After the Green Bay Packers started and ended their season with losses to the San Francisco 49ers, pundits criticized the Packers for lacking “toughness” and physicality” along the defensive line.
The Packers must’ve listened to the critics in some kind of way, as General Manager Ted Thompson drafted defensive end Datone Jones and signed veteran defensive tackle Johnny Jolly in the offseason.
McCarthy said in June he believes the Packers have a lot of talent along the defensive line. “It’s a group that is competitive”, McCarthy said. “(I think) there is good variation, and they’ll make us a better defense”.
Let’s meet the 2013 Packers defensive linemen:
Jones, a 6’4, 285-pound defensive end, recorded 62 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 14 starts at UCLA, en route to 2nd team All-Pac-12 honors.
Jones earned the Kenneth S. Washington Award for Outstanding Senior of the Year on defense, and the Captain Don Brown Award for the Most Improved Player at UCLA last season.
Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said Jones gives the Packers “a lot of versatility”, and Trgovac sees Jones “fitting in everywhere” along the defensive line.
At the NFL Combine, Jones ran a 4.8 40-yard dash, accumulated 29 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, and recorded a 31.5’’ vertical leap.
“We felt we had a good interview with him at the NFL Combine”, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He has a good presence about himself, and he is a high character guy with a good work ethic”.
“Datone is a talented guy”, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said earlier in training camp. “He is a difference maker, and has a different body at that position”.
“He can run”, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “He is a major match up problem, you can see the talent”.
In the team’s first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, Jones sprained his ankle and he will be out for a couple of days, according to McCarthy.
Jolly was a key cog in the Packers no.1 ranked defense in 2009. In 48 career games in four NFL seasons (2005-09), Jolly has 113 total tackles, 17 pass deflections, and two sacks.
“It is good to have him back”, McCarthy said earlier this offseason after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Jolly. “He has the toughness, drive, and passion to come back, and I’m excited to give him the opportunity”.
Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2010 after he was arrested for possession of codeine among other drug charges.
“We made a decision based off of our association with Johnny (Jolly)”, Thompson said earlier this summer after signing Jolly. “When he has been here and on our team, he has been a good teammate. He has some natural ability, and the game kind of flows to him”.
Jolly is currently battling an ankle injury sustained earlier in training camp.
Entering his 5th year, “The Freezer” will move from nose-tackle to defensive end in the Packers 3-4 defensive scheme.
The 6’2, 337-pounder is as durable a defensive lineman as they come in the NFL, missing only four of 64 NFL games in his entire career, and has anchored the Packers defensive line the last three seasons.
“We want to make an impact, and do it as often as we can”, Raji said about the Packers 2013 defensive line. “We started it in practice, and took some of it to the (Friday preseason) game, and we want to continue doing that”.
The 2011 Pro Bowler has 112 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, eight pass deflections, and two fumble recoveries in his career. Raji is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
The old man of the Green Bay Packers, Pickett, 33, is entering his 13th NFL season and his eighth with the Packers. Pickett, who recorded 51 total tackles at defensive end last season, will start at nose tackle in 2013.
A versatile, run-stuffing defensive lineman, at 338 pounds, Trgovac said Pickett is “the lightest he has ever been” since Trgovac was hired by the Packers in 2009.
Pickett rarely misses time on the field as well, missing 14 out of 176 possible games in his NFL career.
A 7th round draft pick out of East Carolina in the 2010 NFL Draft, the former 2-time Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year has recorded 68 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in 42 career games.
“He has done some good things, and he knows as well as everybody that we need to take some steps as a defense”, McCarthy said before the start of training camp.
A rookie 5th round draft choice out of Mississippi State, Boyd started 41 games in three years for the Bulldogs, gathering 8.5 career sacks. In 2012, Boyd led the Bulldogs defensive line with 51 total tackles.
“He is a big man and he has some explosion to him”, Trgovac said. “For a big man, he has got good movement, nimble feet, and a decent motor”.
The 6’, 294-pound 2nd-year player had a solid rookie season in 2012, recording 19 tackles, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Daniels has reportedly looked better in 2013 training camp.
“I think he has a lot more pop”, McCarthy said. “He has always had a great motor, but he is stronger, has a better understanding of our defense, and he is off to a good start”.
Daniels returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions last season—the longest fumble returned for a touchdown by a rookie in Packers franchise history.
Neal, a 2nd round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, has been anything but durable in three NFL seasons, missing 28 of 48 games because of suspension and ongoing abdominal and shoulder injuries.
In 2012, the 6’3, 285-pound defender showed life, posting a career-high 11 tackles and 4.5 sacks. McCarthy said he would like to expand Neal’s role as an outside linebacker in the Packers’ defense.
Neal passed his physical early last week after he was placed on the PUP list before the start of training camp.
Worthy, the Packers 2nd round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, is coming off of a poor rookie season, where he recorded 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Worthy could be the surprise player who fails to survive the final cut along the defensive line after training camp.
Pena, a 6’2, 330-pound undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss, will compete for a backup spot on the defensive line. In his collegiate career, Pena, who is 26 years old, recorded 34 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.
A 2012 free agent signing by the Packers, the 6’1, 316-pound Miller recorded 90 tackles, 18 sacks, and 30 tackles for loss at Southern University. Miller appeared in one game for the Packers last season.
Favorites to win Starting Jobs: Raji, Pickett, Wilson
Favorites to Make the Team/Practice Squad: Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Jones, Neal, Worthy, Daniels, Boyd
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