Defensive Line: The Inside Push to the 53-Man Roster
The training camp days have finally come upon us, and the Packers are looking to take the NFC North by storm and make it back to the postseason. The Packers are being noticed by many, not just with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but with its greatly improved 3-4 defense under Dom Capers. The pressure is on, and the race to the 53-man roster has now begun.
The Packers have now gone a year into Dom Caper's 3-4 scheme, with obvious improvement in 2009. Now with a full year into the system, the 3-4 looks to go a little deeper for Green Bay's defense. As the playbook gets deeper, the Packers must fix the holes and rough patches so that their defense will not sink as it did against the Cardinals. The coaching staff must now go over these patches and choose the best players to make them smooth once more.
It all starts up front, with the defensive line. With the 2010 suspension of Jolly, this actually opens up an opportunity for the line to show up and prove they belong. They must be able to hold blockers to open up play for the linebackers, as well as help stuff the run and give more inside pass rush. This looks to be one of the deepest positions on the defensive side.
Currently, locks, bubbles, and wild cards look to be here as follows:
Locks: Pickett, Raji, Jenkins, Neal (draft status)
Bubbles: Wynn, Talley, Toribio
Wild Cards: Harrell, Wilson
Ryan Pickett is currently one of the best, experienced line men the Packers have on the roster. BJ Raji, a 2009 first round pick, showed promise near the end of last season and holds potential to do more in a starting role. Cullen Jenkins, like Pickett, holds plenty of experience with the Packers as well and is a key contributor. Mike Neal, being a second round pick in 2010, is known for his pass rush ability and holds a spot because of his status.
The bubbles, known as Jarius Wynn, Anthony Toribio, and Ronald Talley, are here due to the drafting of second and seventh round picks Neal and Wilson, respectively. Wynn, a sixth rounder in 2009, has bubble status due to the Pack drafting two linemen, hinting that he may not panning out as the coaches hoped. Toribio has yet to actually step onto the field for the Packers at all since he was signed in 2008. Talley has not been much of a factor and hopes to continue to retain a spot.
The two key wild cards in this D-line deck are Justin Harrell and CJ Wilson. Harrell, as every Packer fan knows, is injury riddled every year, only appearing in under half of NFL games in his career and being labeled as a bust thus far. No Harrell injury update has come thus far, and this is truly a make or break camp for him, made more apparent with the insurance of two healthier linemen.
Wilson, a seventh round pick in this year's draft, is known for his pass rush ability and is taking a little notice. He could be likely to steal a roster spot with a good training camp and preseason. Some are calling him a steal in the seventh round.
The Packers are likely to keep six or seven defensive linemen for 2010, and this group will be able to enhance the Packers inside pass rush, a lacking figure in 2009 that became apparent once opponents blocked the outside pass rush.
Who do you think will make it? After all, training camps are where the roads to championships begin.
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