Starter Pack: Addressing defensive needs

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
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A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers have needs at every level of their defense, starting up front on the line and also including both the linebacker group and the secondary.

But to listen to ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. on Thursday, it sounds like teams that need help on the defensive line should address it early before attacking their other weaknesses on that side of the ball.

“I don't think the defensive line is something you can wait on,” Kiper said during an hour-long conference call with reporters. “There's not a lot of depth at end or tackle. There's more depth in the secondary that you can get guys down the line, particularly at corner.”

Though the question that prompted that response from Kiper was specifically about the Chicago Bears and was asked by Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, it was applicable to the Packers even though they pick 21st -- seven spots after the Bears.

The Packers' needs on the defensive line depends partly on whether or not they re-sign any of their own free agents. Their three starters -- Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji -- plus backup C.J. Wilson all are scheduled to be free agents next month.

In another Packers-related item from Kiper's conference call, he was asked about the pressures facing quarterbacks who are high picks in the draft to play right away, and he brought up Aaron Rodgers and how he did not have to play immediately.

“Quarterbacks now are expected to be the guy in Year 1 and Year 2,” Kiper said. “In the late 70s and 80s, it was a 3-5 year process developing quarterbacks. Look at Aaron Rodgers. He sat for [three] years behind Brett Favre, and look what happened. He wasn't ready to play as a rookie. Had he played as a rookie and been forced in there, everybody probably would've been calling him a disappointment and a bust. Who knows how his career would've gone?

“But they handled it properly and they were afforded the opportunity to develop him, and look how it paid off. These other young quarterbacks, Year 1, some of these guys aren't ready. I said that about Blaine Gabbert. I said when he was drafted, he's not ready. He needed a year or two to develop. He wasn't given that, now he may be kicked to the curb.”

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Safety Morgan Burnett denied saying anything to Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who in an ESPN The Magazine story claimed that Burnett insulted him and trash talked during the Dec. 8 game at Lambeau Field.
  • Of all people on the Packers' defense, Burnett would likely be the last one to do something like that.
  • On the three-year anniversary of Super Bowl XLV, we looked back at the 53 players who were on the Packers' roster for that game and where they are now.
  • Kiper and Todd McShay unveiled their latest mock drafts. Each had the Packers taking a defensive player.
  • And if you're wondering what Rodgers is up to this week, he's playing in the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. His professional partner is Madison, Wis., native Jerry Kelly. They were tied for 42nd at 6-under par when play was suspended in the first round. Rodgers was the low quarterback, bettering the scores by Pro-Am teams that included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Alex Smith.
Best of the rest:
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause conducted a wide-ranging interview with Packers president Mark Murphy, who defended the team's decision to raise ticket prices, offered his full support of general manager Ted Thompson and reiterated the fact that the team would like to retire Favre's number before he's eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in the summer of 2016.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that if Thompson continues his practice of drafting players from the University of Iowa as he has done three of the last four years, then Hawkeyes tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be next to come to Green Bay.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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