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Johnny Jolly vs. Josh Boyd: The Tale of the Tape

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Johnny Jolly vs. Josh Boyd: The Tale of the Tape

Feel free to imagine a Michael Buffer voice...

In the red corner, we have the veteran from Houston, Texas. He has five years of NFL experience and is 30 years old. At 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 325 lbs., he's Green Bay's own "J.J. Swat" ... his name is JOHNNY JOLLY!

Over in the blue corner, we have the rookie from Philadelphia, Mississippi. He's 24 years old and preparing for his first season of professional football. Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 310 lbs., he rode to Titletown on the SEC Express ... he's JOSH BOYD!

Okay, perhaps hyping up Johnny Jolly and Josh Boyd as a one-on-one prizefight is a bit unfair. In reality, they're competing with players from every position for one of 53 spots on the Packers' regular season roster.

But it's extremely difficult to see the Packers keep any more than seven defensive linemen on their roster this season, and even seven would seem to be pushing the limit for a team that––more often than not––utilizes only two defensive linemen on the field at any one time.

Green Bay would appear to have six defensive linemen that are near locks for roster spots. First round draft choice Datone Jones is obviously one of them. Veterans B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are also set in stone.

Beyond the top three, C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal and Mike Daniels are all good bets to be part of the defensive line rotation. That leaves Jolly and Boyd competing for a seventh spot on the Packers defensive line.

No doubt about it, an injury can change the complexion of the entire Packers roster in a moment's notice. But assuming no major injuries occur between now and the end of training camp, especially on the defensive line, there are precious few jobs up for grabs.

Ever since coming off his three-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and returning to Green Bay, Jolly has been on an upward trend. He's gone from simply trying to get into shape to subtly doing a solid job to making impact plays in this past Saturday night's preseason game.

After having a hand in two turnover-generating plays against the St. Louis Rams––an interception and a batted pass that led to an interception––Jolly is demonstrating that he can he can shake off the rust to be a force once more in the NFL.

At the very least, Jolly is making a decision extremely difficult on head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson whether to take a chance on the formerly imprisoned defender.

The question is, can they afford to keep Jolly, who's currently playing under a one-year contract, at the expense of a much younger Boyd, who's under team control for the next four seasons?

There's always the chance the Packers could try to stash Boyd on their practice squad, but if they cut him, they're taking a risk. They'd be gambling that no other team extends him an invitation to their 53-man roster, a situation where Boyd would essentially be lost and gone forever.

In keeping Jolly, the Packers will be banking that his troubles are behind him, that he's matured and won't break the team's trust. They'll also be looking for him to be a playmaker. You can bet your bottom dollar they're not going to keep Jolly to linger as one of the mandatory seven players inactive on regular season game days.

The Packers can afford such a luxury with Boyd. He's a promising but raw prospect, but also one they can allow him to develop until he's ready for the bight lights of primetime.

Or is there a way to actually keep both Jolly and Boyd on the roster?

One way would be to keep eight defensive linemen on the roster, an almost unheard of number for a team employing a 3-4 defensive system. But then again, this is a coaching staff that has kept three fullbacks and five tight ends over the past few seasons.

By keeping only three true outside linebackers on the roster, Neal could be the de facto fourth outside linebacker if he's able to pull off a hybrid type of role.

The Packers could also make sacrifices at other positions on the roster, such as keeping only three halfbacks or five wide receivers or three safeties.

Or they could make the difficult decision of cutting or trading one of the other defensive linemen, like Wilson or Daniels or Neal. Such a situation seems unlikely, but maybe not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Whatever eventually happens, the Packers are working from a position of power. Being too deep on the defensive line is certainly more enviable than being too thin.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (74) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

QOTSA1's picture

I like Boyd, but if I had to choose one or the other, I would take Jolly. I think Jolly has shown that he can be a very good player in this league.

In the next few weeks there will be a ton of players getting released, so I don't think there will be teams lining up to sign another team's 5th round draft pick, making it pretty likely that they could get him on the PS. However, with so many of the Packers defensive linemen becoming free agents next year, will they want to risk it?

