I know he finished the season with 6.5 sacks and was a bright spot at the end of the year as he replaced Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at the defensive end spot. Trust me, I get all that. I also get that the run defense might have been better because they had a bigger body playing that position.
Then I ask myself was it because it was Cullen Jenkins, or could it have been anyone? Wouldn't they have been better than Kabeer? No knock against Kabeer, but he is what he is, and that's an undersized run-stopping defensive end that is better as a pass rushing specialist, but couldn't get a sack. I believe Kabeer carried about 245 pounds and Jenkins carried 290. I don't think it was about skill, but more about pounds and not being able to move one over the other. Especially considering that in the past Kabeer would get abused as teams ran right at him. He was the weak link on Green Bay's defense.
Now back to the sacks, yes, Cullen did have a very good end to the season, but, like I always do, I look at the big picture like who the quarterbacks were. If I remember he faced an old quarterback in Detroit with a makeshift offensive line, a rookie in Minnesota that was scared to make a mistake and became a sitting duck, and they finished off with Rex Grossman, the joke of the Super Bowl. Like me, the Packers must be asking themselves, just what is Jenkins worth?
Jenkins played his butt off, don't get me wrong. Like a lot of athletes, isn't it amazing how well they play in their contract years? But the question is: what is he really worth? What numbers do you put on him? I look at his stats for his career and I say to myself just how good are his numbers? In 2006, he had 6.5 sacks and 48 tackles; 2005, 3 sacks and 49 tackles; 2004, 4.5 sacks and 28 tackles; and in 2003 he was out of football.
I know I second-guessed Aaron Kampman and just how good he would become because I didn't think he brought anything more than hustle to the game. He surprised me and developed into one of the best defensive ends in the business. I also remember how the Vikings almost stole Kampman from the Packers because they put such a low price tag on him. They might not want to make that mistake again, and I say WHY?
I know that at defensive end this team has been struggling to find two players that can be every-down players. Guys that don't have to come off the field. Maybe this staff is thinking that with Cullen starting that they would have a fresh Kabeer to come off the bench in passing situations, but isn't that what they were hoping for at the end of last year and it didn't happen? I don't think Jenkins or Kabeer are the answers anymore. They might be good, quality players but are they going to get this team over the hump?
I don't want Ted Thompson to make the same mistake that Mike Sherman did with Cletidus Hunt. Remember him? After years of nothing, he finally had a good season at contract time and then got the money and then stunk up the joint. Just remember, Cullen isn't his brother, Kris. He will never be that good or close to it. Cullen is a guy that the Packers can afford to lose, so I hope they put a tender offer on him that will allow other teams to give up something to get him.
Ted Thompson has shown the ability to make draft picks work for the Packers, so I believe an extra draft pick is more valuable to the Packers than a defensive tackle that wasn't good enough to cut it at that position. Also, was he that good of a defensive end, or did it appear that way because any one that could stop the run would have been better than Kabeer? I know in 2005 he lead the team with seven tipped balls and some might say that was a great job getting in the quarterback's head and timing his jump to knock it down, but not me. The reason he knocked the balls down is because he got stoned at the line of scrimmage and couldn't get any penetration or pressure. I know some stats are good, but some are very misleading.
As I look at the current roster do I see others that might be able to battle him for this position? Yes, I do. I believe Michael Montgomery, if he can gain some weight and stay healthy, could be the guy as well as Johnny Jolly. I even believe that Ted Thompson and his staff have players in mind to perhaps fill the void. As you can tell I don't believe Cullen Jenkins is the answer, so LET'S BE CAREFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.