Rotation Keeps Defensive Tackles Rested, Hungry

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It's not a novel concept. Rotating defensive tackles in and out throughout the course of a football game can keep the team's biggest defenders fresh for four quarters.

But the Packers' two new additions at defensive tackle, free agents Ryan Pickett and Kenderick Allen, have noted the Packers rotate at the position more than other teams they've played on, and they expect that to be a benefit to the entire defensive unit.

"There's always rotation in D-line play, but it's a better rotation here," said Allen, who previously played for the Saints in 2003 and the Giants in 2004-05. "It's going to turn out more like 50-50, 60-40. That would be great.

"When it's your turn to make plays you have no excuse not to. You can't blame it on being fatigued, you don't have an opportunity to get tired, so you have to make the best of your playing time."

Pickett and Allen have joined a young group of defensive tackles that includes Colin Cole, Corey Williams, Cullen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly and Jerome Nichols. Throughout training camp, players have been mixed and matched in different tandems in the middle of the defensive line, and they're all getting accustomed to working alongside one another.

Pickett comes from a defensive scheme in St. Louis that didn't rotate as many players through, so the Packers' system is a bit of an adjustment for him. But he's impressed with the players surrounding him.

"I was pretty much every down when I wanted to be, and when I wanted a break, I got a break. That's how we ran it in St. Louis," he said. "But I think the talent is so great here we're going to have a rotation because we have a lot of great players."

Everyone at the position made at least one tackle in the Family Night scrimmage, and Jolly led the way with four (two solo, two assists). The group combined for seven solo tackles, a respectable number of the team's total of 47 solos, and had a consistent impact.

The biggest play might have been turned in by Allen, who was the first to bust through when the defense stuffed running back Samkon Gado on fourth-and-1 on the opening series.

Those types of plays help sort out just how the rotation is going to work.

"You can have a rotation, but if somebody is making plays, they're going to be in there more. It's like that everywhere," said Pickett, whose experience and track record would suggest he's less likely to be rotated out as much as the others. "Pretty much every team I've seen has a defensive line rotation, but if somebody is in there making plays, they're going to be in there at crucial times."

That ultimately is the key incentive for everyone in this group that expects to be on the field but doesn't necessarily know when. The structure seems particularly effective with such a young group in which everyone except Pickett was either a late-round draft choice or low- to mid-level free agent acquisition.

"A lot of us are just excited to get the opportunity to be playing and contributing," Jenkins said. "We don't have any problems with the rotation."

They just have to be ready to go in, and ready to make the most of it.

"I think it works, so two people won't just be out there dog-tired," Williams said. "It gives the other people a chance to get out there and play and show what they can do too."

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