Let’s take a look at the Green Bay Packers 2015 defense in this installment of the grade series. Green Bay was 12th in PPG under long time DC Dom Capers. Green Bay allowed 20.2 points per game. Green Bay was poor in run defense allowing 4.5 YPC (29th) but was good in pass defense (allowed 80.1 QB rating for 7th best). Green Bay forced an average 22 turnovers with 16 interceptions and 6 fumbles recovered.
Defensive Line: B+
Green Bay was a mixed bag on the defensive line. BJ Raji had a -4.6 grade with a -3.1 run defense grade and +.8 pass rush grade. Raji had 1 sack, 0 hits and 14 hurries from the nose tackle spot. It is tough to bring pressure from nose tackle.
Mike Daniels is a beast with an amazing +44.2 grade. Daniels is great in pass rush and run defense. Daniels had 4 sacks, 6 hits and 42 hurries. Daniels drives the Packers pressure and earned his contract extension this season.
Datone Jones had a good year in 372 snaps. Jones was a strong +3.4 in pass rush with 3 sacks, 8 hits and 21 hurries and good in run defense in limited snaps. Letroy Guion was strong in run defense (+2.6) but struggled rushing the passer. Mike Pennel played well in pass rush but average in run defense. Josh Boyd only played 26 snaps before his injury. Bruce Gaston struggled in 16 snaps.
The Packers get an above average grade because of Daniels and Pennel. Raji does the dirty work but can do more in run defense. Raji is a free agent and it will be interesting what the Packers offer the nose tackle. Green Bay has a solid defensive line led by Daniels.
Julius Peppers continues to play well despite his age. Peppers had 10.5 sacks, 8 hits and 35 hurries. Peppers struggled in run defense and coverage (45 snaps). Nick Perry had a nice year in a contract year. Perry had 3.5 sacks, 0 hits and 11 hurries for an average pass rush grade. Perry improved in run defense with a +5.1 grade but was used only 14 times in coverage.
Jayrone Elliot had a +1.2 grade in 177 snaps. Andy Mulumba was average in 42 snaps. Mike Neal was good in run defense but terrible in pass rush (-15.6). Neal did have 4 sacks, 5 hits and 24 hurries but played 434 pass rush snaps and didn’t have enough consistent pressure given the snaps. Neal is a free agent along with Perry. Green Bay will look to bring one or both back.
Clay Matthews mixed it up in 2015 and played both inside and outside. Matthews played inside more than the Packers wanted and struggled against the run. Matthews was -2.4 in run defense and average in pass rush. Matthews had 6.5 sacks, 10 hits and 37 hurries in 319 pass rush snaps for a -.2 grade. The Packers want Matthews outside full time to exacerbate his talents.
Nate Palmer was awful with a -20.5 grade. Joe Thomas struggled with a -3.7 grade. Fourth round rookie Jake Ryan was good in run defense but struggled in coverage (-5.2). Ryan played 266 snaps and Thomas 257 snaps. Palmer played 550 snaps. Sam Barrington was injured after only 16 snaps. The Packers will be happy to try Barrington over Palmer in 2016 but must upgrade at ILB.
The Packers got great play from their young CBs in 2015 which helped with the 7th best QB rating allowed. Shields earned a +4.4 coverage grade as the Packers top cornerback. Shields missed about 400 snaps due to injury.
Rookie 1st round pick Damarius Randall was average with a -.4 cover grade. Randall played better than his grade at time and had to fill in for Shields as the top corner during the season. Rookie second round pick Quentin Rollins played 334 snaps and earned a +7.7 overall grade with great coverage.
Casey Hayward was bad outside but great in the slot per usual. Hayward had a +5.2 overall grade with a +6.0 coverage grade. Ladarius Gunter only played 9 snaps. Micah Hyde played slot CB and safety. Hyde was strong with a +4.2 coverage grade but struggled in run defense.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix had a strong second year. Dix earned a +7.0 overall grade due to +8.1 run defense grade. Dix had some struggles in coverage with a -1.9 coverage grade surprisingly. Morgan Burnett missed 5 games but had a +8.8 overall grade. Burnett was strong in coverage and run defense. The Packers have a good safety combination. Chris Banjo was solid with a +1.8 grade in 104 snaps. Sean Richardson only played 48 snaps before a bad neck injury.
Green Bay has some strong talent on the back end of their defense. Green Bay was a borderline top 5 defense until a late season collapse against Arizona (similar to their OT collapse). Green Bay has plenty of building blocks and will look to upgrade at ILB and DE this offseason and retain some key pieces.
First round picks Datone Jones and Nick Perry stepped up in 2015. Perry is a free agent. BJ Raji is a solid nose tackle but hits free agency along with slot CB Hayward. Matthews will move back to OLB. The Packers brass hope Peppers can hang on with a strong pass rush for one more season.