Will any of these Packers D-linemen Rise Above JAG Status?

Mike Pennel

Even if the Green Bay Packers re-sign B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, they still could use help on the defensive line. That help could come via the draft, a Ted Thompson free-agent signing or Datone Jones finally living up to his first-round draft position.

Or maybe it could come from a JAG currently on the Packers’ defensive line. “JAG” is a (somewhat snarky) term for “Just a Guy,” or a replacement level player who isn’t very good. Current JAGs on the Packers d-line are Mike Pennel, Luther Robinson, Josh Boyd, Bruce Gaston and Khyri Thornton.

Could any of these players become more than JGAs in 2015 and give the Packers defensive line the boost it needs?

Mike Pennel
Of all the JAGs, Pennel probably has the most promise. There’s a reason the Packers kept him as an undrafted rookie following an exhibition season where he showed an incredible mixture of strength and athleticism. We didn’t see that carry over into real games, but it usually takes defensive linemen — regardless of where (or if) they’re drafted — at least one season to get going. Pennel’s ceiling remains high. Even if he doesn’t become an impact player, I think he’s good enough to provide the depth up front every good team needs.

Josh Boyd
Boyd has had a few non-JAG moments. Are these moments of stellar play a sign that the still-young Boyd is more than just a JAG? Or do we already know what we have in Boyd after two seasons: a JAG who occasionally will tease us with non-JAG moments? You don’t see 300-plus pound guys with Boyd’s athleticism often. I’d like to see what he could do if he got a little stronger.

Luther Robinson
We don’t know much about Luther Robinson, but he sounds like a tough dude. You have to be tough to sign as an undrafted free agent following an unproductive college career under two different coaches at Miami, then stick on the roster when competing with a third-round pick (Thronton) for reps and attention at training camp. Robinson also played basketball in high school, and has decent athleticism for a 305-pounder to rush the passeer. That athleticism was on display in Green Bay’s home win over the Vikings in October, where Robinson tipped a pass and notched two quarterback hurries. Actually, Robinson looked good in games 5-8 when Jones was out, but then Robinson landed on IR on Dec. 4 with a calf injury. We’ll see if Robinson can once again outshine Thornton and any other drafted defensive linemen in training camp and rise about JAG status.

Bruce Gaston
Of all the Packers JAG d-linemen, we know the least about Gaston. We know he was signed off Arizona’s practice squad Dec. 8. We know Green Bay was his fourth team. We know he ran a 4.96 40 and bench pressed 34 times at the combine. We know he’s big — 6’2″ and 315 pounds. We know he never played a snap in Green Bay. We don’t know if he has what it takes to be more than a JAG. It’ll probably be tough for Gaston to prove himself come August, but we’ll see.

Khyri Thornton
Nobody had really heard of Thornton when Ted Thompson drafted him in the third round and nobody has really heard of him since. By all accounts, Thornton was a disaster in training camp. Passive, short, no pass rush and easily gobbled up by blockers was the scouting report before Thornton hurt his hamstring in the exhibition finale and landed on IR. You hate to write a guy off before he ever played a single down in a real game, but Thornton’s rookie season didn’t make you very confident that he’s more than a JAG.

Final thoughts
If just one of these current JAGs could grow into more than a JAG this season, I’d be happy. Perhaps Pennel as a run-stuffer in base. Boyd taking another step and providing athletic depth. Robinson becoming a decent pass rusher. Thornton or Gaston doing anything. As a draft-and-develop team, the Packers rely on young players shedding their JAG status in years two and three. We’ll see who, if anyone, steps up along the defensive line.



Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


30 thoughts on “Will any of these Packers D-linemen Rise Above JAG Status?

  1. The 3rd round was BLECCH this past year. An over-drafted Rodgers and a wasted pick on Thornton. Maybe that’s the garbage we have to sift through to stumble onto a Corey Linsley in the 5th round.

    1. Richard Rodgers played very well for this team and will only get better in the years to come. Passing and hoping that he’d be there at the bottom of the 4th would have been foolish.

      I agree Thornton was a reach and overall strange pick

      1. Rodgers could prove to be a very valuable 2nd TE/h-back. Has the body to really lay blocks, just needs to learn to do it. Like his hands too. In no way was that a bad pick. Thornton will sink or swim this year. i think he sinks.

        1. I agree Rodgers is going to be a killer back breaking TE when he is paired with another deep threat type,

    2. Rodgers II has excellent hands, AR says the best on the team. The guy CAN catch the ball. He might not be that fast vertical TE we were all hoping for, but he became a better blocker as the season wore on and caught some tightly contested 3rd down balls for 1st downs. I like him a whole lot more as the season wore on than I did in the beginning. I think we have a excellent player in Richard Rodgers. Now, watch that year 2 jump!

      1. I agree Nick. Remember Finley as a rookie? It was a disaster until the very last game against Detroit where we saw flashes of what would be a great 2nd season.
        Richard Rodgers showed steady hands all season long. Not an issue with drops at all unlike with Finley. Rodgers is also huge and going to be integral this season helping open up running lanes for Eddie The Hammer Lacy.
        I like Richard Rodgers. A great pick by our living legend Teddy Tee!!

