It’s not often that a nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme, widely considered the most anonymous and least rewarding position in that defense, becomes a media darling. Packers NT B.J. Raji, however, cannot be squashed into this particular mold.
In just his second year, the former first-round pick has 7.5 sacks in 19 games and catapulted the Packers to the Super Bowl with a ponderous pick-six against the Chicago Bears. He even has a nickname of his own, “The Freezer”, in the tradition of Chicago’s outsized William Perry and “The Refrigerator”.
It’d be easy to forget about the Steelers’ Casey Hampton in all that glitz, wouldn’t it?
<Insert quote from Hampton here>
The stalwart 10th-year pro hasn’t produced Raji’s flashy stats this season. He has just one sack and twenty tackles, and doesn’t have a fancy nickname or line up as a supersized fullback, as Raji has done on occasion. But he has been immovable in the middle of the Steelers’ line, and has anchored their top-ranked run defense.
<Insert quote from Dick LeBeau/the Steelers’ D-line coach here>
Hampton is an inch shorter then Raji but outweighs him by 23 pounds. He routinely occupies two or more blockers, unselfishly allowing outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley to make plays. Opponents have abandoned even the pretense of running at Hampton. In the AFC Championship Game six days ago, the Jets’ (X) carries up the middle went for just (Y) yards, sixteen of them on one play. Hampton was in the middle when the Jets failed on three running plays from the two-yard line and turned the ball over on downs.
<insert quote from teammate here>
Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowler, doesn’t make waves in the media either. He declined to be interviewed for this article, or at least he would have had I asked him. The story practically writes itself. However, the point holds well. Don’t forget about Casey Hampton, and look for constant double-teams on him whenever the Packers try to run the ball.