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Raji: What are the chances of a Pickett echo...

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by paulska, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. paulska

    paulska Cheesehead

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    Ryan Pickett was a first round DT prospect drafted the same year as fellow first rounder DT Damione Lewis by the St. Louis Rams- both had playmaking potential in a 4-3 alignment, and were thought to be the future of a dominant, penetrating interior for that team for years.

    Their rookie deals expired, with neither one becoming a disruptive force, but Pickett came to us on a solid deal to play base end in our 34 scheme. He turned out to be consistently effective rather than dominant. Perhaps some would describe him as a disappointment who failed to deliver on the promise of his draft spot and hype, but overall, he's been a productive and effective player, consistently, throughout his tenure with our team in a position where glory doesn't find you so much.

    I'm wondering- if Raji plays effectively this season at his current price tag- if he becomes the consistent, space eating clogger the middle of our D so desperately needs, rather than striving to become some penetrating JJ Watt in the middle, would you be happy to have him back on the kind of term/value/deal Pickett got to come to us?

    I think Raji is at a crossroads as a player- he's no longer a young buck bursting with potential whose raw athleticism can make plays game in and out. I think he's starting to recognize that the strain of the game on a man his size sucks the explosiveness out of out quickly, and what's left is leveraging that size to the benefit of the scheme. Teams weren't pining for him to anchor their 43 schemes because he hasn't done that in 4 years, and the fast twitch, get off the ball moves are not something he can just turn back on at this point.

    For me, if Raji can show this season he can contribute the consistency in the middle, he'll be worth a 5 million a year deal for 3-5 years as an anchor. If he's wishy washy again, he's done. He may not make it out of training camp. Here's hoping he can learn something from the career of Ryan Pickett and find himself a valued member of a defensive core that can capitalize on the play of ARod for a couple more titles before he's done. He could do worse...
     
  2. HardRightEdge

    HardRightEdge Cheesehead

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    Actually, Pickett came to us in 2006, 3 years before we switched from 3-4 to 4-3 with Capers' arrival in 2009. It was Raji, drafted in 2009, who was installed at NT, not Pickett, when we went to 3-4.

    Starting in 2011, Pickett had slowed quite a bit making him ineffective in any kind of pursuit, be it runners or getting after QBs rolling or breaking the pocket. At the same time Raji was proving to be less the NT grinder and more the finesse jet rusher (as finessed as a 330 lb. man can be), while Capers planned a more disciplined approach up front in curtailing the jet rushes. So, the flip-flop of Pickett and Raji that became more of a set thing in 2012 looked like a win-win on paper...Pickett could shore up the run D from the nose, eliminate his liabilities at 5 tech, and give Raji more opportunity to use his athleticism at 5 tech in base and 3 tech in nickel.

    Pickett held up his end of the bargain, at least until about mid-year 2013 when he dinged up his knee but soldiered on. To say Raji did not pan out at 5 tech is an understatement.

    So, it looks like we're back to 2010 with tales told of Raji returning to NT and presumably a further decline in snap count from last year's 60ish%.

    But without the jet rushes for Raji to spash some pressure and sack numbers one wonders if the will exists within Mr. Raji to grind in the run game as he needs to in order to regain stature. Further, if he can't be the grinder we need given our finesse-oriented ILBs, such as they are, the needed improvement in the run defense will not be forthcoming. One would think the one year contract should be sufficient incentive. Then again, last season being his rookie contract year and the best chance to make career money, he went in the tank.

    Either way, bust or resurrection, I can't see paying Raji after this season. Bust makes him expendable; the resurrected player couldn't be trusted with the money.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
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  3. captainWIMM

    captainWIMM Cheesehead

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    Absolutely agree with that. There´s no scenario I can imagine that Raji will be back after next season. After what he showed in a contract year there is absolutely no chance I would trust him enough to give him a long term contract, no matter how he plays next season.
     
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  4. El Guapo

    El Guapo Cheesehead

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    You need to imagine more, as in Raji does enough to warrant staying on our roster and we dig out another low-to-medium 2-year contract if nobody else offers up a long-term deal. Is it likely? No, but it is possible.

    To the OPs question, I have no problem with guys like Pickett. If you ignore all of the mindless "expert" draft chatter and draft position, what you're left with is football players. Is a guy productive and doing what you need? That's the first question. The follow-up is whether he is elite or dominant, which few ever are in the grand scheme of the game.

    From the mindset of a player, it shouldn't matter where you are drafted as long as you play your best. It might not meet GM and fan expectations, but those are external expectations that should never factor into a player's mindset.
     
  5. paulska

    paulska Cheesehead

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    I guess this is what I'm getting at- Raji has been inconsistent. So was Pickett to start his career before he came to us. I think Pickett learned that he wasn't the second coming of John Randle or Warren Sapp at DT, and made a decision to become an effective player earning a good salary, understanding that his "money" was going to come with consistent play over a number of years.

    My question is whether or not Raji has the wherewithal to experience a similar realization. If he does, and he evolves into that space eating clogger game in and out over 16 games, with the coaching staff witness to the professionalism to practice and play hard, why wouldn't he be a guy worth paying Pickett money on a shorter deal? Casey Hampton never put up stats, but got paid well for what he did.

    If the Dr. Phil'ism that past performance is the best predictor of future behaviour is accurate, then I think HRE has a valid point and TT has made a savvy one year stop gap deal so the proverbial cupboard isn't bare along the DL for us without hamstringing us in the longterm with an overpaid guy who it hurts to cut financially.

    Perhaps I'm just wishing aloud here- there isn't much question that Raji has the tools to provide what we need, but his mind isn't set to capitalize on them. Raji appears to be a good kid, and I'm hoping that he'll take a look at someone like Pickett and see that another 6-7 years at 4-5 million isn't a bad deal at all, whether you make the probowl or not, just by doing dirty work that few other teams will sit up and take notice of.

    That said, I'm bummed we didn't get Paul Solilai to replace him at NT. I don't watch enough college football to have any clear sense of whether or not there are good candidates out there at NT- looks like we're going to have to find out there.
     

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