B.J. Raji

Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji wasn’t terribly effective in 2011 and the team reduced his snaps toward the end of the season in an effort to keep him fresh. It looks like that will be a season-long effort in 2012.

“B.J.’s role will stay the same in a lot of areas,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “But we have to be smart with him in terms of how much we play him, try to keep him fresh and keep him going.

“We’ll see. We’ll have a lot of different packages, and hopefully some of them will be specific to certain guys if we see their skills can contribute. With these new guys coming in, they have to go out and prove they’re capable of doing things on a consistent basis.”

Raji saw his sacks drop from 6.5 in 2010 to three in 2011. He rarely provided the disruptive push the Packers had grown accustomed to during their Super Bowl run.

Flashes of the old Raji returned when the team stopped playing him on every down late in the season, but the Packers didn’t have the depth along the defensive line to use him as selectively as they would have liked.

That’s changed now. The team drafted two defensive linemen — Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels — and signed three others — Anthony Hargrove, Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling. They also have Lawrence Guy and Mike Neal completely healthy for the first time.

Although Hargrove and Neal are both suspended to start the season, the Packers still look to have plenty of depth on the defensive front. They also return Ryan Pickett, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson.

Will this all add up to a fresher, more dominant B.J. Raji?

Only if these other guys prove their worth.

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