The BIG 3 are Coming up Huge for the Packers Defensive Line

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Ryan “Big Grease” Pickett has anchored the Packers defensive line through the first two weeks.

The big three — and I literally mean the B-I-G three — on the Packers defensive line have come to play through the season’s first two games.

Packers = soft? It looks like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly have taken it upon themselves to change that equation.

The trio, which weighs a combined 1,000 pounds, played a key role in containing Colin Kaepernick’s running and shutting down Frank Gore in week one. On Sunday against the Redskins, they collapsed the pocket in the first half, allowing blitzers to get in Robert Griffin III’s face.

Pickett even swatted a pass and Raji was wagging his finger after a couple stuffs at the line.

All three players are free agents after this season. It’s an easy talking point to say that players are better in their contract years, but I don’t necessarily buy that theory (that talking point has been proven false, for fantasy football purposes, anyway).

Pickett is a prideful leader who wants to prove he still belongs. Jolly knows he’s beyond lucky to have another shot at both life and the NFL. Raji is an uber-talented player who can be unblockable in stretches.

Whatever the reason, all three are playing great and it seems like they’re energy is giving the entire defense a boost. I’m really looking forward to what this defense can do when Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward return and take advantage of what the Big Three are doing up front.

Sure, it’d be nice to get more of a pass rush out of the Packers’ defensive line, but if the Big Three can keep can keep winning their one-on-one matchups, it should free up others to get after the QB while keeping the run defense strong.

Another player to watch: Datone Jones.

The rookie has been invisible the first two weeks. Not sure if his ankle is still bothering him or if he’s just going through the typical struggles of a rookie defensive lineman. Either way, if he manages to come around and provide a little pass rush, this d-line could go from solid to downright dangerous in a hurry.

I know it’s early. But through two games, we can’t call this Packers defense soft (a little lost in the secondary at times, maybe, but not soft). A big reason for that is the play of Pickett, Raji and Jolly.

If Jones can get up to speed and maybe make the Big Three into the Big Four, watch out.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • aaronqb

    The 2013 defense has a shot at being one of the best in the NFL. The stat line yesterday doesn’t show how dominant they were.

    I agree the Big 3 are the big reason for the improvement, but Perry/Neal are a big upgrade from last year and I’m looking for improved secondary play when Burnett and Hayward return.

    After a few more games we’ll have a better picture of the NFL, but as of now, I like what I see.

    • Dobber

      Better than 2012, yes. Dominant? We’ll see.

      • aaronqb

        Dominant yesterday. They were pitching a shutout when McCarthy called off the dogs.

    • http://MSN Mark

      Contract years = big performances. Coaching IS tough.

  • jay

    Whatever the reason, all three are playing great and it seems like they’re energy is giving the entire defense a boos

    *their

  • JC

    I like them but they really limit the pass rush. They are all playing because they are currently the best D linemen the Packers have. Hopefully Datone Jones will crack that group and add a much needed dimension of pass rush. It is great having Jolly back as he may be best playmaker of the three.

  • Mike Charron

    The “Big Three” are awesome as long as Clay Mathews continues to play All World and can get through his constant double and triple teams. God forbid he gets hurt then you would see what the “Big Three” can do. Without Mathews this defense is mediocre at best due to zero pass rush generated bu anyone else. This really becomes exploited against playoff quality teams – hence our difficulties the last few years in the Post Season. How did the 49′ers make out against the real pass rush of the Seahawks? They didn’t have 400 yards passing did they? Let’s be realistic about what we really have. Washington was a train wreck yesterday and not the type of team we would meet in the playoffs this year, the 49′ers are. We need a little more track record before we can deem this group as the 2nd coming of the 96 Packers.

    • bubbaloo

      “Let’s be realistic about what we really have. Washington was a train wreck yesterday and not the type of team we would meet in the playoffs this year, the 49′ers are”.
      You’re right, and if the Packers don’t fumble, bounce interceptions to the other team off their knees, and get stupid penalties they can beat the Niners too! I live in the SF Bay area and have yet to see the big, bad, dominant 49er’s everyone seems to want to talk about, I saw what they can do last night!

