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Jolly Makes Impact with Big Plays, But Will It Be Enough?

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Jolly Makes Impact with Big Plays, But Will It Be Enough?

As if anyone in Packer Nation needs reminding, Johnny Jolly has returned from a prison stint and is in the middle of one of the greatest comeback stories of all time, trying to find the magic he had as a defensive tackle before his life was derailed.

We're all Jolly fans, none more than my fellow CheeseheadTV and Cheesehead Radio partner, Jayme Snowden, who has been clearly driving the Jolly Bandwagon long before his comeback attempt was crystalized. And last night's performance sent any remaining nonbelievers jumping on that bandwagon, now creaking and groaning under the weight of every Packer fan in the world (as well as nearly all of his teammates).

Indeed, I announced victoriously on Twitter that, after creating havoc in the backfield, tipping away one pass for an interception, then picking off his own on the goal line, that he had made the team. After all, isn't this what we so desperately missed last season: the Big Play? Isn't that what we brought him back for: to see if he still had that disruptive force he once had?

Boom. Done deal.

But this is the NFL, and one-game explosions are no guarantee. The Packers have invested heavily along the defensive line, and have a lot of young talent that they would be loathe to cut from the team. For 30-year old Johnny Jolly, he's going to have to make a clear case before the Packers release a recent draft pick.

And that brings me to my conundrum: is the Big Play enough to make the team?

I recently wrote about the career of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilia, a Packers HOFer that lived and died by the Big Play. He was a speed-sack specialist, but unfortunately, his sack totals amounted to a very small percentage of the number of downs he actually played.

Mike Sherman made the decision to elevate KGB to a full-time defensive end, and saw the productivity falter at that position during that time. Perhaps Gbaja-Biamilia still got in his 10-12 sacks per season, but the rest of the time he was nearly invisible.

What's important is that when Mike McCarthy came on the scene in 2006, it was the beginning of the end for KGB. When you're playing 425 snaps a season, and only making an impact on 10 of them, you're going to find yourself on the sideline more and more. McCarthy wasn't going to play around with older vets who weren't available and accountable.

Which sets the stage for another defensive lineman trying to make the club, with a plethora of young talent already ahead of him on the depth chart. And, I had to realize that, as a fan and an observer, I am smitten with the Big Play. Interceptions, batted balls, dramatic tackles for losses...all of these make us fall in love with a player, and Johnny Jolly did that in spades last night.

The reality is what happens on the other 80% of snaps where Jolly didn't make a big play. I did my best to observe Jolly when he was in there, and usually saw him holding his block on those "other plays". But it comes down to the coaches going through the tape and grading out Jolly as to what his assignment was on each play and if he executed those plays properly.

Don't get me wrong. Big Plays have a way of sticking in coaches' minds, too. Young, no-name players strive to do something to get the coaches' attention, and to be certain, Micah Hyde did an awfully good job of that, too. Big-play capability is just as valuable an asset for a player as any other metric.

But, it is just one metric, not the end-all, be-all. How many times have we seen a young running back have an amazing game in the preseason, only to not make the final cut when the roster went down to 53? In the end, what is going to keep Jolly on this roster is going to be the tandem of his disruptive, big-play ability and his down-in/down-out ability to be more valuable than one of the other roster wanna-be's.

Set in stone are BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett, Datone Jones, and Mike Daniels. This puts Jolly in competition with CJ Wilson, Josh Boyd, Mike Neal, and Jordan Miller, for what will likely be the final two spots. Some are pinning hopes on Mike Neal making the team as a linebacker, but after watching him in space, I'd say Neal getting injured again has a higher likelihood.

On one hand, it makes the odds pretty steep: do you cut the solid rotational guy in WIlson, the lingering promise of Neal, or the draft investment of Boyd for Jolly out of sentiment? No. He is going to have to earn his spot.

