Hope you missed us, we’re baaaack!!
After a brief hiatus (does four days count as a hiatus?), we’re back to bring you the second part of OBOD’s all-time 53-man roster for the Green Bay Packers.
(Note: You might be wondering why we didn’t write anything about OTAs. Because they are incredibly boring and mean nothing, in the end – that’s why.)
Last week was all about the offense. This week, we’re moving over to the other side of the ball.
That’s right – defense, baby, defense!!
For part one of our look there, we’ll be talking about the front four on the defensive line. Even though Green Bay currently runs a 3-4 scheme, for the purposes of this series, I’m going to have them run a 4-3. It fits in better with the history of the team, you know?
Alright, is there anything else that needs to be said? Nope – let’s rock.
Starter: Willie Davis (1960-1969) – Playing in an era where defensive stats (sacks, tackles, etc.) went largely unkept, Davis – who played his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns – still made a massive impact for the Lombardi Era Packers.
Davis was known for his ability to burst into the backfield against both the run and the pass. He was so good, Lombardi once used him as a way of describing a great player.
Said Lombardi: “You look for speed, agility and size. You may get two of these qualities in one man and when you have three, you have a great player. In Willie Davis, we have a great one. For a big man, 6-3 and 240 pounds, he has excellent agility and he has great sincerity and determination.”
There are, of course, a few pertinent numbers on Davis: five Pro Bowls, a franchise-record 21 fumble recoveries and a 1981 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Starter: Reggie White (1993-1998) – No one – and I mean no one – expected the Packers to land White during the free agency period of 1993. But Green Bay did just that, in a move that singlehandedly changed the course of the franchise from that day forward.
White, simply put, legitimized the entire operation in Titletown. The Packers were on the up before his arrival; once he got there, Green Bay officially re-entered the national sporting conscious. Yep, it was that important.
In six seasons with the Pack, White recorded 68 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl every year (part of his streak of 13-straight Pro Bowl appearances). Again, though, the numbers were really the least of what he did. He made everyone better and made everyone believe the team could win. You can’t quantify that in stats.
I’ll never forget hearing about his death on the day after Christmas in 2004 (at just 43 years old). It felt like a family member had passed. Roughly five and a half years later, I still can’t believe Reggie’s gone.
Backup: Ezra Johnson (1977-1987) – Playing on some so-so squads (perhaps that’s putting it lightly), Johnson still managed to be a pass-rushing force for the Packers.
In 11 seasons with the team, Johnson – who, like Davis, had great size and speed - recorded 41.5 sacks, making him the franchise’s all-time leader by the time he’d left Green Bay (he’s since been passed on the list). Of course, that number doesn’t include the 20.5 unofficial sacks he recorded in 1978, a year in which he was voted to the Pro Bowl.
There might have been an incident involving him eating a hot dog on the sidelines during a preseason game in there, too, but we won’t go into that.
Backup: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (2000-2008) – For a franchise that has had its share of great pass rushers, it is Gbaja-Biamila (or, as he was known to us fans, “KGB”) who sits alone as the all-time leader in sacks with 74.5.
He wasn’t the player he’d been towards the end of his career (knee injuries played a part in that, as well), but for a four-year stretch, KGB was amongst the best pass rushers in the league. From 2001-2004, he hit double-digits in sacks every year, recording 49 sacks in all. The Packers foolishly tried to turn him into an every-down player after that, another aspect that hurt his overall production.
Still, KGB’s quick first step and amazing closing speed gave us a lot of great memories.
Starter: Henry Jordan (1959-1969) – Jordan, like Davis, came to Green Bay via a trade with the Cleveland Browns (thanks again, Cleveland). And like Davis, Jordan found a place to make a huge impact in Green Bay.
Considered undersized for his position at 6-feet, 2-inches and 248 pounds, Jordan used his knowledge gained from being a top-flight collegiate wrestler (University of Virginia) to find success in the NFL. Well, that and his outstanding speed and toughness, but you get my point.
Again, defensive stats weren’t kept in Jordan’s era, but regardless of lack of numbers, people certainly noticed his mark. He was a six-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler and a 1995 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Starter: Gilbert Brown (1993-1999, 2001-2003) – Stats? Brown never had many. In his 10 years with the Packers, Brown totaled just 257 tackles and seven sacks.
He sure had one number that played into his favor, though: 340.
That’s Brown’s weight, in case you were wondering, and that was indeed his biggest asset at the pro level. Brown used his weight to anchor himself, forcing constant double-teams his way as it was near impossible to block him with just one man without having that man hold him (cough, 1997 Denver Broncos, cough, cough).
Double-teaming Brown opened things up for the rest of Green Bay’s d-linemen and linebackers, allowing them to make plays all over the field. In many ways, Brown was just as crucial as White on those great defenses of the mid-to-late 1990s. Plus, he was “The Gravedigger,” had one of the coolest post-tackle/sack shimmies of all-time and is the namesake for “The Gilbert Burger,” one of the most lethal burgers ever devised. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Backup: Dave Hanner (1952-1964) – Brown and Jordan were both great players, but it is Hanner who is the franchise leader in games played by a d-tackle (160).
In fact, “Hawg” only missed four games in his entire career, only one of which came after his rookie season. Once again, we have no real numbers for Hanner, in terms of stats, but we do know that he was voted to the Pro Bowl twice.
And, for his 42-year career in pro football, Hanner only worked for one team: the Pack. After he retired, Hanner worked as an assistant coach and then scout.
You’ve got to love a guy who spent 42 years with the team, right?
Backup: Santana Dotson (1996-2001) – Dotson did not begin his career with Green Bay (no, he didn’t start in Cleveland, either, but rather Tampa Bay). Once he arrived in Titletown, though, he found himself right at home playing next to Brown.
Dotson was the perfect compliment to Big Gilbert, a quick, agile, pass rusher who knew just how to take advantage of being single-blocked. In six years with the Packers, Dotson recorded 26 sacks and six forced fumbles, very good numbers for a d-tackle.
That’s all for our look at the d-line. Check back Wednesday, as we’ll list off the linebackers on the roster. Hannibal Navies need not apply.