Raji looks like he's out to prove a point

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
5:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here's the tough thing about training camp, especially when it comes to linemen: When one player excels, it usually means another flopped.

So what's the best way to gauge B.J. Raji's impressive start to training camp?

While defensive coordinator Dom Capers should be giddy that his recently re-signed nose tackle has dominated both one-on-one drills and team run periods, coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the overseers on offense could have some concern that most of Raji's damage has come at the expense of the Green Bay Packers' projected new starting center, JC Tretter.

Or maybe they are two separate, unrelated issues.

Let's first examine Raji's start, which has been perhaps the most impressive stretch of practices in his six NFL training camps, and we'll get to Tretter and the issues at center later.

Since the pads went on for Monday's practice, here are Raji's turns in the one-on-one pass rushing drill:
  • Beat Tretter with a speed move to the inside.
  • Beat Tretter with a bull rush.
  • Beat second-year guard Andrew Tiller.
  • Lost to Tretter but still got some push.
  • Beat undrafted rookie guard Jordan McCray.
  • Lost to Tretter.
  • Lost to former practice-squad center Garth Gerhart.

The final four reps came on Wednesday, and it appeared Raji may have worn down. But his 4-3 record is more than acceptable in a drill that typically favors the offense and might be a sign that Raji's sackless streak, which is at 35 straight regular-season games, could come to an end early this season.

But the Packers did not re-sign Raji to a one-year, $4 million contract for his pass rush, but rather to become the kind of run-stuffing nose tackle he was during his first two NFL season. To that end, Raji owned Tretter in the one-on-one run blocking drill on Wednesday and then carried it to the team run period, when he stuffed Eddie Lacy at the line of scrimmage on one play.

"He looks great," second-year defensive tackle Josh Boyd said after Wednesday's practice. "I guess he's got a point to prove."

Raji's production cannot be attributed solely to the fact that Capers moved him back from defensive end to nose tackle in the offseason. Perhaps the fact that whatever free-agent interest he drew -- he said four or five teams called -- was not anything better than the one-year deal the Packers offered served as an eye-opener.

"I think every year is a prove-it year for everybody," Raji said. "But particularly in my case, I know that's what I look for. It wasn't like I went into it with closed eyes. I came back with something on my mind; that was to help the defense become the best that we can be. And, obviously, I have some individual goals."

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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