WisconsinRob's picture

I've come around to the thinking that it's not Jolly & Boyd fighting for a roster spot, it's Jolly, Boyd & say a 4th TE or 4th RB fighting for 2 roster spots.

Evan's picture

I haven't been watching Boyd closely, but I just find it hard to believe teams will be lining up for him. Jolly, on the other hand, will almost assuredly get picked up. Probably by the Vikings.

TommyG's picture

this is the most likely situation.

mudduckcheesehead's picture

Oh please God, NO.

redlights's picture

Might they extend Jolly and try to slip Boyd through to PS?

Evan's picture

I certainly think Boyd can and will be put on the PS. As for extending Jolly, there isn't any rush.

rjwh23's picture

They will keep Jolly and place Boyd on the PS if they're confident another team won't add him to a 53 man roster or will consider Neal in the LB numbers. Thompson didn't bring Jolly back to be a nice guy. He had a performance level in mind for JJ to make the team. Unless Jolly faiils miserably during the next two weeks, he has met or exceeded Thompson's expectations.

jeremy's picture

Boyd -> Practice Squad

taco's picture

I think the Packers need to err on the side of urgency. Jolly was playing at probowl level just when his private life fell apart. Now that he seems to have put that back together, he also seems to be quickly regaining where he left off on the football field. In just a few weeks. At this rate--and I was a doubter--I now think he'll be able to contribute significantly this year and next. I just don't know about Boyd yet. I would take the chance that Boyd clears waivers; or if the staff is high on him and thinks he just needs a year or two, cut Wilson who's ceiling seems lower than Jolly's. For that reason, this may come down to Jolly vs. Wilson. Either way, it's a tough call but a good position to be in.

Cow42's picture

Every year there are 1 or 2 guys who we all think are gonna get "stolen" if placed on the PS... and every year no one "steals" 'em.

Keeping 8 DL means you're going to have to cut a special teams contributor like a LB or TE or RB. That's probably not going to happen.

Too many good DL= a good problem to have.

Put Boyd on PS. If someone does snatch him you still have Worthy coming back next year (not that I'm real high on Worthy but at least he's something).

Brian Carriveau's picture

Yup, that never happened to Brandian Ross last year.

jeremy's picture

I'd rather see Boyd go to the Raiders than Jolly go to the Vikings...

jeremy's picture

Boyd's biggest accomplishment has been not looking overwhelmed. To release a proven vet who has only 4 seasons of wear and tear and was the anchor of 2009's top ranked rushing D to keep him sounds kinda stupid.

Jersey Al's picture

"Every year there are 1 or 2 guys who we all think are gonna get “stolen” if placed on the PS… and every year no one “steals” ‘em."

My thoughts, exactly. Boyd to PS, Jolly to roster. Neal as DL/OLB swing man.

Jay's picture

I agree with this, but still think it comes down to Boyd v. Wilson, not Jolly

Mr J's picture

Love Jolly, Makes plays, teammates love him, good for team moral, makes us a tougher team.
As far as Worthy goes, I know he hasn't done much and has has several injuries but I still believe in him. At Mich State, he was a beast. When he played the Badgers he was the one guy I feared

Chris's picture

To me its between Boyd and Wilson for the final spot. Jolly has already made it imo. I've never been impressed with Wilson. We know his ceiling and its not very high. Boyd at least still has potential and is younger.

I bleed Green More's picture

To me Jolly has made the team, he wants to play again and you can see it.

Nick Perry's picture

Exactly, I know CJ Wilson is the run stopper for the Packers. If that's true where the heck was he last year? Jolly doesn't have the wear and tear on him that most 30 year old linemen have. I'd keep Jolly over Wilson, Kuhn, every TE except Finley, Green, Starks just to name a few. Question is does MM get rid of any offensive toys for defense? I'd think so but like mentioned already, this is a guy who kept 3 fullbacks! I think someone would claim Boyd off the practice squad. Tough decisions ahead. I really hope Jolly plays lights out this next week against the Seahawks and leaves Ted with no choice but to keep him. Good luck Johnny!!

