The Green Bay Packers have made many moves this offseason to improve their 32nd-ranked defense. Their first six picks in the 2012 NFL Draft were spent on the defensive side of the ball, including three of four picks to beef up the front seven. Reinforcements will also allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to keep nose tackle B.J. Raji fresher during the season by hopefully limiting his snaps, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
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According to official playing-time documents, Raji has played in 1,738 of (82.6 percent) of the Packers' 2,103 defensive snaps over the last two seasons and is the only nose tackle to play over 800 snaps in both 2010 and 2011. The Packers actually scaled back the percentage of snaps in which Raji played last season (from 86.1 percent in 2010 to 79.5 percent), but the 2009 first-round pick still saw his production drop from 39 tackles and 6.5 sacks to 22 tackles and three sacks.
"B.J.'s role will stay the same in a lot of areas," Capers said. "But we have to be smart with him in terms of how much we play him, try to keep him fresh and keep him going."
Reduced snaps don't always lead to improved productivity or effectiveness from a defensive tackle. New England's Vince Wilfork was arguably the best interior defensive linemen in the league last season, posting a career-high 3.5 sacks and snaring the first two interceptions of his career (and in entertaining fashion). No nose tackle played more than the 957 snaps the 30-year-old Wilfork played last season, and Darnell Dockett (1,000 snaps) was the only defensive tackle to surpass Wilfork.
As much as Capers wants to give Raji some well-deserved rest, their lack of depth at nose tackle might give them no choice but to ride Raji, who showed in 2010 that he can be up to task.