The Packers were so strong at defensive tackle last season that first-round pick Justin Harrell played in only two of the first 11 games.
The trenches are a physical place, though, and the Packers’ strength in numbers was eroded as the season progressed. While the Packers ranked 11th in the league by yielding only 3.9 yards per rush, the before and after was striking. Through nine games, the Packers yielded 92.9 rushing yards per game. In the final seven games, they allowed 115.9 rushing yards per game.
Coach Mike McCarthy is confident the injuries that lingered well into this offseason should be mended in time for training camp.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Packers’ defensive tackles entering training camp. For a more in-depth story, check out the story available only to PackerReport.com subscribers.
Steady starter: Ryan Pickett missed two games last season with an injured groin. Those were the first two games he missed since his rookie season of 2001. Pickett is a flat-out stud against the run and an invaluable cog on the defense.
And who else?: If healthy and assuming his legal woes don’t get in the way, Johnny Jolly figures to start opposite Pickett. Or, if healthy and suddenly a lot tougher than last season, it could be last year’s No. 1 pick, Justin Harrell. Either way, both figure to get a ton of playing time. Their play will arguably be the key to the defense.
The reserves: You can never have too many tackles. Colin Cole is reliable if unspectacular. Daniel Muir could provide some juice as a pass-rusher. If neither Conrad Bolston nor Alfred Malone impress during training camp — or something bad happens to Jolly or Harrell — GM Ted Thompson will scour the waiver wire to fortify a position he failed to address during the draft.
Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org