The Green Bay Packers received some bad news following their Week 3 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Friday. Starting nose tackle B.J. Raji suffered torn biceps in the game, and the injury will keep him out all of next season.
Before Packers fans start to panic — and they should a little — this injury is not the end of the world.
Sure, losing a starting player that has been at the position since 2009 is not going to be easy, but Raji never did set the world on fire with his play. In 2012, he had 26 tackles and zero sacks, and in 2013 he had 17 tackles and zero sacks. He was solid, yes, but the Packers have a strong, young defensive line that will step in and pick up his production.
The Packers run a 3-4 defense, so the main job of a NT is to stuff the middle and open up lanes for the linebackers behind them. In hindsight, Raji may not have been that big of a puzzle piece in the team’s defense. One thing that the Packers deserve credit for was not giving him a long-term deal in the offseason. They signed Raji to a one-year contract, and it’s still a bummer that he won’t be available for the 2014 season, but at least the team is not tied down for the future.
As for Raji’s replacement, look for the Packers to wait for some veteran names to be dropped during the 53-man roster cuts, but don’t forget about undrafted rookie Mike Pennel, who is said to be having a great showing in camp and the preseason so far. Pennel may not be a household name and he’s had some problems off the field, but the NT still has a lot of potential and was even called a “once in 20 years” talent by his offensive line coach at Arizona State.
Raji will be missed in the middle of the Packers defensive line for his reliability and his famous dance moves after a big play, but the Packers won’t miss a beat.