I've been looking at the offensive line this week, but I jumped over to the defensive line after reading this tweet from Greg Bedard about Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly and his low rating via Pro Football Focus. Obviously he's got some legal problems (and still hasn't signed his restricted free agent tender). If he doesn't sign by June 15th, then the Packers could lower the dollar amount. His only threat at that point would be to sit out the 2010 season, such as these guys threatened to do. While not a great player, he's remained solid during his career and well worth keeping as long as they control his rights. But whether it be over concerns about his play or ongoing legal problems, the Packers haven't stood pat. Who might play at left DE other than Jolly?
NT Ryan Pickett. While NT B.J. Raji played a lot at left DE in 2009, it was Pickett who was playing the position last month in practice. Though the most likely reason for the switch was to get Raji more time in at nose tackle, Packers.com now lists Raji as a NT exclusively while Pickett is a DE/NT. The player that isn't starting at NT will have the first shot at replacing Jolly at left DE (if he has to be replaced).
DE Mike Neal. The Packers 2nd round pick was a surprise selection in April. As a high draft choice he has to be considered an option to see playing time at left DE in 2010. However, it's not clear whether he'll be groomed at right DE in case DE Cullen Jenkins leaves in free agency after his four-year contract expires. I assume he'll receive reps on both sides.
DE C.J. Wilson. Same things that were said about Neal apply to Wilson (except the high draft choice part). On paper they're almost identical (6'3" and 290 lbs.). It's possible he's a hidden gem, but there usually is a good reason why players are undrafted until the 7th round. He'll need to have a solid training camp just to make the roster or practice squad, and he won't be given as much room to error as Neal will have.
DE Justin Harrell. He's at practice now which is more than you can say he did last year. It's hard to count on him, but I'm also mentioning him as only the 6th option. If he can stay healthy and on the field, maybe he can show us why the Packers selected him in the 1st round in 2007.
None of these names jump out as a star defender, but they're being asked to do the dirty work and occupy blockers so one of the linebackers can make a play. The likely starter isn't obvious, but that helps give any of these players a chance to win the starting job in training camp.
Who should start at left defensive end in 2010?
Johnny Jolly (254 votes)
Ryan Pickett (441 votes)
Mike Neal (93 votes)
C.J. Wilson (19 votes)
Justin Harrell (144 votes)
951 total votes