Something's gotta give right? But as we look at Green Bay's defense line as it heads into training camp, the only new starter is Ryan Pickett, signed as an unrestricted free agent. Pickett will help the Packers defend the run better, but Sanders could take it one step farther and insert a bigger defensive end ahead of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila when the Packers are in their 4-3 base defense.
Opponents last year thrived by running right at Gbaja-Biamila early in their series. By the end of the season, the Packers finally made an adjustment by playing Mike Montgomery on base downs. This year in training camp, Sanders should allow Montgomery, along with Kenny Peterson and Corey Williams a chance to show what they can do at defensive end on base downs and in obvious running situations.
For the last three seasons the Packers have stubbornly started Gbaja-Biamila. While the defensive end has been the team's sackmaster, he has struggled against bigger offensive linemen and fullbacks to defend against the run.
Sanders, as can be expected, was diplomatic when asked if he is thinking about using Gbaja-Biamila as a pass-rusher only.
"We're going to have the best guys playing in the best situations that we can get them," Sanders said. "It depends on who we have and what situations they're in, and who can respond and those type of things. We'll explore everything we possibly can. Kabeer can play on first and second down, he can rush the passer, so if that gives us the best chance to win we're going to do what gives us the best chance to win in every situation. We try to get our guys in position so they can have success and we'll continue to do that."
Sanders was the Packers' defensive line coach under Jim Bates last season. Sanders obviously is familiar with Gbaja-Biamila's strengths and weaknesses, so why not keep Gbaja-Biamila as fresh as possible throughout the season to sack quarterbacks? Because he signed a multi-year contract in 2003 that included an $11 million signing bonus?
The Packers will be better this season by putting Gbaja-Biamila in position to make plays when opponents are in passing situations. If Green Bay can stop the run, opponents will be forced into passing situations and Gbaja-Biamila will thrive. By leaving KGB as the starter, the Packers again will have a difficult time stopping the rush.