|The Packers are interested in 49ers' nose tackle Ricky Jean-Franocois to help stop the run. (USATSI)|
Despite stuffing the middle with mammoth nose tackle B.J. Raji throughout the 2012 season, the Green Bay Packers had difficulty containing the run on stretch plays to the outside, a flaw that was exposed in an NFC Divisional Playoffs loss to the 49ers.
The Packers' run defense could be dealt a further blow if defensive end Jerel Worthy is unable to return in time for training camp, as coach Mike McCarthy hinted last week. As a result, Green Bay has expressed interest in 49ers defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Jean-Francois, a three-year veteran from LSU, is regarded more for his run-stopping abilities than rushing the passer. When Jean-Francois replaced Justin Smith in the starting lineup for the final two games of the regular season, he received positive grades in defending the run in both contests, according to Pro Football Focus, a website that analyzed every snap in the NFL last season. Since entering the NFL in 2010, Jean-Francois has 3.0 sacks.
Raji's presence made it difficult for opponents to exploit the Packers on power and inside zone runs. Green Bay allowed less than 4.0 yards per carry on runs behind an opposing team's left guard, center and right guard, according to NFLGSIS.com. On runs toward both sidelines, the Packers allowed more than 6.0 yards per carry.
There are alternatives for the Packers in free agency if they are unable to land Jean-Francois. Former Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty, Jets defensive end Mike DeVito, Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour could be available on the open market.
The Packers allowed more than 500 rushing yards combined (6.79 yards per carry) in a pair of losses to the 49ers last season.
“You take a hard look at the two games that we played,” said McCarthy, last week at the NFL scouting combine. “We're really focused on ourselves and player acquisition is a big part of improving. San Francisco had a great year; like I said they beat us twice, that'll definitely be a focus of our offseason.”
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