Last Friday's article was about giving grades to the coaches and offensive players as the season finally comes to an end, and now it's time to turn to the defense. Think about what we saw on Sunday in the Super Bowl. We saw a defensive line take the game over. We saw why this defense won't get any better until they get better up front. The defensive line of the Giants Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, Jay Alford and Osi Umenyiora won their individual battles and that's why the Giants shocked the world and beat the New England Patriots. Now it's grade time!
The defensive staff always seemed to go into a game with a conservative approach and never seemed to force the tempo. I wanted them to get after people from the whistle, but they seemed to watch and wait opposed to attack and destroy. To me, that's coaching. Is it Bob Sanders? I don't know, but usually the defense takes on the personality of its coordinator and if Sanders doesn't fit that might be something that Mike McCarthy might have to look into because how can we expect the defense to be aggressive if its leader isn't. Now let's look at the players!!!!
Aaron Kampman: C He has a work ethic of never quitting. He is solid but needs to win more one-on-one battles and really show up in the big games.
Kabeer: D- He got a little better against the run, but is now replaceable.
Ryan Pickett: B+ He's more than just a run stopper and was deeply missed when he was hurt.
Cullen Jenkins: I He wasn't worth the money and brings nothing extra to the table.
Corey Williams: D He is too inconsistent for the Packers to tie up a bunch of money in, so wish him well.
Justin Harrell: I A project. I'm not sure whether he will pass the test because he plays soft. Most defensive linemen need to have some form of a mean streak and usually that's not something you can coach.
Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole unfortunately got put on injured reserve, but they weren't consistently winning their share of one on one battles when they were healthy, so I would give them both D's. Besides them the rest were just guys.
Nick Barnett: B+ This was the best year of his career as he developed into the leader of the defense. He played very well against the run, showing more maturity, and he stopped letting his emotions get the best of him.
Brady Poppinga: D+ It's not like he's terrible, but he is the weak link of the group and is very inconsistent in the pass game.
A.J. Hawk: C+ I thought he was very consistent. He will never be flashy, just does his job.
Al Harris…C+ Making it to the Pro Bowl means nothing if you get abused in the big games. Great cornerbacks make adjustments when their way isn't working, and he didn't or couldn't.
Charles Woodson: B Still the Packers' best cornerback.
Atari Bigby: B He made some young mistakes but he was the tempo setter and made more of an impact than any other defender on the team. He put fear back into the Packers secondary something that has been missing for a long time.
Aaron Rouse: C- He will be a force to be reckoned with now that the defense has to find a place for him.
Nick Collins: D Became smarter this year as well as a better tackler, but he's the guy that may be on the outside looking in.
Will Blackmon: D Must stay healthy because he has all the tools, but it doesn't matter if nobody can count on it, especially the coaches or your teammates.
Tramon Williams: C+ I think he's a player with incredible ability, including unbelievable speed.
The rest of the guys on defense are all replaceable. Bush and Walker could stay around because it's hard to find cornerbacks in the league. Believe it or not, they might be the best of the rest.
<Mason Crosby: C+ He did his job
Jon Ryan: D He's just a punter
Will Blackmon: B+ He can be a game changer, but he has to remain healthy.
Koren Robinson: D+ I never thought he had his legs under him. He always seemed to be fighting himself. He never looked smooth.
This defense is really close to being one of the best in the league and I hope Ted Thompson took notice of what happened in the Super Bowl. The Giants didn't win by accident. The defensive line of the New York Giants took the game over from the start and that's THE DIFFERENCE, so make it happen!!!!!
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.