10 Ways Johnny Jolly's Suspension Affects the Green Bay Packers
Johnny Jolly's year long suspension came as a surprise to many Packer fans and experts alike.
On the surface, the suspension seems harsh considering that Jolly has not been in any previous legal trouble. However, Jolly's suspension is for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy and not due to a violation of the league's personal conduct policy, which would leave one to believe he may have failed some league-mandated drug tests and he could get an additional suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Although we do not have all the details on Jolly's suspension at this point, one thing that is certain is that he will not be playing for the Packers this year.
Here is a look at 10 ways Jolly's suspension will affect the Packers.
Reduces experience along the defensive line
With Jolly gone, the Packers now have very little experience on the defensive line beyond Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett.
This will be the first year for both Mike Neal and CJ Wilson, the second year for both B.J. Raji and Jarius Wynn, and fourth year player Justin Harrell has spent most of his career on injured reserve.
Are the Packers, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, comfortable with such limited experience on the defensive line?
Bigger role for Mike Neal
It was decided in June that the Packers would start Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins on the end of the defensive line with B.J. Raji playing the nose tackle spot.
Johnny Jolly figured to be the next man in the rotation, but now that will most likely be rookie second rounder Mike Neal.
Neal is a powerful lineman who played defensive tackle at Purdue and will play defensive end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. Defensive ends in a 3-4 defense don't usually get a lot of attention, but Neal's play will be heavily scrutinized this season.
CJ Wilson and Jarius Wynn should both make the team
There was some speculation that CJ Wilson might be relegated to the practice squad or that they could release Jarius Wynn, but in Jolly's absence they could both find spots on the Packers roster.
It's possible that they could be beat out for a roster spot by someone currently on the roster like Ronald Talley or Anthony Toribio who was called up from the practice squad last year, but Wilson and Wynn should be the favorites to make the roster.
Jolly signed his $2.5 million free agent tender in June and the good news for the Packers is that they will not have to pay any of Jolly's 2010 salary because of his suspension. Jolly was not signed beyond the 2010 season.
End of Career in Green Bay?
Most likely Jolly has played his last season in Green Bay and possibly the NFL.
The suspension handed down by the NFL was indefinite, allowing Jolly to apply for reinstatement after XLV, but depending on the outcome of his pending trial for felony drug possession coming up at the end of July, there is a chance he could be suspended past this year as well as face serious jail time.
If Jolly is not suspended further and does not do any serious jail time I would look for another team to pick him up. There are many teams in the NFL that would definitely look past Jolly's off-field issues to get his production on the field.
Harmful to Packers image?
The Packers have been known to look for "Packer people" when selecting players in the draft. Players who are dedicated to football and have few off field issues. One player getting suspended should not cause any significant damage to their image, but Jolly is not the only Packer with legal issues recently.
Corner back Brandon Underwood was accused of sexual assault earlier this summer and is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be charged with a crime. Tight end Spencer Havner injured himself crashing his motorcycle and was being investigated for suspicion of DUI.
The suspension doesn't exactly make the Packers the Bengals of the NFC, but I would think the Packers will examine character concerns even more closely from now on.
Ted Thompson looks smart
Many people, including myself, were critical of Ted Thompson's choice of Mike Neal. Neal was projected as a mid-round pick, but was taken in the second round by the Packers.
My guess is Thompson and the Packers knew there was a good chance Jolly would not be playing this year and that it factored in to the decision to draft not only Neal but CJ Wilson as well.
Whether or not Neal pans out remains to be seen, but if he does, Thompson's most criticized pick of the draft will look like a wise decision.
Justin Harrell will have one more shot at making the team
Justin Harrell's failings as a Packer have been well documented. a first round pick in 2007, Harrell has rarely seen the field due to injuries.
Jolly's suspension is no guarantee he will make the team, but if he can stay healthy it is one less person he must fight for a roster spot.
The Packers may look at a free agent pick up
There are very few quality defensive linemen available at this point, but once players start getting cut in camp the Packers may look to pick up a veteran lineman.
A trade is another possibility. I would not expect any sort of blockbuster deal, but possibly a deal similar to last years deal that sent Tony Moll to the Ravens for safety Derrick Martin. Something that could add some experience to a young group of players.
Packers Super Bowl Aspirations
The Packers have become a trendy Super Bowl pick this year among both fans and NFL experts.
The good news for Packer fans is that the suspension should not immediately effect the Packers chances at making a run at the Super Bowl. However, if there is an injury along the defensive line, depending on the play the reserve linemen, the Packers defensive line could go from being one of the teams greatest strengths to being a weakness.
The Packers chose not to address the outside linebacker position in the draft, hoping instead that the defensive line will be able to create pressure. If the defensive line is not able to get to the quarterback or at least make the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket, teams will continue to the exploit the Packers' fatal flaw much like the Arizona Cardinals did in the playoffs.