Of that group, the player who could make the biggest jump is Nick Perry.
Last year's first-round pick played in just six games with five starts, his season ending abruptly with a knee injury and, later, surgery to repair an early-season wrist injury. With two sacks, five quarterback hits and 29 tackles, his impact was minimal.
"When it was taken away, it was devastating, just because I never have been out, so I was pretty bitter and pretty pissed that I couldn't get on the field and help," Perry said in June. "Now, I'm back, back in the mix of things, and I still have a (monkey) on my back because I still have something to prove. I have to stay healthy and do what I need to do."
For the Packers to field a championship-caliber defense, they'll need Perry to become an impact player. That hunger Perry mentioned was evident to his position coach.
"Different. Different. Absolutely. He looks different, he moves different," outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. "To me, he moves with more of a sense of urgency and purpose. His eyes are different. His jaw set, his gaze is different. I can just look in his face and look in his eyes and see that he's not happy with what transpired last year and he's determined not to let that happen again. I really feel good about where Nick is at this point."
Perry's growth is absolutely vital. The Packers, on paper, had little trouble getting to the quarterback. They ranked fourth with 47 sacks and a sack rate of 7.64 percent.
The pass rush, however, disappeared at inopportune times. In the Packers' six losses, they recorded just 12 sacks, including one each against the Giants, Vikings and 49ers (playoffs), and 47 quarterback hits. That's an average of 2.0 sacks and 7.8 hits. Compare that to the 12 wins, when they tallied 39 sacks and 112 quarterback hits. That's an average of 3.3 sacks and 9.3 hits.
Perry might have had just two sacks, but the productivity is evident from a team perspective. In Perry's six games, the Packers had 21 sacks, an average of 3.5 per game and a sack rate of 8.68 percent. In the other 12 games, they had 30 sacks, an average of 2.5 per game and a sack rate of 7.35 percent. The team registered 64 quarterback hits in Perry's six games, an average of 10.7, compared to 95 hits in the other 12 games, an average of 7.9.
Finally, there's this perspective: The Packers had nine sacks and 34 quarterback hits in the three games they lost with Perry in the lineup vs. three sacks and 13 quarterback hits in the three games they lost without Perry.
Moreover, unlike last year, there is no veteran security blanket behind Perry. After playing every snap in the opener, Perry saw his playing time decline due to the injury. From Week 2 against Chicago through Week 5 against Indianapolis, Perry played just 43.4 percent of the snaps.
To get ready for this season, Perry said he lost an undisclosed amount of weight to become more explosive and improve his endurance. Still, power and strength will be his style. From his position at left outside linebacker, he needs that brute force to get in the face of the quarterback in the passing game and fight off big right tackles against the run.
"He looks really good. Really good," Greene said. "Explosive as ever. When he strikes that pad in individual periods, he strikes it. He has it physically to do what it takes to play at a high level at this position. He's hungry. Great work ethic. He is tuned in."
The unanswered question about Perry is how well he can play in space. He never looked entirely comfortable in coverage, and he missed 10 games worth of snaps and an untold number of practice reps to improve.
Greene, however, points to last year's game at Indianapolis, when Perry was forced into the slot once to cover Reggie Wayne.
"I think that's as good as it gets," Greene said. "He carried the wide receiver vertical in a hip-trail position. He (also) covered the tight end outside-in and covered him on a center route and Clay comes in and got a sack on it. Yeah, he can do everything he needs to do."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.