Raji was coming off a very sloppy campaign in 2013, but had been given a one year “prove-it” contract earlier in the offseason. While he was a valuable member of the Packers’ defense for a couple of years, his absence this year will not be a significant challenge for Dom Capers and his defensive unit.
While he is known for having good size and speed considering that size, his athleticism has rarely resulted in a good amount of tackles, sacks or even disruption. Raji’s best statistical season was the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl winning campaign, during which he earned 39 total tackles and 6.5 sacks. The following year, his numbers dipped, but his overall disruptive play was better, earning him his only Pro Bowl selection. Unfortunately, his play in 2012 and 2013 was very sub par — 17 total tackles in 2013 is a number that is simply too low for any starting defensive lineman in the NFL.
Their young, defensive linemen have been playing well thus far in the preseason. Josh Boyd is showing sparks of greatness, Khyri Thornton is stepping up and getting in the way of offensive linemen, and Datone Jones is showing significant improvement over last year. All three of these young players could be productive starting at nose tackle as well. Of course, there is still Letroy Guion, who was acquired from the Minnesota Vikings earlier in the offseason. Ultimately, there is nothing to indicate that Raji’s 2014 play would be an improvement over his previous couple of seasons.
While many fans were hopeful that his 2014 season would see a return to his former play, Raji’s injury will not have a devastating impact on the defense’ potential for success. Despite the coaches’ optimism, there are players who can step up in Raji’s absence, and there was no actual reason to expect an improvement in his play during the upcoming season.