Defensive tackle B.J. Raji fell right in line with the rest of the Packers defense in 2011.
That’s not a good thing since the unifying theme of the Packers defense last season was that the unit wasn’t nearly as effective as it had been on the way to a Super Bowl title in 2010. The Packers addressed those issues by drafting defensive players with their first six picks in April and signing defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, although the eight-game suspension handed down in the Saints bounty case might make Hargrove a non-factor this year.
New faces aren’t the only thing they’re trying to boost the defense’s productivity. The team also plans to limit Raji’s workload after playing him on nearly every snap over the last couple of years in hopes that a rested Raji is a better Raji in 2012.
“B.J.’s role will stay the same in a lot of areas,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But we have to be smart with him in terms of how much we play him, try to keep him fresh and keep him going.”
They also need to have some other defensive linemen step up and earn the playing time that they want to take away from Raji. Rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels will join holdovers Ryan Pickett, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson as players who will be vying for that time. Mike Neal might also be in the mix, although the combination of his injury history and four-game suspension make him as long a shot as Hargrove to be of assistance at present.