Packers have high hopes for Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels on defensive line
By Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~The Green Bay Packers got so little out of their third defensive line spot last season that any contribution Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels can provide should be an upgrade.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers tried Howard Green, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Mike Neal at that spot with little success, and he was forced to play workhorse B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett more snaps than he would have liked.
The Packers didn’t bother to re-sign Green. Neal will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season because he violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and free-agent pickup Anthony Hargrove was suspended eight games for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scheme. The other offseason addition, Daniel Muir, had been out of football since midway through last season.
Enter Worthy and Daniels, taken in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, of last month’s draft.
If Worthy is everything the Packers hope, perhaps they finally will have a replacement for Cullen Jenkins, who left in free agency last summer.
From a height and weight standpoint, the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy practically mirrors Jenkins (6-2, 305), who in the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl season had seven sacks in just 11 games.
Worthy, who was picked 51st overall, got off to an impressive start Friday during the first practice of rookie orientation camp, which featured 59 rookies and first-year players.
“His first step is really something that we were excited about when we evaluated him in college,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday’s practice. “You could definitely see that. I don’t like to compare players (Cullen Jenkins, Warren Sapp), but he has a very explosive first step, even for a big guy. Whether he’s playing the three-technique (defensive tackle) or even the shade (defensive end), he’s definitely going to be a factor inside. That was evident through our drill work today. Very explosive for a big guy.”
Worthy, who lined up at right end in the base 3-4 defense and will play defensive tackle in the nickel package, comes to Green Bay with a chip on his shoulder. Some projections had him as a first-round pick, but perhaps his reputation for not playing hard all the time factored into him being picked in the second round. He turned pro after his redshirt junior season.
If Worthy can contribute right away, it could lesson the burden on Raji, who wasn’t as productive without Jenkins last season as he was with him in 2010.
Daniels also could factor into the rotation. The Packers drafted him knowing that Hargrove likely would get suspended, but perhaps they didn’t anticipate he would get sacked for eight games.
However, Daniels has injury issues to overcome. Though he started all 13 games last season as a senior at Iowa, he needed shoulder surgery after the season to repair a torn labrum. The late January operation prevented him from working out at the combine in February, but he attended and met with the Packers.
The Packers held Daniels out of practice and other than some light jog-through work, the 6-foot, 291-pounder won’t practice this weekend. McCarthy said Daniels could be cleared for individual position work next week and possibly be ready for organized team activities that begin on May 22. Daniels had nine sacks as a senior at Iowa, a school known for producing NFL linemen on both sides of the ball.
He said he hasn’t paid attention to the Packers’ depth chart or that two players at his position, Neal and Hargrove, will start the season on the suspended list.
“I’m just here to do my job, keep my mouth shut, go to work and learn every day,” Daniels said. “These guys get after it, and it’s definitely going to be an experience. The pressure’s on me. I have to come in and work at the same level as guys like that.”
Another player who could factor into the defensive line group is Lawrence Guy, a seventh-round pick in 2011 who spent all of last season on injured reserve because of concussions. Guy has been cleared to return but couldn’t participate in this weekend’s camp because his year on injured reserve counts as an accrued season of service. Only rookies and players without an accrued season could take part this weekend.
Last year, the Packers kept just six defensive linemen on the roster to start the season, including Neal, who was inactive the first nine games.
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