For a Packers' front three that played such an important role in the 2010 playoffs (Raji's pick six, Green's pressure turned-pick six), the 2011 defensive line was quite ordinary. The missing piece to the puzzle was obviously pass rushing phenom Cullen Jenkins, who was too expensive to resign in the offseason. Clearly, Ted Thompson had no idea how anemic the pass rush up front would be without Jenkins.
With defensive end Mike Neal still nursing a 2010 knee injury, the Packers opened 2011 in classic Thompson-like form: whoever sat behind Neal on the depth chart was now the starter. Three-year vet Jarius Wynn teased fans with a surprisingly impressive opener against the Saints - and then proceeded to play like the sixth round end that had him watching from the sidelines for most of his time in Green Bay.
Experts will give mixed impressions of the performance of the Green Bay linebackers in 2011. Like many other positional groups on the Packers' roster, the corps had its ups and downs. The run defense had some rough outings, like those against Minnesota and Chicago (at home), but still finished the season a respectable 14th in rushing yards allowed. The abysmal performance of the pass defense, however, must be reflected in the outside linebackers' grade.
Ted Thompson's choice to add just one late-round draft pick to the platoon at right outside linebacker proved to be a poor one as the rotation routinely came up short opposite of Clay Matthews. Erik Walden was not the same force that got to quarterbacks late in 2010 while Brad Jones played so poorly in camp that many thought he would get cut.
The performance of the Green Bay secondary in 2011 was tainted by the loss of Nick Collins in Week 2. Through just a few games, fans and experts discovered Collins' substantial value to the proclaimed best secondary in football. It became evident that second-year safety Morgan Burnett couldn't carry Charlie Peprah's weight the same way Collins could in 2010.
Miscommunications between the safeties and cornerbacks were common, resulting in home run plays from the opposition. The meeting between San Diego and Detroit (at home) were particularly painful as big receivers Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson teed off on Tramon Williams. At the same time, the Packer secondary managed their same turnover prowess for most of the season - despite close to no pass rush up front.
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