  2. One has to scratch his head and wonder what TT was thinking when he drafted Thornton… When it comes to defensive lineman TT should have someone kick him in the sack repeatedly until his eyes cross and then decide on a pick.

    1. Ted doesn’t seem to get good intel on these D linemen. If he is doing these evaluations and selections in isolation, then I agree a good kick in the sack is called for. I suspect that other people are also making assessment mistakes in this process. Get the steel-toes on…

  3. Basically, the entire Packer’s DL is a question mark, second only to the ILB position. If Raji is re-signed there is no guarantee that he can return to his 2010 form at NT, but at least he has good size and experience. Guion, who knows where he will be by the time training camp opens and even if he is given a legal reprieve he is still a second level player. Daniels was not mentioned in the article and while he may be the best of the bunch he is nowhere near a dominant player. He plays hard and makes some good plays but he gets pushed around and over powered on many plays. As for the rest, none of them have shown that they can hold the point of attack with any consistency. It’s hard to say if any will emerge to become more than just JAGS or depth on the DL. The Packers need at least 2 DLs. One who can dominate the LOS and at least one other who can hold the point of attack. If they can find 2 such players then Daniels is fine as the third man. If the Packers can’t find them in the draft or FA, then they need to re-sign Raji and Guion, keep Daniels, D. Jones, Boyd and maybe Pennel. Chuck the rest and hope for an FA pick up. Robinson, Gaston and Thornton are non-factors and just bodies at this point. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. It is extremely rare for TT to find a single DL let alone two in the same year. The only two DL he has drafted with any ability at all was Raji and Daniels. And, as you say, both are second level at best. Let’s face it Packer fans, TT drafts defense the same as MM calls plays – horribly. But, hey, the fans love ’em because they are their guys so pay ’em $10MM/yr for another 5 to 10 years. God help us if anything happens to 12 – he is TT/MM’s meal ticket. Any questions?

      1. Raji (the way he looked last year in camp) and Daniels are solid starters, Raji has been a really good at times. Jones has to the potential to be a solid starter, maybe better. Not sure if you realize we play a 3-4 defense, that means if the 3 mentioned player produce (kind of a big if but certainly possible) our starting D line is pretty good. This situation is not very dire…… not nearly the hole we have at ILB

      2. Archie – just to clarify, i was referring to Guion as a second level player. In any case you are correct that TT has not done well in drafting DLs. However, to be fair, the other side of the discussion is that the Packers best draft position since the 2009 draft has been last year’s #22 pick. Every other year since 2009 the Packers have drafted at #25 or higher. This year we have the 30th pick in the 1st round. The best DLs are long gone by the time the Packers have drafted since the Raji pick back in ’09. I’m not saying that TT could not have done somewhat better but after the top picks are gone the draft becomes a crap shoot. He may be able to pull the DL version of Linsley in the 2nd or 3rd round and maybe pick up an FA to shore up the DL. Resign Raji and Guion and keep D.Jones, Boyd and Pennel. Maybe that approach could net the Packers at least some DL improvement for 2015. ILB is an even bigger need than the DL for this year. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. Thanks, Since ’61

  4. Pennel and Boyd are fine depth players. Datone should be on this list since, so far, he hasn’t done anything to be moved out of the JAG category. Some of the college profiles on Thornton said he needed to put on weight in his legs, so that could help.

    In my opinion, the D-line needs to either get smaller and faster for rushing the passer, or bigger to eat blockers for the linebackers. Having a bunch of guys who aren’t great at anything isn’t working. I said it last week, and still feel the Packers should consider signing Greg Hardy and letting him play DE.

  5. No, the real questions were why Carl Bradford and Kyrhi Thornton in the 4th and 3rd rounds respectively. Carl Bradford is WAY undersized to be pass rusher in the NFL and Thornton showed little more than nothing when it came to play. There were plenty of other options at those picks that were more suitable, chris borland and Louis Nix III being 2 of them.

    1. Bradford is a good prospect at ILB, Thornton prob doesn’t make the team. Borland had a great year but Louis NIx was passed over repeatedly and after a injured 1st year looks like a bust. Pennel is prob a better prospect and we got him for nothing. Have to give it more than a year to play out

    2. “Carl Bradford is WAY undersized to be pass rusher in the NFL…”

      I’m pretty sure the same thing was said about James Harrison.

    3. Borland was taken at 77 and Nix at 83, both in the third round, not the 4th. The Packers did not have a pick in the 3rd until #85 (Thornton).

      Yes, they might have moved up, but at what cost?
      The draft value table suggests a 4th rounder for Borland or a 5th rounder for Nix. Remember you have to trade to an earlier pick than the player was taken — the team that actually wants to pick the guy is NOT going to trade with you.

