Lambeau Leap of Faith

July 16, 2010 8:54 PM

Packers Preseason Power Ranking

On ESPN, both in the NFL Power Rankings Preseason Poll and in an analysis of 13 league experts, the Green Bay Packers were ranked sixth in the league. In both, the Minnesota Vikings ranked higher.

This seems odd considering the Packers finished just one game behind the Vikings last year despite having a secondary ravaged with injury. Green Bay also has the youngest roster in the NFL and appear to have the healthy offensive tackles they were missing last year, while the Vikings star quarterback (what is his name again? I think it he has been mentioned only six or eight times a day in the wake of George Steinbrenner's death) is getting older.

But with Johnny Jolly now being suspended for at least all of 2010, the Packers are back to thin on the defensive line. This looms large in a division with running backs like Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Kevin Smith, and Jahvid Best.

3041978706_d530aba7b7.jpgDisturbingly, the team's best hope for depth lies with the oft-injured Justin Harrell, who has played in 13 games over his three seasons. However, at 6'4" and 320 lbs., he has the bulk to play end or even tackle in a 3-4 defense. The reason he was taken in the first round is he possesses the athleticism to disrupt plays. He can redeem himself and his selection by Thompson if he can crack the defensive line rotation.

This was the reason that Ted Thompson drafted defensive tackle Mike Neal, but expecting him to have enough of a successful transition to end in order to make an impact right away is more of a stretch than drafting him in the second round. B.J. Raji had difficulty with the transition last season and had much more ability to work with.

There is no one else on the roster who has shown any reason to believe they will be ready to step up. If someone does not fill that void, Green Bay is one injury to the defensive line away from becoming average on one of the best and most important units on the field.

My guess is if the poll is retaken after this news, the Packers drop at least as far as tenth.

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