But one only has to take a long, hard look at last year's final three games to see that whatever talent we had along the defensive line wasn't quite enough to stop Adrian Peterson and Colin Kaepernick. And something will have to change between then and the season opener against the 49ers if we're going to expect different results.

And suddenly, the Big Play potential of Johnny Jolly has that much more value. I'm no coach or GM, but I've already pencilled in Jolly on my Final 53. Time will tell if McCarthy and Ted Thompson will see enough to do the same.

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C.D. Angeli is a longtime Packer fan, and a Packer blogger since 2005. You can find his Johnny Jolly-sized articles at CheeseheadTV, listen to him weekly on the Packers podcast Cheesehead Radio, and find him playing good cop over at PackersTalk.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TundraVision.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (61) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Donnie's picture

Jolly is getting better and better everytime I see him play. The growth from Family night scrimmage to game 1 to game 2 has been awesome. I honestly believe that Jolly will have to come out the next two games and crap the bed completely to get cut. Boyd hasn't really shown me anything. Gamble on him making the PS. I say keep less TEs or cut Kuhn and keep 7 on the DL. Raji, Pickett, Jones, Daniels, Jolly, Wilson and Neal. Just my 1 1/2 cents.

QOTSA1's picture

I hope Jolly makes the final roster, not because of the story, but because I think he is one of the better defensive linemen they have.

I think Jolly has shown that he can be much more of an impact player than CJ Wilson.

Stroh's picture

Who would you rather have? Jolly, who makes plays is a tough run stuffer and adds a toughness sorely lacking on the Packers D? Or CJ Wilson, who allegedly is a good run stuffer on poor run defenses? Please... Its not even close and I've been saying it since Jolly was re-instated. Jolly just cemented his roster spot!

Stroh's picture

And this isn't a one game explosion. He was making plays for the Packers for a couple years before his suspension. Has CJ Wilson EVER even had a one game explosion? I think I'm still waiting to see it!

PackersRS's picture

CD makes excellent points regarding the big plays alone not being the end all, and I agree with him.

But I also agree with you in that, even grading play by play, he's still ahead of Wilson etc...

cd angeli's picture

Alas, Stroh...that was the point of my piece: it's not a matter of who I want, its a matter of who Ted and Mike want. If we selected our final 53 by fan polls, I'm sure Jolly would be the starting DE.

But he's not going to get any bonus points for what he did three years ago. That's an eternity in football years, and if that's true, Starks should be ahead of everyone in the running back battle.

RS, thanks for catching the point. And I do think he had a great game. But one game does not a roster spot wrap up when you are an NFL coach and GM.

Stroh's picture

Jolly may not get bonus points for what he did 3 yrs ago, but its not lost on the coaches either. Jolly has been an impact player before, has shown it this preseason/training camp and as he gets in better football shape theres no reason to think he won't continue. And even if he doesn't as much as he did in '09, he still makes more of an impact than Wilson ever has!

Nobody's suggesting it should be popularity vote among fans, but I'm sure the coaches see and know more than we do. But as the saying goes, film doesn't lie. Jollys film shows a hell of a lot more plays than Wilson.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think what it boils down to is conditioning. Jolly is struggling with not being in football shape. But he seems to get a little better in that department every week. My guess is that as his conditioning goes up, his play-to-play grade will improve as well.

Stroh's picture

He's got almost another month till the regular season. That'll help a lot... Jolly is still a little too heavy too, if he could drop about 15-20 lbs it would be a big help for his conditioning. I read earlier today that Jolly is still near 340. If he drops down to 325 where he, allegedly, played in '09 he'll regain the endurance and some more quickness.

Patric's picture

I think the biggest thing with Jolly will be how well he grades out against the run. He Was always great at holding that right side (from offensive view point)against the run, and from what I saw yesterday (against backups most likely) he continued to hold his ground, push them back a little bit, but most importantly, though he may not have pass rush, he -always- is looking to get his hands up when the pass is being thrown.

