So just like I did with every player on the offense, it is now time to grade the defense. Remember my grading scale is a little different. It is as follows A - Pro Bowl Player, B - NFL Starter, C - Solid Backup, D - Needs to be replaced, F - Why is he here? and I - Incomplete. So let's get it started with the defense:
Aaron Kampman – A He had an outstanding season that I thought he would never have. He elevated his game to not only being a hard worker, but he developed pass rushing techniques to go along with his never-say-die attitude. He deserves to be going to the Pro Bowl. In this case I don't mind being wrong!!!!!
Ryan Pickett – B He showed more athletic ability that many thought he had as he chased down runners sideline to sideline as well as being a force up the middle.
Cullen Jenkins – C Regardless of how well he did at the end I think he is a good change of pace guy, but I don't think he is a solid starter in the NFL. After Kabeer's lack of production against the run anyone would have been a pleasant sight at that end opposite Kampman. He led the team in tipped balls and that was because he couldn't get any penetration at tackle on pass rushes, so he would time his jump and knock the balls down. He is what he is and in my opinion that's a solid backup.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila – D He brings nothing to the table but speed on passing downs as we have witnessed over the years. On run downs he gets punked. Unless he becomes a specialist and takes a pay cut it might be time to part ways.
Corey Williams – C Another hard-working guy that adds to the depth of the defensive line. He plays with a lot of power and leverage and will keep coming. His motor never stops.
Colin Cole – D I think we have seen the best the Packers are going to get from him. He is very inconsistent. You never know who is going to show up.
Michael Montgomery – C I really think this guy has an upside, especially if he can gain some weight. He showed flashes at defensive end. If he gets it, he could be the complete package.
Johnny Jolly – D Too light in the loafers, but good special teams player.
Jason Hunter – D Another undersized defensive linemen. Might try him at linebacker because he can play but not as down linemen.
Kenderick Allen – I He got hurt but before he got hurt I don't think I saw anything that made me go, ‘Great free agent signing.'
Al Harris – B I think he is a solid starter, no doubt, and close to being at the Pro Bowl level, but unfortunately he didn't seize the moment when it came to interceptions and hopefully he understands that the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest anyway. Yes, he did cover the opponents' best receivers all the time and shut them down and I do think he doesn't get the respect he deserves, but I can't say he's Pro Bowl caliber at this time.
Charles Woodson – B He had the best season of his career and showed that he can play with pain. Think about it, he started every game of the year and showed his ability to find the football with his career interception total.
Marquand Manuel – D Even though he was the starter, he needs to be replaced. He wasn't worth the money they paid him. He was good against the run, but got abused in the passing game and couldn't tackle in the open field.
Nick Collins – C His play wasn't what any of us expected. We thought he would play much better and he should have. I want to say he was looking for leadership and didn't get it from Manuel, which hurt his growth.
Patrick Dendy – D I know he showed some promise, but he is a guy you'd want to replace if you had better talent.
Tyrone Culver – D He falls in the same boat - replaceable.
Jarrett Bush – D He is another special teams guy and that will be his claim to fame.
Charlie Peprah – F A non-factor.
Atari Bigby – F Best thing about him is his name.
Will Blackmon – I A lot of potential. I just hope the injury bug doesn't take a hold of him, like it does with some rookies. He could have a future but I need to see it on the field not in the training room.
Marviel Underwood – I Showed promise but only time will tell.
A.J. Hawk – B The real deal. An old school player playing in modern times. Yes, he is an impact player because he makes everyone around him better, and he is only going to improve. He's a great pick for this team.
Ben Taylor – D He is a veteran guy that filled a void before anyone knew how the young guys would emerge. He won't hurt, but he won't help.
Nick Barnett – B He has improved his level of play to earn this grade from me. He seemed to become a more physical player as the season got longer and played smarter.
Abdul Hodge – C He showed in training camp, but didn't repeat it when he had the opportunity. Then again he might of been overwhelmed against the Seahawks. I believe he has a bright future once he can get on the field consistently. I really like his up side.
Tracy White – D Just a guy that hustles a lot and always seems around the ball, but will always be a support player.
Brady Poppinga – B Another young guy that just got better the more he played. Another starter with a bright future that has just scratched the surface of how good he can be.
As you can see this defense has a solid foundation and I say that based on quality players at every level. If you look at the solid NFL starters I see on the defensive line Aaron Kampman and Ryan Pickett with Cullen Jenkins being that guy that I have to see more than three games to give him a higher grade.
In the secondary we have Al Harris and Charles Woodson which aren't bad players to build a secondary around. Then at linebacker we have A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga. Talk about a bright future! I am looking at one Pro Bowler and six solid NFL starters on defense with five solid backups. That's NOT BAD!!!!!!!
How far away are the Packers from having a pretty good defense next year? With a little help, I say real close. THAT'S WHAT I SEE ON DEFENSE!!!!!
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.