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Most Important Packers of 2012 -- #13: Jerel Worthy, DE

Jul 12, 2012 -- 10:03pm
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GREEN BAY – Tramon Williams didn’t need to see Jerel Worthy in pads, or even in multiple practices. A year after the Green Bay Packers secondary gave up an NFL record amount of passing yardage – and wasn’t the sole reason for the problem – the Packers cornerback could tell that help was on the way after a handful of organized team activity practices and a two-practice minicamp.

“I’m excited, especially about No. 99, Worthy,” Williams said. “He can get to the quarterback.”

And that’s exactly what the Packers – especially the guys covering receivers, like Williams, Charles Woodson and the rest of the cornerbacks – need. For while the defensive backfield certainly deserved much of the blame for the team’s 32nd-ranked defense, the blatant lack of a pass rush did not help.

The team’s 29 sacks ranked 27th in the league, and no team had a worse sack percentage (sacks per dropback) than the Packers’ 4.28 percent.

Enter Worthy, whom the Packers traded up in the second round to take at No. 51. While the first-round selection of USC outside linebacker Nick Perry got most of the attention, Worthy could have as much or more impact in terms of generating pressure. For while getting a complementary edge rusher was just as important for the Packers’ defense, finding someone who could help B.J. Raji inside collapse the pocket and prevent quarterbacks from stepping up to avoid pressure is just as vital.

Already in OTAs and minicamp, Worthy was working alongside Raji in the No. 1 nickel defense, and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac’s hope is for him to be a three-down player this season.

“Our goal is to get him to be a complete player here. You draft a guy that high, you want him to be a complete player. That’s our goal,” Trgovac said. “Whether he can do it or not, once the pads come on and we get through training camp, we’ll have a better idea of that.

“Especially with how much nickel we play ... We looked at all the aspects of him and when we decided to draft him, the things we saw in him we liked.”

As Raji and other defensive linemen will be quick to point out, they don’t get as many opportunities to freely rush the passer as some may think. Those plays are called “jet” calls, and because of their less glamorous responsibilities at the line of scrimmage, such calls are limited. But on those occasions when Worthy will get to jet upfield, he has the requisite burst to do so.

“His first step is really something that we were excited about when we evaluated him in college. You could definitely see that,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I don’t like to compare players, but he has a very explosive first step, even for a big guy. Whether he’s playing the 3-technique or even the shade, he’s definitely going to be a factor inside. Very explosive for a big guy.”

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