On Thursday, the Packers addressed their pass rush on the outside. On Friday, they hope to have done so on the inside.
By trading up eight spots, from the 59th pick to the 51st in the second round, the Packers took Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy to play end in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme – a dual job that defends the run on early downs and rushes the quarterback from an interior spot on passing downs.
At 6-2, 308, Worthy has the type of big body defensive line coaches like Mike Trgovac covet. He’s got the size to hold the point against the run and the agility to get into the backfield when he’s “turned loose,” to use Trgovac’s words.
“He’s got some quickness to him for a big guy,” Trgovac said. “He anticipates the snap count very well. Sometimes he gets offsides, I realize that and we’ll work on that, but some coaches say if you’re not offsides a couple times, you’re not getting off the ball quick enough.”
Worthy started 38 games at defensive tackle over three seasons at Michigan State. He recorded 12 career sacks and 27½ tackles for loss.
He was named first-team All-America by several publications last season, including The Associated Press, becoming the first Spartans defensive lineman to earn that AP honor since “Bubba” Smith in 1966.
If Worthy has half the career Smith had, the Packers will have gotten a second-round steal. He cost the Packers a fourth-round pick, as No. 123 overall was sent to the Eagles, to move up to get him.
Thought by some draft analysts to be a first-round choice, Worthy was one of the highly regarded defensive lineman still there midway through the second round, along with Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes and Penn State’s Devon Still.
When Reyes was snapped up at pick 49, the Packers made their move for Worthy. Still then went two picks later at 53.
“It was very close between those two,” Trgovac said of Worthy and Still. “We just thought at the end that Jerel had a little bit more wiggle and get-off than Still. That one was debated very long and hard. That wasn’t a slam dunk. We liked both of those kids.”
What kept standing out about Worthy on all the game tapes was his quickness off the ball.
“He can jump the count and get into the gap before an offensive guy can react or move,” said Shaun Herock, the Packers’ assistant director of college scouting. “As soon as you get in the gap, you’ve got a two-way go and you’re clogging up the holes, getting penetration and causing chaos in the backfield.”
The knock on Worthy was he didn’t play like that – utilizing his explosiveness to its fullest – all the time. Herock defended him in that regard because it’s natural for big bodies to wear down at times. Worthy defended himself as well.
“If people criticize that I take a play off here and there … there’s nobody in the NFL game today or in college or all the way down to pee wee who plays every play full speed, full-go without getting tired,” Worthy said. “It’s impossible.
“I’m going to continue to work to be a lot more consistent. That’s my goal. The plays that showed up on the highlight tape in the draft are the same plays I want to make in the NFL.”
Worthy admitted to being “humbled” a bit that he wasn’t drafted in the first round, but it did mean something that the Packers traded up to get him.
“Definitely,” he said. “It just shows they have faith in my potential and they have faith in the skills that I possess. They have faith in me progressing as a great football player.
“I want to come in and have an impact right away. I want to leave my mark and let them know they have no regrets about picking me.” RELATED LINKS