Everyone’s worst fear in the preseason is getting hurt. The wins and losses don’t matter much in August, adding insult to injury. And a season-ending injury came at the worst possible time for B.J. Raji and the Green Bay Packers. He suffered a torn right biceps in the first quarter of a preseason win hosting the Oakland Raiders.
Raji recently signed a one-year “prove it deal” hoping to improve his stock with a strong 2014 and return for a big contract next year. Now stripped of possibly his last chance in Green Bay, he’ll have to sit out and help his teammates from the sideline.
The nose tackle position is an extremely vital role in the Packers’ 3-4 defense. The coaching staff may be tempted to call up former Packers who have played nose before. But Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are past their prime. And Dom Capers’ defense has a new goal this season aspiring to be quicker off the snap. He’s looking for gap contain, inside pressure as well as zone blitz ability; in other words, getting younger. It’s likely Ted Thompson will keep the phone on the hook.
Raji’s absence won’t affect the passing game as he never played much in nickel and dime situations. But he was the anchor of the base defense stopping the run. Commanding double and sometimes triple-teams was his specialty. So the question is, who will clog up the middle?
That leaves free agent acquisition Letroy Guion, but he’s been nagged by a hamstring injury all summer. Josh Boyd came in for Raji for the Oakland game and faired pretty well. Another promising name is undrafted rookie Mike Pennel. He’s definitely big enough to man the middle at 6’4, 332 pounds. Raji is a rare talent but the next man up is all we can do.
The Packers have to work fast because the season opener is right around the corner and the Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks know how to pound the rock with Marshawn Lynch. They don’t call him “Beast Mode” for nothing.
Thankfully, there’s one more preseason game to “Discount Double-Check” their options. The Packers host a playoff caliber team in the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday August 28th.
So whoever it is replacing Raji, he better have a strong resume; and Thursday’s preseason finale is the job interview.
Ultimately though, we’ll miss you B.J. We know him as "The Freezer" for plays like this.