I believe if he can continue to do these things the last 2 games of the preseason the Packers will grade him high enough to keep him. He may be 30 but he did have time off and so we may not know the true 'football age' of him.

Jamie's picture

Too
Many
Words

PackersRS's picture

Go
Watch
Glee
And
Leave
The
Reading
To
Those
Who
Want
To
Learn
Something

Jamie's picture

W
T
F
Is
Glee?
And
W
T
F
Was
There
To
Learn
Here??

Bibbon Hazel's picture

CJ is nothing but a body. Boyd (tbd), Daniels, Jolly can all make plays that stand out. CJ uses oxygen, that's it.. Seems like an obvious decision.

DBh's picture

Jolly beat his blocker and (this is the key...) wrapped up the RB in the backfield or at the line on many occasions last night. I don't see other guys - even our starters - capitalizing on winning one-on-one matchups like Jolly does.

Stroh's picture

And he beat a double team block to make a tackle for loss last nite too. I didn't see it, but I read it.

Drealyn Williams's picture

well...hopefully this means goodbye to CJ Wilson. At this point,isn't Boyd as effective (one dimensional) as Wilson? Raji,Pickett,Jolly,Daniel,Worthy and Neal?

Larry R's picture

CJ Wilson isn't going anywhere. He's better at the run than anyone on the line.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Raji? Pickett? Really? Stop it.

Stroh's picture

CJ isn't better than Pickett, Raji and now even Jolly. He's allegedly a good run defender, but somehow he's always been on POOR run defenses. While the opposite is true for Jolly. Jolly was the best DL on the Best run D in '09 and that wasn't an accident. Jolly even now is better than Wilson. And IMO, they are fighting for one roster spot between them. Who do you think is winning that competition?

That's w/o mentioning the passes defensed and attitude that Jolly also brings to the D!

Just stop about Wilson already. Decent but non-descript player at best.

PackerBacker's picture

Don't you think that's a little too simple? Jolly was on the line with Raji, Pickett and Jenkins. It was the grouping that was strong against the run, not just one player. Don't get me wrong, he was a part of it, but it was the grouping as a whole that made the difference.

Stroh's picture

If you read around, everyone, coaches and journalists all say that Jolly was the best DL on the team in '09. WIlson's been playing w/ Pickett and Raji, who is a better run defender than Jenkins was. Why has the Packers D been so poor the past couple years? Jolly was the driving force behind that run D. He was outstanding in his play, but he also provided the toughness that was instilled in that D and he was a physical player that the team fed off. So Jolly provided attitude, toughness, physical play and he also had 11 passes defensed. Wilson is allegedly a good run defender buy he's always played on POOR run D's and he doesn't provide anything other that solid, at best, play. No attitude, no leadership, he's not a physically intimidating player. He's just a player, nothing more.

Jolly was a lot more than just a player. He was a physical player, an emotional leader and the best DL player on the #1 run D!

2 share owner's picture

Um.......Jones?

Stroh's picture

Jones instead of Worthy, who's out for quite awhile yet.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I really have to start referring to him only as Datone. The only Jones I instinctively think of is Brad Jones. Raji,Pickett,Datone,Jolly,Daniels and Neal. If they treat Neal like more of an OLB then maybe Boyd makes it in as back-up NT???

2 share owner's picture

I was thinking that's what you meant Drealyn.

Stroh's picture

Or DatOne... LOL Anyway, I think they'll got 7 DL w/ Neal being a hybrid type OLB/DT. I like Boyd as a NT too. I can see him on PS this year putting on another 10-15 lbs and coming in next year as a backup NT. Something I've mentioned in the past.

Chip Soup's picture

If Jolly is cut, I'll be P.O'd. Period.

TwoMoreCuts's picture

I want Jolly to make the team, but above all I want Jolly to play football this season. If it doesn't work out in Green Bay, hopefully there is a team out there who needs some D-Line help and is willing to part with a late round draft choice.

PackerBacker's picture

I was thinking the same thing. Hopefully a team with less depth will pick him up if the Packers don't keep him.

