Green Bay Packers, Def, Packers
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2015 Outlook: Solid/Safe PickLast updated on Jun-26-2015 by Shawn Childs
The Packers' defense will face two solid rushing attacks: the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys. They have seven matchups versus teams with well-below-par ground games: two against Chicago, two against Detroit, the Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. Green Bay's pass defense will have eight games against below-average aerial attacks and one opponent with a plus passing game: the Denver Broncos.
The Packers allowed the 10th-most rushing yards last year (1,919) and 11 rushing TDs. Opposing RBs averaged 4.3 YPC. They racked up the ninth-most sacks (41) and gave up the 10th-fewest passing yards (3,623). They allowed 26 passing TDs and grabbed 18 INTs.
DE Josh Boyd offered below-league-average value against the run in four starts last year 2014 and no value in the pass rush (no sacks, two QB hits and seven QB hurries). Boyd is expected to compete with DE Datone Jones for a starting job. Jones should have the inside track after being selected in the first round in 2013. Last year, he offered rotational value as a pass rusher while playing limited snaps (two sacks, three QB hits and 17 QB hurries).
Nose tackle B.J. Raji is recovering from a torn right biceps that cost him the entire 2014 season. B.J. is expected to be ready for training camp. Raji was a complete disaster against the run in 2013 with no value in the pass rush (no sacks, three QB hits and QB 10 QB hurries). This 2009 first-rounder has been pretty poor against the run for a while and outside of his 7.5-sack 2010 campaign, he hasn't done much when attacking the QB. DE Mike Daniels was the Packers' best D-lineman last season. He was an excellent run defender and also registered seven sacks, 11 QB hits and 11 QB hurries.
LB Julius Peppers had a nice bounce-back season in his first year with Green Bay at age 34. He was a league-average player against the run while providing an edge when rushing the QB (seven sacks, 12 QB hits and 33 QB hurries). LB Clay Matthews tends to be a liability in the run game, but he had 11 sacks last season. LB Nick Perry was selected in the first round in 2012 but has yet to earn a full-time starting gig. Last year, while on the field for fewer than 50 percent of the defensive snaps, he was a neutral player against the run and had three sacks. LB Carl Bradford didn't play during his rookie campaign. A converted defensive end, he's a solid tackler with more speed than quickness.
Cornerback Sam Shields has faded over the last two years after playing at a high level in 2012 (26 catches allowed on 57 targets for 413 yards with four TDs and five INTs). Last year, Sam held WRs to a 51.2 percent catch rate, 701 yards and five TDs and three INTs. CB Casey Hayward is expected to replace Tramon Williams in the starting lineup after playing very well in coverage during his first three years in the league. Hayward is also decent at defending the run. Safety Morgan Burnett is coming off his best season against the run, but he wasn't as successful in coverage (36 catches allowed on 46 targets for 453 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions). First-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a league-average player.
This defense has a weak front line with only one player of value. The linebacking corps has three talented players, but Peppers has risk due to his age, and Perry hasn't developed as expected. The secondary has some talent as well and more was added during the draft. The Packers' return game will chip in with a couple of TDs as well. The Packers should be ahead in many games, which will help this unit's production of sacks and interceptions. This defense have top-five upside as long as Peppers can continue putting heat on the QB.
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