    • http://allpackers.com nick perry

      Well gee, it was the first game of the year and we were already without our best Corner and Safety. We played a very controlled pass rush so Kap wouldn’t kill us with his legs. Do we have a secondary like say Seattle? No, but we have a pretty damn good one. The packers were much to concerned and rightfully so, to create running lanes with a all out pass rush. Lets see what happens with Burnett and Hayward in the line up, and Bakhiteri and Barclay with more than 6 games of experience. The pass rush will be there and the run Defense has been GREAT!

  • packett

    It seems that the Dline has and will continue to improve throughout this year. With rotations, and good depth, this seems like on agenda that can be checked off, as having been addressed. The front 7 looks like a top 5 defense to me. But the part of the defense most frustrating to fans has been the middle of the field of play, and was the reason GB defense appeared soft…giving up the 7-10 yard pass across the middle on 3rd downs. I’m not sure that was addressed yet. That seems to be the responsibilities of Middle LBs and Safeties. Its too early to predict without Burnett and Hayward….so, we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if the defense can finally drop its label of being soft. Say what you will that it was just ‘garbage time’, but I can’t see a tough defense yielding chunks of yards at any time during a game.

  • Dobber

    Question: was C.J. Wilson hurt or a healthy scratch? If he was a healthy scratch, it says a lot for these guys.

    • mudduckcheesehead

      Healthy scratch as far as I know. You’re right, it says a lot about these guys – especially Jolly, who replaced CJ in base. MM and DC must believe Jolly’s fully back to football shape to give him the kind of reps he’s been getting without having CJ there to spell him like in the SF game.

      This is awesome for Jolly and awesome for our D. I do hope, however, that CJ is active on future game days as our big guys start feeling the wear and tear of a long season.

      • Stroh

        Pretty sure I said all off-season Jolly would make Wilson expendable/redundant. Not too toot my own horn. Same player basically but Jolly is better and brings intangibles we need.

        • mudduckcheesehead

          Not expendable and not redundant. CJ is a solid rotational player who can help keep the whole unit fresh. I’d much rather see him active on game day than a TE or ILB that only plays special teams.

  • Eric J.

    Get Morgan healthy. Start working with Hyde at safety, so when Hayward comes back, we don’t have to take him off the field. He’s better than the two try-hard guys we have there now.

    • http://allpackers.com nick perry

      Well said Eric. I’ve suggested the Packers should sign Kerry Rhodes instead of going at it with Jennings and McMillan. Id Rhodes a perfect fit, no but he knows where the hell to line up! McMillan was atrocious in San Fran with all his missed tackles and generally looking lost. Since we all know Ted T. will stick with his drafted players NO MATTER WHAT, Hyde might be a hell of a lot better option than either McMillan or Jennings.

  • C

    Rookie defensive lineman will flash, but they always take time. Outside of Cortez Kennedy and Warren Sapp rookie defensive lineman historically take more time than any other position. Check your expectations.

  • mark

    I hope the see the Packers “bring the House” as in Davon House, on more blitz’. His take down of RG3 was great!

  • TOM V

    I love the fact that the Pack kept 7 DL this year not counting Neal. They can now bring it every down and do not get worn down later in the game. This will enable the defense to get off the field and help out our offense. The sky is the limit for this team if we get improved safety play.

  • GBPDAN

    CJ Wilson was a healthy scratch. …I saw that Jolly and D Jones got a little banged up yesterday. Does anyone know if they are ok? I hope Sitton doesn’t have a serious disk problem in his back. Typically, when a back spasms and locks up, its due to weak or strained lower back muscles, or an underlying spinal problems. I hope hes ok. Sounds like Burnett might be out next week, bummer.

  • Savage57

    When the Packers made the decision to give Johnny Jolly another chance, I thought at the time, or maybe more acurately hoped, that it might turn out to be TT’s best ‘acquisition’ of the off-season.