      Even if you don’t care about Bradford and sixth-reounder Demetri Goodson (and I’ll grant you they didn’t add much value to the team last year), you would still need to find some picks or UDFA to replace them on the roster. Who would that be and would they be able to provide even JAG type depth in a year when we are changing out at least two ILB (3 f we dump Lattimore) and have 3 CB in Unrestricted Free Agency?

      Nor will a team at a earlier pick trade out if they have ANY player they actually want at that pick and don’t want to risk losing before the pick you give them. So who knows how high the Packers would have needed to move up.
      Even if there could have been a trade, Borland ended the season on IR with an ankle injury.

      Nix ended the season on IR; he had the bum knee that put him there *before* the draft. He is on his thrird knee surgery, so it is a chronic issue.

      So the *real* question is why moving up to get either of those two players would be worth giving up players like Corey Linsley?

      Does anyone really want to think about what the O-line would have been like without Linsley to plug the hole at center?

      1. I could have sworn we had a pick before that because of the compensation pick we got for jones leaving but it must have been the 4th round. Dimitri Goodson is going to be a good special teams contributor and I think he’s has the potential to be a starter. As far as James Harrison goes he is an exception and he was quicker and much stronger than Carl Bradford is.

        1. Do you mean Jennings? The Jones compensatory pick will be awarded for this draft.

        2. The highest compensatory pick that is ever awarded is at the *end* of the third round, after all of the regular third round picks are done. Last year that was Rodgers at pick # 98.

          Like dejan says, the earlier picks we had were rounds 1 and 2 and netted Clinton-Dix at S and Davante Adams at WR. No way we want to swap those guys out for a Borland or (especailly) Nix.

  6. Not sure many roster spots are available to add D lineman. Raji will be back, Jones, Boyd, Pennel, Daniels are all under contract. Peppers will be back and Thornton will get a chance to prove he is worthy of a roster spot. That’s 5 roster spots locked in at D line, Pepper is a swing player that plays 2 positions, so 5 and a half. I doubt we carry more than 6 D lineman so if Thornton proves himself (which i don’t see happening) or Guion is resigned, we are already full. At the most, we can only add 1 more player. I don’t see many resources going to the line unless TT really likes someone, and that will likely be a Josh Boyd-like, low round pick. The likely way our D line gets better is a healthy Raji and Jones improving, maybe another guy makes a jump.

    1. We could sign Jerel Worthy. Oops, been there, done that. At least he was a helluva lot better than K Thornton. Latter was as big a disappointment as B Brohm and BJ Coleman.

    2. Pack has at least 5 open roster spots on the DL. That was kinda the point of the article.

      1. 5 open roster spots? You honestly think a 3-4 defense that plays nickel half the time would keep 10 D lineman on their roster? We have 1 spot, 2 if we don’t sign Raji…… That was kind of the point of my comment

  7. I’d put Jones and Perry and possibly even Neal as JAGs too. I include the latter two simply because they can’t really cover anyone as a true SLB or WLB would in a 43. Pennel and Jones are the only ones I really have hope for too….and Jones only has 1 more year before he’s firmly JAG too…sucks

    PS: How AWESOME is it not to have to clarify which Jones I’m talking about anymore? I wish Brad success on the Eagles, but I’m so glad he’s not a Packer anymore.

  8. Datone Jones definitely should be included in the list of JAGs. Agree with comments that Datone and Pennel easily have the most raw ability. It seems not unlikely to me that TT will draft a DL in the first round, depending on how it falls. I agree with Since ’61 that Daniels is not really a dominant DL, but he is very good, and is perfect for the 2-4-5 scheme as his motor never stops, and he tries to pressure the QB even when his initial move has failed or he is double or triple teamed. GB usually keeps 6 DL. Daniels, Datone and Boyd are locks. Raji, Guion and Pennel with fight for 2 spots at DT/NT. Robinson, Gaston, and Thornton will fight for the last spot along with any draft picks. Lots of quantity, not a lot of quality, but a group that GB can live with if necessary (assumes Raji and Guion are re-signed).

  9. Great discussion Packer fans. The only thing I’ll add is – Guion is a longshot to make it back. Even if his legal troubles are resolved, I doubt the Packers are going to trust a guy who had a gun, a pound of weed and cashflow in his truck. The Packers are pretty good at vetting players that they bring into the community and on to the team. Yes, people can earn a second chance but Guion really sounds more like a Viking than a Packer

    1. Guion was a hell of a pickup by TT. No law against cashing a weekly paycheck at a bank and driving home. Sure he had some weed in the car. As Hillary said, “what difference does it make at this point?” Weed is legal in some states now and eventually will be in all states in a few years. Guion did nothing wrong except swerve to miss a pot hole. For all we know Guion had the weed to fill the pot hole that the lazy state highway department workers refused to fix. Sign the man!!

  10. Suppose Cobb walks. Now that Vince Wilfork is a free agent, what happens if you take some of Cobb’s money and pay him to be your NT? How pressing is it to bring back Guion and Raji now?

Comments are closed.