Green Bay Packers' Defensive End Questions Must Be Answered

Aren DowCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2009

The Green Bay Packers' offseason has brought about much outcry from the fan community. It seems virtually every free agent will transform Green Bay into a Super Bowl contender, if only Ted Thompson will sign them.

Players, like DE Chris Canty, have already peaked interest from Ted Thompson. Canty eventually signed with his hometown New York over Green Bay, but it does provide some interesting tidbits.

No need to worry fans, Thompson is shopping around for defensive ends.

As well he should. The Packers seemed to forget the opposing team could carry the ball on the ground or tackle the quarterback. Green Bay ranked 25th last year in sacks.

Thompson doesn't seem to be the kind of person to make a move for the fun of it. He has made moves because he thinks it is in the best interest of the team.

Which brings us back to Canty. I think Thompson will get a defensive end through free agency just for the fact that he poked his head out of his shell. That interest is rare in free agency from Thompson, and it will lead to more inquiries.

I really believe Ryan Pickett can hold up in the NT spot. However, the DE situation is an entirely different story. Nearly every player slotted to fill one of the spots is a question mark, and Thompson could land a solid and secure part through free agency.

There has been much chatter about Igor Olshansky, the defensive end from San Diego that looks as fearsome as his name sounds. If the Packers landed Olshansky, it would provide a plug to a huge hole for the Packers. With his experience in the 3-4, he could be a vital part in the transition.

Although it isn't as glamorous as free agency, the Packers do have a few players of their own that could step up into the starting role of defensive end.

Cullen Jenkins seems to be the leading candidate for one of the two spots open. Jenkins played incredible last year, until the fourth week when came down with a season-ending injury.

Amassing two and a half sacks and forcing a fumble, Jenkins looked like the breakout player everyone thought he would be the year before. 

At 6'2" and 305 pounds, Jenkins is a good size for a 3-4 DE. He played both tackle and end in the 4-3, and his knowledge of both positions should help smooth the transition into the new system.

Rehabbing his pectoral muscle is a slow process, but if Jenkins can completely recover it will bring a huge sigh of relief for the Packers.

Justin Harrell, on the other hand, is the epitome of frustration.

Since being drafted 16th overall in the 2006 draft, he has been injured often resulting in just 13 games played in the last two years.

It is difficult to assess whether Harrell can become a starter in the NFL, because he hasn't been on the field enough to show his potential.

Slightly bigger than Jenkins, his 6'4", 310 pound frame is still more suited more for defensive end than tackle. I can't imagine anyone advocating Harrell as a 3-4 DT with the injury record he has.

While Harrell is mostly known for the first-rounder that Ted "wasted," there is still time for him to turn his career around. If Harrell can manage to provide a solid 16-game season for the Packers—even as a backup—the help would be tremendous. He just needs to stay healthy.

The third man on the roster that could seal the end is Johnny Jolly. While he was a part of that atrocious run defense from last year, possibly moving to a 3-4 would help him. I do not think Jolly has the potential to become anything close to a nose tackle, but positioned at end is intriguing.

His 320 pound body certainly has the mass to take on a few lineman, but he isn't a playmaker. He does have a certain knack to knock a ball down, but he only has one sack in his entire career and zero forced fumbles.

Then we have the draft. The highest rated player that would fit the system would be LSU's Tyson Jackson. B.J. Raji is more of a NT; Orakpo, Brown ,and Maybin would fall into the same situation Aaron Kampman is now in.

Jackson would be somewhat of a reach and with the issue of OLB still looming, Thompson may draft a DE in later rounds of the draft.

The trenches of the NFL is where you can win or lose games. Finding the two starters and the depth to replace will be key to avoid the late game collapses witnessed in 2008.

It is by far the most important question the Packers must answer to have a successful 2009.