Blue Jay fan.'s picture

I now it's preseason. Still lets be the packers GM for the next nine days. First thing first lets cut the some of the tight ends and running backs. Jolly can play full-back and def. Bears, 49's watch out.
Lets say Jolly on third and one. Raja can block during the Bear game. Go Jolly! Jolly be Good....

2 share owner's picture

Go Jays!!!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Yes.

Lucky953's picture

Both Jolly and Wilson will be playing for somebody this year. I hope Jolly is a Packer. I think he'll continue to play his a** off. Repeated positive comments from TT and MM lead me to believe he's going to make it and deserves his spot. Lots of teams looking for DL help. Do you think Josh Boyd could safely be stashed on the PS?

2 share owner's picture

Safely? No. Possibly? Yes. Depends on the next 2.

Bearmeat's picture

Simple solution: Keep 7 DL. This team is better with more DL. It always has been.

If only 3 OLB's are good enough to make the team, make it up there.

Or better yet, make Masthay kick field goals and get rid of 2 problems in 1. ;)

al's picture

i told ya first before jhonny jolly was back and theirs no dout he makes 53 man roster !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ben's picture

me 2, jolly has "it". He's been making plays since I saw him at lambeau his rookie pre-season. He has the nasty that any defense needs. Best d-lineman on the team much less fighting for a roster spot. How can anybody even hint of him not making the roster, idiots?

RJW's picture

Listen to McCarthy's comments after the game. A player can't get a better endorsement and it is clear the coaches see Jolly capable of doing things the other D linemen cannot. JJ makes the team unless he takes a huge nose-dive in the next two week.

ben's picture

Anybody who doesn't see we are looking at a contract extension before we'd cut Johnny Jolly is not paying attention.

ben's picture

QB: Rodgers, Harrell
RB: Harris, Lacey, Green, Franklin, Kuhn
WR: Cobb, Nelson, Jones, Boykins, Walker, ross
TE: Finley, Mulligan, Quarless, DJ, Stoneburner
T: Bakhtiari, Barclay, Newhouse, Datko
G: Sitton, Lang, Taylor
C: EDS, Von Roten
S: Burnett, Richardson, McMillian, bush
CB: House, Shields, Heyward, Tramon, Hyde
OLB: Matthews, Perry, Moses
ILB Hawk, Brad, Manning, francois
DL: Datone, Jolly, Neal, Danials, Raji, Pickett, wilson
ST: a kicker, goode, masthay

Practice squad: banjo, barrington, palmer, boyd, dorsey, johnson, pease

Stroh's picture

TE - Take out DJ and Stoneburner. Add Taylor if healthy he's a core ST player. DJ has dropped his last pass in GB and Stoneburner can go on PS.

WR - I think only 5 make it. If Ross is the returner, Walker is out. I don't see both making it.

OL - 9 OL is a high number. I like the guys mentioned, but Datko on PS works.

DL - Wilson doesn't make it IMO. They would keep Boyd over Wilson. They could go w/ only 6 and have Boyd on PS too.

ILB - They'll keep 5 for sure, so that opens a spot for Barrington or Lattimore. LB play a lot on ST so for sure one and quite possibly both make it.

OLB - Im starting to think Mulumba and Palmer make it over Moses.

I don't know how many that puts on the 53, but are my thoughts.

BradHTX's picture

Another thing about this roster projection: Richardson at Safety over Doc Jennings? Highly doubtful. Jennings and McMillian seem to not be cooperating with the "One of you please stand out for us" idea, but they seem complementary. Richardson's recovery from his neck injury is completely up in the air at at this point.

