B.J. Raji might not have made an impact on the stats sheet during last week's preseason debut, but that doesn't mean the Packers' first-round pick wasn't impactful in his 12 snaps against Buffalo.
"He's really powerful," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said on Tuesday. "It was such a limited look but they made the right call. You don't want to bring in a kid off the street and throw him out there for 50 plays. Some of the rush showed up on him, though. You could tell that he didn't have quite the run reads as some of the other guys that have been here for as long as they have, but you can see he's very smooth, very explosive."
That explosiveness was seen on a bull rush in which he pushed Buffalo center Geoff Hangartner back 7 yards before dumping the veteran on his butt. Now, it's just a matter of making up for lost time. After missing almost 20 practices while waiting to sign his contract, Raji fell significantly behind.
"The game was OK," Raji said on Wednesday. "They could just tell, because I've taken so many less reps than everyone, that I was kind of slow as far as the reaction. It's just a matter of getting more reps in practice and getting comfortable. Experience is the best teacher. The more reps I get and the more I practice, the better I'll do."
Raji also is a little behind mentally. While the entire defense was installed during the offseason practices that Raji attended, he's missed some of the wrinkles and on-the-fly adjustments.
"Any time you miss that much, it's a catch-up mode, but he's working hard to get himself caught up," Trgovac said. "He missed a lot of installs, so it's a process. You can't just throw everything at him. What everybody learned in all those days that he missed, you can't throw that at him in five days. But he's pretty close to being caught up to where he needs to be."
Through eight practices and one preseason game, Raji has lined up at left defensive end in the base defense and as a defensive tackle in the nickel and dime packages. He was — and is — expected to be the backup at nose tackle for Ryan Pickett but he hasn't taken any reps at the nose.
"That's going to be up to Dom (Capers) and we have to determine where he is at end first," Trgovac said. "With him coming in here late and getting a late start, you've got to be careful about throwing end at him when he's late and he missed all of the installs and then adding nose on to it, too. He's not at that point right yet where he'll be able to do both. At some point, he will have to, but we haven't reached that point."
Coach Mike McCarthy said Raji will play between 20 and 25 snaps at Arizona on Friday.
"If he said 20 or 25, I'd be looking forward to that," Raji said.
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