Green Bay Packers: Jarius Wynn Pushing to Secure Starting Job at Defensive End

Michael DulkaContributor ISeptember 11, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 08: Jarius Wynn #94 of the Green Bay Packers smiles on the bench near the end of the NFL opening season game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Saints 42-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers DE Jarius Wynn started in the Packers base defense against the New Orleans Saints, filling in for Mike Neal who was inactive with a sprained knee. After Wynn posted a strong performance against the Saints, Neal's knee better heal up quickly if he intends on gaining back his starting position.

Wynn was drafted by the Packers in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft after a successful career at the University of Georgia. He played sparingly in his rookie season, playing in 11 games but only registering four tackles in those games.

After a somewhat uneventful year in 2009, Wynn was back in camp in 2010 ready to compete for a spot on the crowded Packers defensive line. A decent training camp wasn't enough to convince coaches he was one of the best 53.

Following an opening day season-ending injury to the oft-injured Justin Harrell, the Packers contacted Wynn and brought him back. He played in 12 games, including two playoff games and the Super Bowl, registering 1.5 sacks, four solo tackles, and two assisted tackles.

This year, many believed that Wynn was in camp competing for a chance just to be on the roster. Now entering Week 2 for the Green Bay Packers, Wynn has a decent shot to steal the starting gig away from Mike Neal. 

With the offseason departure of Cullen Jenkins to Philadelphia, the Packers have looked for a player to step up and fill the spot. Mike Neal was expected to be the main ingredient, but missed most of training camp with the injury. The role then went to C.J. Wilson, but a concussion forced him out of action as well. Then Wynn stepped in and hasn't looked back since.

Neal's injury occurred as the player participated in a non-contact drill in practice on August 16th. Neal returned to the practice field earlier in the week, but was unable to ready himself for the Saints. Wynn got the nod ahead of C.J. Wilson and turned out a spectacular performance.

Against the Saints, Wynn was credited with three solo tackles, one assisted tackle and a sack. Throughout the evening he was in the Saints backfield getting pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Wynn was in on the game's final play as part of the group that collapsed the line and prevented Saints running back Mark Ingram from scoring a game-tying touchdown, barring the two-point conversation.  

In the Packers base defense, Wynn was part of the three-man defensive line that also featured B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. In order for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' blitz packages to work, it is essential that all three bigs up front can create pressure. On Thursday night, the Packers were successful getting pressure on Brees, bringing him down for three sacks.

Along with his recent success on the field, Wynn has looked to improve his relationship with fans. He has joined up with First String Public Relations led by PR man Alex Tallitsch. Since then, Wynn has been frequently interacting with fans on Twitter and even offering contests through the social media site and his Facebook page.

The contests have asked fans to post creative pictures, pictures of their meal that day and videos, with the winners receiving Wynn's game-worn cleats. Wynn's Twitter profile can be found here. A play on the Charlie Sheen's "winning," Jarius often tweets about "#wynning."

Wynn has taken Packer-nation by storm. If he is able to maintain his extremely high level of play, he could realistically beat out Neal for the starting job complimenting Raji and Pickett on the line.

What once appeared to be quite the weakness, the defensive line looked very strong against the Saints and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, who has an excellent grasp of pressure and getting the ball out quickly.

The unit should look even better next week as they take on the Panthers. In what will be his second game, rookie quarterback Cam Newton doesn't have the same presence that Brees showed. If Wynn gets the start against Carolina, he will have a significant opportunity for yet another big performance and a chance to further prove himself as a reliable starter.