    Maybe there’s some element of esprit de corps that he brings to the group, or respect for the hard work to come back from so far away. Whatever it is, it’s working for these three so far.

    Yeah, more splash plays would be nice, but getting to the QB under Capers D falls on the OLB’s. Clay and Perry/Neal have to find ways to win their one on ones.

    • bubbaloo

      Capers’ D? So who’s responsibility is it to get a D-Back to cover the middle of the field, or to draft one that can? Damn, we miss Nick Collins!

  • Mojo

    The bigs have done a good job so far. The thing that makes me wonder is why we don’t have more sacks. The fat guys are holding the point, we have prototypical size at OS LB and yet only one sack on RG3 who was a pocket passer Sunday. Outside of CM3 I haven’t seen much pressure on the opposing QB’s, even on blitzes.

    Don’t know if they game planned containment against SF and Washington to the point of be overly cautious, but I need to see more pressure. Should see what they have against a pure pocket passer like Dalton.

    Anyway, the big guys are doing well to contain the run, which is much better than last year.

  • Oppy

    Why is anyone talking about Datone Jones making it the “Big Four”?

    Have any of you peeps been watching Mike Daniels? He’s been a monster, and is regularly drawing double teams.

    I’ll say it one more time. WHIRLING. DERVISH. BEAST.

    If Jones comes around, it’ll be the big five.

    • Oppy

      …even if Daniels isn’t exactly “big”, lol

      • Kal

        So, big four and three quarters? =D

    • John Willard

      A bit of hyperbole about Daniels. He does bring additional energy and quickness…’Regularly drawing double teams’…if he has, I have not seen it…

      • Oppy

        Then you haven’t watched

  • gman

    I was lucky enough to be at the game and was very impressed with Jolly. Almost more so for his leadership, he is always meeting guys as they come off the field, young and old, he seems to spend his time on the sideline keeping guys heads in the game. He might make a good QB coach someday, cause he also spent a lot of time talking to 12 before and after he came off the field.

    Watching the game live I thought Mike Daniels was great. He is ultra quick and plays so hard. He was everywhere!

    Another guy that looked good was Mike Neal, they didn’t move him against the run, and has a hell of a bull rush. Just guessing but I think the tackles were getting sick of blocking him. He is violent out of the two pt stance with a running start. If he keeps improving with exp. and can stay healthy he could be real fun to watch.

    On offense Finley looks like the best athlete on the field, what most people wouldn’t give to be built like that.
    Last year he couldn’t stay on his feet in the open field, Sunday they couldn’t get him off his feet. At the end of the game the D-backs did not want anything to do with him.

    Also, the mind games the Packers offense plays during timeouts with personal groups is very very interesting to watch.

    TE’s and RB run off the field at the last second and Cobb Jordy and JJ step off the sidelines line up without huddling and run the play all in 5-10 secs.

    • White92

      Agreed about Finley. I am very excited to see if he can finally realize the very high expectations.

    • Oppy

      Great observation about the personnel package shifts on the fly.. I’ve never noticed that trick coming out of a TO.. Devious!

    • John Willard

      Gman, excellent comments re: Mike Neal developing at OLB…J. Finley: Flashes of brilliance, inconsistent and the most overrated TE in the NFL…

  • Wagszilla

    BJ Raji = “big” in size only.

    • John Willard

      So far, an average D-Lineman for the past 2+ years…

  • Stroh

    Jolly is bring exactly what he did in ’09. A physicality and aggression that has been missing for a couple years. Now he’s also being a rally point that I think others want to get him a SB ring. Making Wilson redundant quickly.

  • larry valdes

    Jolly was our miss dl no collins.go go jolly .

  • http://packers.com steve

    Capers plays Two down lineman way too much. Our secondary plays too much zone way too soft. Our middle is wide open every game. would like too see us go to 4 down lineman with our personell. with raji and jolly in middle jones and daniels outside matthews either rushing quarterback or covering their tight end or running back out of backfield.our safetys play way too far of line of scrimmage need to be more aggressive.