In the 2011-2012 season the Green Bay Packers biggest weakness was their lack of pressure on the quarterback. During our Super Bowl run last year, the defense racked up 47 sacks and finished 5th in total defense. This year’s team finished with a mere 29 sacks and finished dead last for total defense. Why such a drastic drop in one year? The answer is simple. The front 3.
The 3-4 defense requires three down lineman to occupy multiple blockers and create defensive pressure, allowing linebackers to blitz and flow sideline to sideline freely. In the 3-4 defense, success begins and ends with its front three; a lesson the 2011-2012 Green Bay Packers learned the hard way. As the season progressed, and the porous Packers’ defense surrendered more yards than its league’s-best-offense created, much of the blame fell on the Packers’ secondary. However, as the Packers racked up wins and the secondary notched interceptions in its belts, our defense was dubbed “ball-hawks” and “risk-takers”. Analysts and fans alike embraced the interception total as a mirage to a defense that was just not there.
The Wrong Move. Ted Thompson, who us Packer faithful hate to second guess because of his many brilliant moves that brought Lombardi back home for the first time in 15 years, might have made the mistake that cost us keeping the trophy at home this year. How you ask? It’s simple really and can be summed up in 2 words. Cullen Jenkins.
Cullen Jenkins Packer nation definitely questioned letting Cullen Jenkins go in the off-season, but Ted has made so many great personel decisions that we accepted it as Ted being Ted. Granted, he does have a great track record of letting loose an aging player at the perfect time. However, as we are sitting here this weekend watching other teams prepare for championship week, I will be the first to admit that we needed Cullen Jenkins, and the stats prove it as well.
The Stats. The Green Bay Packers during the 2011-2012 season had 6 sacks total by their front 3 players. 3 by BJ Raji and 3 by Jarius Wynn. Cullen Jenkins had 5.5 sacks this season as an Eagle. In 2010-11, Cullen Jenkins registered 7 sacks as a Packer.
The Aftermath. With Cullen Jenkins, BJ Raji and Clay Matthews had career years. BJ had 6.5 sacks, more than twice his total of this year, and Clay Matthews had 13.5 sacks and was runner up defensive player of the year. Clay had just 6 sacks this season.
Moving Forward. The next step in bringing Lombardi back to its rightful home next season is to address our defensive end position via draft and/or Free Agency. Here are some of the top prospects to fill this void, becoming the next “Cullen Jenkins” of the Packers defense and resurrecting the great pass rush we had during our Super Bowl run.
Top 5 on my board based on who I think will drop to us:
1. Fletcher Cox: Mississippi St
2. Nick Perry: USC
3. Whitney Mercilus: Illinois
4. Jared Crick: Nebraska
5. Ronnell Lewis: Oklahoma