Stroh's picture

Good point. I completely missed that. At this point, I've about written Richardson off for this season. At best he'll be on PUP, and probably end on IR, at worst he'll be done in the NFL.

jim's picture

Jolly was a beast when he played before. His knack for getting his hands up and batting down passes puts a quick hit on any drive. I was sorry to see him miss these last few years. But, he is back, and if he is in any way as good as what he once was, I cannot see the Packers cutting him. If put to the task, I would think that keeping more good big men on the dline would be beneficial, as big men tend to tire a lot quicker when giving 100 percent. I recall times when the Packers had Lang play on the dline in goal-line situations and I think a Jolly addition would be an awesome ingredient for a tenacious dline.

packsmack25's picture

Good write-up CD, but Neal is a lock, hombre.

ben's picture

easy lock, with extension as far as i'm concerned. Lock'em up with jolly & shields (for the right price)

Fish . Crane's picture

97 til 2017 then into the Packer HOF It's possible.

PackRat's picture

Don't give away roster spots to Bush and Kuhn. Francios and McMillan have done great and there isn't a need to keep Kuhn for 3rd down blocking with Lacy and the improvement in Green. Mulumba, Palmer and Boyd will not survive to the practice squad with Ted disciples in Miami, Oakland, KC , among other places. Assume everyone that is cut will be picked up by teams with inferior rosters and those who know Ted's penchant for finding undrafted talent. Also worried about who gets through to be our "practice squad" receivers...

Frank Rizzo's picture

Very well said Rat!
But I don't see this improvement in Green you mention.

Everything else I agree with.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Every year about this time people worry about players making it through to our PS. And every year, they almost always do. When you look across the league, we're definitely not on top when it comes to PS players getting grabbed, which is a good thing, but people still get worked up about it.

Don't sweat it, yo.

Robert's picture

Nice post PR.
Worried too
Young guys need to step up...)

aNEWpackersJERSEY's picture

My heart for the Packers organization might suffer a murmur if Jolly doesn't make the team after these 2 preseason efforts. Not only is it clear we need a guy like him, but he's also a great comeback story and a seemingly humble dude. He's "Packer People" for sure...

Drealyn Williams's picture

you're so right

al's picture

is it enough com-on-man jhonnys in and you no it get real wow that's the dumbest question ever asked on here wake up !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PackerBacker's picture

Dude, you need some punctuation if you want to be taken seriously.

Yikes.

Barutan Seijin's picture

Not sure that the "big plays" vs. "steady DL performance" dichotomy is valid. Jolly has beaten his man/men. Can't ask for more than that.

Robert's picture

JJ is well liked in the locker room and is bringing a positive attitude to our team of " never give up ".
I love all who wear the Green and Gold but the "Packer Way" is what defines Our goal of being the greatest franchise in the NFL and beyond.
Everyone needs a second chance in life, no exclusions. Some get three or more with no results.
JJ is doing everything right after a longer suspension than more nefarious players to prove his true character, commitment, ethic and morals with Our team that has always been about doing things the right way. Win or lose, The Packer Nation has and always will be a reflection of the people who support our team, 80,000 strong in the stands with a million more across the globe.
I have never had the Privilege to see Our team in person but being born and bred in Texas, I have seen what a Team is and never "Drank the Kool-Aid" of the local football franchise here in North Texas where I reside. For all of the people who say my words are irrelevant or my post is too long, my apologies.
They are not meant to you but for "Worlds Team".
Be Blessed,

Go Pack Go

LDickey's picture

If Jolly is as good as some here believe then Pickett's $6.7m cap number becomes something to consider. I see a guy who flashed against non-NFL starters. Plug him in against the Seattle starters and then let's discuss.

Cole's picture

Boyd is not getting cut. He is the only lineman that isn't a free agent at the end of the year besides daniels and jones obviously. And he's looked pretty good, albeit against 3rd stringers, but he's much bigger than daniels, jones and worthy. Give him some playing time along with Jolly against the Seattle first unit.

I would keep both Boyd and Jolly and keep only 3 OLBs.

Evan's picture

You're asking for trouble with only 3 OLBs.

I'd look to keep at least 4 (maybe not counting Neal) and make up the roster space by keeping only 5 ILB.

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