For example, Gbaja-Biamila finished with just one tackle and no sacks in Green Bay's 31-17 season-ending playoff loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings last January. In a showdown against the Eagles on Dec. 5 at Philadelphia, Gbaja-Biamila assisted on one tackle and had no sacks. When the Packers stumbled to a 1-4 start last season, Gbaja-Biamila had a total of 1 1/2 sacks and struggled against the run.
To his credit, Gbaja-Biamila played in all 16 games for the second straight season and third time as a pro. He jacked his total number of sacks up to 13 1/2 in the regular season finale by taking advantage of a weak Chicago Bears offensive line in a meaningless game with four sacks. In fact, Gbaja-Biamila had 11 of his 13 1/2 sacks during the final half of the season, which defies those who say the 6-foot-4, 252-pound pass rusher cannot be an every-down player. He had back-to-back sacks in a Nov. 14 game against the Vikings as the Packers squeaked out a win at Lambeau Field. KGB also had 52 tackles last year, which ranked him second among the Packers' defensive linemen.
Gbaja-Biamila is a Pro Bowl pass-rusher and seems to get physically stronger with each season he is in the league. He keeps himself in top condition throughout the off-season and that has led to his improved durability. He has proved that he can be an every-down player in the NFL. It also has been clear that the Packers are better off using KGB on passing downs-only throughout the course of a season.
Why? The NFL is a passing league. Most teams air it out because rules changes over recent seasons favor receivers, thanks to the league, which wants the fans to be entertained.
Still, there are obvious running downs in each game. This is where the Packers should insert younger players like Cullen Jenkins or Kenny Peterson in place of KGB. Both of those players are strong against the run but have nowhere near the pass-rush ability that KGB possesses to get to the quarterback. Playing Jenkins or Peterson on running downs also will help keep Gbaja-Biamila fresh throughout the course of the season, and more of a factor in showdowns.
New defensive coordinator Jim Bates no doubt has a plan for Gbaja-Biamila. If that plan includes giving his star pass rusher breaks on running downs, the Packers' line will get more out of him with less.
Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.