fit. The pros might be where Pennel finds comfort.
Josh Boyd is the guy I believe is primed for a breakout season. Said to possess the ever-valuable quick twitch, he is a player that could take the proverbial jump in year two.
I liked what I saw of him in the latter half of 2013. He seems to be someone who can not only occupy blockers but find himself in the opposing backfield blowing up plays.
When the Packers drafted Khyri Thornton he struck me as a guy who might play a bit like Boyd, big, athletic and disruptive.
But in the preseason he has been unimpressive and looks like he will make the roster on his third round draft status. As for Letroy Guilon, one has to wonder about a guy for which the Minnesota Vikings had little value. But I will give him and Ted Thompson the benefit of the doubt.
B.J. Raji will be missed.
But I don’t believe losing him tilts the overall talent balance of the Packers defensive line. If they prove to be a weak group, Raji would not have made them significantly better. If they are strong group, Raji would have been a link in the chain.