Camp Preview: Battle at DL

DE Howard Green (Jason O. Watson/USP)

Even with Cullen Jenkins' expected departure, it will be quite a battle to provide depth behind B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal. Howard Green, C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn all had their moments last season, and a seventh-round pick was used on Lawrence Guy.

As general manager Ted Thompson likes to say about linemen, the Good Lord only made so many of them.

Case in point, the Green Bay Packers.

At the end of training camp last summer, the Packers parted ways with 2009 sixth-round draft pick Jarius Wynn. A week later, after an injury ruined another season for Justin Harrell, Wynn was back on the team, and he wound up getting a critical sack of Brett Favre late in the fourth quarter of their midseason game at Lambeau Field and teamed with A.J. Hawk to drop Jay Cutler in the Week 17 clash against Chicago.

So, while the ninth or 10th offensive lineman on the roster might not be a big deal, the fifth or sixth defensive lineman can be huge.

That makes the two- or three-man pecking order behind young star B.J. Raji, old warrior Ryan Pickett and the promising Mike Neal vital.

Howard Green, a midseason addition in 2010, started three playoff games because of his run-stuffing ability and participated in 65 total snaps in the playoffs. Green has just one sack since entering the league in 2002 but made one of the critical plays of the Super Bowl by blowing through standout guard Chris Kemoeatu and hitting Ben Roethlisberger, with the flutter ball landing in Nick Collins' hands for a pick-six that gave Green Bay a 14-0 lead.

C.J. Wilson, a seventh-round pick last year, started one playoff game and took part in 64 total snaps in the playoffs. He finished the regular season with a sack and added another in the playoff game against Atlanta. Wilson, whose relentless late pressure on Favre resulted in Desmond Bishop's pick-six in the aforementioned Packers-Vikings game at Lambeau, was a standout pass rusher in college but has the ability to play well against the run, position coach Mike Trgovac said late in the season.

"He's one of those guys that — I don't want to say he's a slow learner — but he's a methodical guy," Trgovac said. "The more he sees things, the better he gets. Each game was proof of that. At the beginning of games, you're kind of getting on him, but as the game goes on, he gets better. The more he sees it, the better he's going to get. He's a strong kid and I think he's got a very bright future."

Wynn played in 25 snaps in the wild card and divisional games but got ample playing time in the must-win games against the Giants and Bears to close the regular season. His best asset is rushing the passer, Trgovac has said.

Rounding out the depth chart: 2007 first-round flop Justin Harrell, practice-squad player Jay Ross and 2011 seventh-round pick Lawrence Guy. The oft-injured Harrell's base salary is the minimum $650,000 but he has roster and workout bonuses totaling an additional $685,000. Ross was a teammate of Wilson's at East Carolina. Guy left Arizona State following his junior season and will be a project.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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