It's about time Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila takes a seat on running downs.
It's about time somebody figures out for that as hard as KGB tries, he's just not big enough to be a stout run defender
It's about time somebody figures out that by trying to make him be somebody he's not, it takes away from what he is: a pass rusher.
The Packers finally turned Gbaja-Biamila into a role player and, of all people, it was the maligned coaching duo of Mike McCarthy and Bob Sanders who made the necessary change.
Gbaja-Biamila was in the starting lineup at right defensive end on Sunday at San Francisco, and the 49ers immediately exploited him — just like the New York Jets did last week and the Seattle Seahawks the week before.
The Niners ran to the left — right at Gbaja-Biamila — on their first play from scrimmage, and Frank Gore picked up 6 yards.
Gore gained 72 yards on the next play, with Gbaja-Biamila being manhandled by rookie tight end Vernon Davis — who was drafted No. 6 overall because of his receiving skills, not his blocking ability. To his credit, Gbaja-Biamila fought off the block and wrapped up Gore about 6 yards downfield, only to see the powerful back run right out of KGB's mitts.
"That was disappointing because I had him, and I tried to make the tackle and go for the ball. And while I was doing that, he slipped from my grasp," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I was in position to make the play."
He wasn't in position to make many more plays.
For the rest of the game, the 240-pound Gbaja-Biamila watched from the sideline on likely running downs. In his place was 305-pound Cullen Jenkins, who normally plays defensive tackle.
Jenkins' impact was obvious, and immediate. On the first play of San Francisco's next possession, Gore again took a handoff to the left. This time, Jenkins stood up a pulling guard and momentarily delayed Gore's progress. That split-second helped a horde of defenders get into position to stop Gore for no gain.
The explosive Gore finished with 130 yards on 19 attempts, but he picked up a mere 52 yards on 17 attempts — a 3.1-yard average — after the switch at right end was made.
KGB played only 26 plays — about half his usual number.
Expect McCarthy to stick with the formula.
"It's something we will continue to do," McCarthy said. "Bigger man. Maybe a little more anchor. Just a different combination of guys."
The change worked so good on Sunday that you wonder why the change wasn't made years before. How many defensive coordinators have the Packers had in the last five years? Fifty? Whatever the number, the current coordinator, Sanders, deserves some praise for making the change.
Gbaja-Biamila deserves some credit, too, for taking his demotion professionally. KGB didn't squawk once last week when it appeared a change was imminent. It's one thing to be a team player when the team is winning. It's quite another to be a team player when the team is among the worst in the NFL and the coaches are under fire.
"I'm here to do whatever they want me to do," KGB said.
But will Gbaja-Biamila be open to taking a paycut during the offseason? KGB's salary-cap figure for next season will top $7.2 million — including $5 million in base salary. That figure seemed steep when Gbaja-Biamila was a full-time player. Now that he's only a part-time player, will the Packers consider that price too steep, especially considering he has 13 sacks in the last 29 games compared to 13.5 in 2004 alone?
Then again, maybe this demotion will rejuvenate him. Maybe, without the wear and tear of facing 350-pound offensive tackles every play, he again will be a scourge to opposing quarterbacks. Maybe his demotion will light a fire under him.
He's got three weeks to prove his worth. He's got three weeks to prove that, in a league with very few premier pass rushers, he's a bargain at $7 million per season.
Three weeks. For KGB, it's about time.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.