Dom Capers’ defense finished the 2011 season 32nd in total defense and 32nd versus the pass. Perhaps it’s not surprising that – despite the six defensive players added in the draft – the unit enters training camp with questions all over the place. The Packers have responded well from defensively challenging seasons in the past (2009) and must do so in 2012 to have a shot at returning to the big game.
Nick Collins’ injury in Week 2 of last season put a big twist on the safety position that is now manned by Morgan Burnett and Charles Woodson in the base. The questions arise when the Packers go to a nickel package and are forced to rely on at least one young defensive back, namely M.D. Jennings or Jerron McMillian. Jennings, a 2011 undrafted free agent, may have the slight edge on McMillian.
Woodson’s move to safety creates holes at the starting cornerback position opposite Tramon Williams. Sam Shields’ poor play of late has vaulted pedestrian defender Jarrett Bush into a starting role, which many fans hope to only be temporary. Green Bay has some intriguing names behind Bush – like Casey Hayward and Davon House – but there is limited time to make an impression before Week 1.
The suspensions of Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove have tainted the situation on the D-line. Rookie linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels will likely be asked to contribute immediately beside B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. While Neal and Hargrove will eventually return there is now room to stash names such as C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Daniel Muir and (though unlikely) Johnny Jolly on the roster.
The picture is hardly clearer at linebacker where there is speculation that D.J. Smith could beat out A.J. Hawk for a starting inside linebacker spot. The thought on outside linebacker is that rookie Nick Perry will land a starting role while stopgaps Frank Zombo and Brad Jones try to fend off the likes of Philip Merling and Dezman Moses.