11 Days ’Til Camp: Replacing Jenkins

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we’ll provide one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We’d give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry. It took some time but the Packers finally have the interior rusher they had been lacking.

After winning the Super Bowl in 2010, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made a dollars-and-cents decision to not re-sign Cullen Jenkins.

Jenkins was a major contributor to the Packers’ championship season. Even while missing five games, Jenkins piled up seven sacks and, by the coaches’ count, 21 quarterback hits. A year earlier, in the first year of coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive scheme, Jenkins had 4.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits in 16 games.

Following the championship and lengthy lockout, Thompson let Jenkins — who had turned 30 during the run to the Super Bowl — sign a five-year, $25 million contract with Philadelphia.

It turned out to be a rare miscalculation by Thompson, who is hesitant to spend too heavily on players past their 30th birthday. Jenkins, however, showed plenty of juice while producing 14.5 sacks and playing in all 48 games for the Eagles (2011 and 2012) and Giants (2013). The Packers’ defense, meanwhile, sunk like a rock in 2011 and returned to respectability in 2012 but remained a barrier on the path to another title.

In 2011, the entire defensive line combined for six sacks — with just two of those in the final 13 games — and 18 quarterback hits. That’s less than Jenkins by himself in 2010.

In hopes of replacing Jenkins’ production, the Packers drafted two defensive linemen in 2012. The big name was Jerel Worthy, a second-round pick who was featured prominently in the team’s pass-rushing packages as a rookie. Green Bay’s defensive line production improved with a combined 11.5 sacks and 39 quarterback hits.

Worthy, however, was a disappointment. He had just 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits as a rookie, with his first season ending with a torn ACL in Week 17.

Those factors played a role in Green Bay using its first-round pick last year on Datone Jones. However, it was that other defensive lineman selected in 2012 — fourth-rounder Mike Daniels — who jumped to the forefront.

Daniels put up numbers in 2013 that rivaled Jenkins’ 2010 season. He produced 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, figures that ranked second on the team. While those numbers over 16 games lagged behind Jenkins’ production in 11 games, ProFootballFocus.com adds more perspective.

Through PFF’s lens, Daniels had seven sacks, six quarterback hits and 26 hurries for a total of 39 pressures in 335 pass-rushing snaps. In PFF’s “Pass Rushing Productivity” formula, Daniels ranked fifth among the league’s 3-4 defensive ends with a PRP of 9.3.

PFF had Jenkins down for seven sacks, eight hits and 20 hurries for a total of 35 pressures in 294 pass-rushing snaps in 2010. That resulted in a top-ranked PRP of 9.8.

Considering Jenkins was in his third season when had a breakout 6.5 sacks in 2006 and his sixth and seventh seasons when he became such a key piece to the puzzle in 2009 and 2010, the 25-year-old Daniels has time to develop into one of the game’s elite interior rushers.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Daniels said of his approach entering his third season. “Just continue with what I did last offseason. Just come to work every day, work with intent, work with purpose.”

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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