Scout's Notebook: Packers NT B.J. Raji

Posted Nov. 21, 2012 @ 3:37 p.m.
Posted By Nolan Nawrocki

NT B.J. Raji, #90
Green Bay Packers
Height: 6-1½ Weight: 337 Speed: 5.13

Notes: Parents are both Pentecostal pastors. Made his senior season his best at Boston College in a career in which he produced 105 tackles, 32½ tackles for losses and 12½ sacks, eight of which came as a senior against mostly against marginal competition. Was selected ninth overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 2009 NFL draft despite off-field concerns and instantly plugged into the new 3-4 defense being installed by Dom Capers, seeing more time at end than nose tackle in his first year. Was slowed by an ankle injury as a rookie, starting only one of the 14 games in which he played and notching 25 tackles and a sack. Earned the starting NT job in 2010, after NT Ryan Pickett was kicked to defensive end and started all 16 games, recording 39-6½ in the Packers’ Super Bowl championship season. Nicknamed himself “The Freezer” in tribute to William “The Fridge” Perry in the 2011 playoffs after being used as a fullback. Was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2011 after recording 22-3. In eight starts in 2012 (missed two with a left ankle injury), has recorded a mere 10 tackles and zero sacks.

Positives: Outstanding size and raw mass to anchor and hold his ground (even when he comes off the ball too tall). Good eyes and instincts ­— alert to recognize blocking schemes, feel pressure and locate the ball quickly. Very good balance for a big man — is seldom on the ground. Can push the pocket when he comes off the ball low. Has quick, active hands and is capable of walking back big blockers. Has served as a hammering runner/blocker/decoy in short-yardage and goal-line situations and can plow a pile.

Negatives: Has average arm length and does not create good extension — is too often sealed, turned and walled off. Is not initially quick and almost always the last off the ball. Limited hip flexibility and explosion. Lacks the quickness to win one-on-one battles. Plays too soft-tempered and gets stalemated by average centers. Labors to beat the double-team or create a surge behind the line of scrimmage. Tends to tire easily and gets too complacent — not a fiery competitor. Marginal backside pursuit effort ­— does not chase or run to the ball.

Summary: A massive-bodied, run-clogging space eater who too often coasts on his size and raw strength. Serves as a functional anchor in Dom Capers' 3-4 defense and is valued for his ability to occupy two blockers and free up A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones to clean up behind him. Broke out in his second season in the league, when he earned widespread acclaim after notching more sacks from the NT position than anyone since Minnesota’s Ken Clarke posted seven in 1990. However, he has not been a model of consistency, being nagged by injuries since he entered the league, offering little in the way as a pass rusher and serving as an average run defender who needs to be spelled often. Has regressed and underperformed the past two seasons.