KGB needs more help

Last season, Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila recorded 13.5 sacks, good for second in the NFL. Judging by this number, he must have had a great season. Not really.

"KGB" registered four of those sacks in the final game of the season to tie his career-best sack total for a single season. For the most part, KGB made plays in spurts, as his lack of size (about 250 pounds) makes him a target on running plays.

Nonetheless, over the last four seasons KGB ranks fourth in the NFL with 49 sacks. He trails only the New York Giants' Michael Strahan (56 sacks, despite missing most of 2004 with an injury), Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice (53.5) and Miami's Jason Taylor (49.5).

For most of his career, KGB has been difficult to gauge in how important he is to the Packers. On one hand, take him away and the Packers have no pass rush to speak of. However, with him the Packers are susceptible to the run as has been made obvious over the seasons.

My answer to KGB's importance goes this way: If he had a solid defense around him, rather than the one he had last season, his impact would be greater. Take for example, Rice. He is also known as not too slick a run defender, but with a linebacker like Derrick Brooks and a solid secondary backing him up, Rice's lack of run-stopping ability is masked. Rice is allowed to go all-out at the quarterback and the defense doesn't suffer much. A good defense can hide flaws like Rice and KGB have. Thus, Rice is a noted defensive end, but does he do much more than KGB?

As for KGB, when he gets steamrolled on a running play, who's there to pick him up? Nobody. Therefore, over the years KGB has been criticized for his inability to be an every-down player.

The ideal situation for KGB is to be a situational pass rusher, where his body doesn't get worn down by 330-pound linemen. As games and the season get older, KGB becomes less of a factor.

Bottom line is if the Packers had quality depth on the defensive line, KGB would be more of a quality player. He would get less snaps, but make more of an impact. Because the Packers haven't added anything significant to the defensive line this off-season, expect more of the same for KGB: About 12 sacks, and as the season grows older, KGB will wear down.

He's in a tough spot, having to be a full-time defensive end, but the lack of personnel leaves the Packers no other choice.

Packers still popular
Although the Packers have not won a Super Bowl recently, their merchandise remains very popular.

The Packers ranked fifth in NFL merchandise sales during the 2004 season, their ninth consecutive appearance in the top five. Brett Favre's No. 4 jersey ranked 16th overall.

The NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles led all teams in sales followed by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Last year, the Packers finished third in merchandise and Oakland was No. 1.

Wide receiver Randy Moss, traded during the off-season from the Minnesota Vikings to the Raiders, had the top selling jersey. Rounding out the top five in order of 2-5 were: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Rounding out the top 10 in order of 6-10 are: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego; Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville; Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Tampa Bay; Jeremy Shockey, NY Giants; Tiki Barber, NY Giants.

Two things here, Cadillac Williams? The rookie running back is that popular? Jeremy Shockey? Does his own team and fans like him? Madden to NBC
NFL TV analyst John Madden will move from ABC to NBC after the 2006 season to do Sunday NFL games. This move was precipitated when ESPN won the rights to show "Monday Night Football."

At 69, Madden is the most popular NFL analyst, but what does he really say? Boom!? Madden is a draw because he's colorful and doesn't bore viewers with complex X's and O's strategy, but over the years he has dropped a little, just like anybody in their profession.

He remains one of the NFL's best analysts because nobody has come up through the ranks with hardly any talent. For my money, though, the group I like best is Fox's trifecta of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth. Buck is great, Aikman is solid and Collinsworth will say a few harsh things once in a while. I like that.

One last thought
NFL Europe had its title game recently. Anybody know who won? Does anybody care? Kind of like the NBA Finals, isn't it?

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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