A lot of Packers fans were not high on BJ Raji this offseason, stating that he did little or nothing during the season to make the case that he should be re-signed. The thinking was that he would cost too much, had done little, and that there would be a replacement available when the Packers picked in the first round.
I was NOT one of those people even though I too was a bit disappointed in BJ’s performance. When news of the contract came out, I was happier still because one year for 4 million with $500,000 guaranteed was much easier to stomach than 8M a year.
So far in training camp, Raji has been a stud, blowing up everybody. There is reason to take a “wait and see” approach but there is also cause for excitement for several reasons:
1. BJ is back at NT where he belongs
The Packers were definitely not impressed with Raji’s performance either, which is why they were unwilling to give him the money he wanted and Raji didn’t find somewhere else to get paid. But one part of the deal in Raji’s return is that he will be moving back to nose tackle. This is good news as it is the position BJ is most comfortable with and where he found success back in 2010.
So far in camp, Raji has been letting his excitement at being “home” show…all over anybody who gets in his way.
2. The defense will cut him loose more this season
In Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, the Nose is used to pick up a double team setting the linebackers free. This creates a two-gap assignment for the nose tackle and really doesn’t lend itself to the nose tackle getting sacks. Credit the Packers and particularly head coach Mike McCarthy for insisting that this year’s defense will be more “multiple” Indications are that the Packers will use lineman to rush more and with BJ at nose, he will have the chance to get after the quarterback. Look to see him out more on passing downs and with his speed, he should be closer to the form we saw previously. This is an adjustment on Dom Capers’ part but it may make better us of a guy like Raji.
3. BJ will make our new center better
The one question mark on the offensive line is “Who will play center?”. While it seems likely that Tretter is going to get the starting job (too early to tell for sure), whoever lines up against BJ is going to learn…FAST! This is an added benefit to the re-signing and resurgence of BJ Raji. The best way to learn is to get taken to school. If BJ keeps taking guys to school in training camp, we are less likely to see it happen on gameday.
So BJ Raji still has a lot to prove. Packers coaches and fans alike want to again see the beast in the middle of the field with the size and low center of gravity to take on double teams and plug gaps, but also with the speed to get to the quarterback. For his part, BJ has done everything he can up to this point to prove that he is back to form.
And…if they send him in to lead block on a third and goal…all of Packernation will know…things or going just fine!