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree... To me its more of Boyd vs Wilson. Wilson will be a free agent, and his only trait is run blocking. I thought Boyd showed against the Rams some pass rush potential.

If they can stash Boyd on the PS that would be nice. But your always taking the risk of someone else picking him up.

Also remember most of the players that we worried about losing were undrafted free agents. Boyd was drafted. Not that it means a lot but it does say something.

L's picture

Agreed. At this point I too think it's between Boyd and Wilson for a roster spot if the team doesn't think Boyd will make it to the PS, plus I give the benefit of the doubt to Boyd if they believe he wouldn't make it to the PS.

2013-14 DL Prediction:
Raji - NT/DE
Pickett - DE/NT
Jones - DE
(Neal) - DE/OLB
Jolly - DE/NT
Daniels - DE
&? Boyd/Wilson - NT/DE or DE

2014-15 DL Outlook:
Raji? - NT/DE
Jones - DE
(Neal?) - DE/OLB
Jolly - DE/NT
Daniels - DE
Worthy - DE
Boyd - NT/DE

L's picture

Also, if Wilson is indeed on the chopping block then see if he can be traded for a special teams kickoff/put return guy from another team b/c he should hold decent value considering he's been a starter on this team and he hasn't performed terribly by any means.

My best guess though is that the team tries putting Boyd on the PS.

redlights's picture


Lucky953's picture

Wilson for a safety

nick perry's picture

Agreed, the Packers drafted him in 5th round. One magazine I bought before draft had him as a 4th to 5th rounder. I really doubt he stays on PS a whole year. Someone will nab him. I've never been a Wilson fan. A one trick pony and not all that great at his one trick IMO.

LDickey's picture

Does Pickett's $6.7m cap number come into play here? They play with two DL's 60% of the time and we have a strong stable of DL's. Jones, Raji, Daniels, Jolly, Boyd, Neal, and Wilson plus $6.7 in cap space.

Evan's picture

Come into play how?

LDickey's picture

They release or trade him.

Evan's picture

Oh. No way.

Hbuff's picture

I too have questioned Picketts worth. Yes he is good at stopping the run but there is very little after that. He is 34 and 6.7 mil against the cap this year. If Boyd is truly worth keeping (Jolly has out played all other DL this preseason) we should consider parting ways with Pickett. The value for the cost is not there.

nick perry's picture

I thought the same thing but I really doubt they get rid of grease just to keep Boyd. I myself am a D.J. Williams supporter but my fellow Packers fans see a lot more of the preseason than I do and think he's expendable. I always thought if they actually let him play the results would be better. Williams has become a pretty decent blocker, made a few catches Saturday, but missed that long pass by Harrell. I doubt Finley, Quarless, any of them hang onto that pass, coverage was pretty good. This team keeps turning over, younger and younger. At some point you need to have some players that have more than 2 or 3 years of time in NFL IMO.

DraftHobbyist's picture

The guys that would have been released for salary reasons would have already been released I feel. Why would the Packers wait until now and then tell Pickett that he never had a chance to make the team because they don't want to pay him? The closest thing to something like that happening IMO would be potentially with Crosby.

Evan's picture

I don't think Pickett will or should go anywhere, but if he were to go it wouldn't be solely "salary reasons." It would be based on primarily the development of the other d-linemen (which is why it would happen now and not months ago) while taking future considerations into account.

jrunde0's picture

Good thoughts, Brian.

Bearmeat's picture

Simple solution to all of this: Put Boyd on IR. Find a scratched pinkie or something.

jeremy's picture

He can't practice on IR...

Drealyn Williams's picture

this is a stand up organization

Bearmeat's picture

Not being able to practice is better than losing a good developmental prospect to the Vikings.

And don't fool yourself Drealyn - this happens every year on every team. Mysteriously, dozens of NFL players need season ending surgery on cutdown day.

I bleed Green More's picture

As far as I am concerned cut a tight end. This team is loaded baby, bring it on the season is about to start.

jh9's picture

Hey, can either of them play offensive tackle? (At least give me a chuckle!)

jh9's picture

Seriously, what makes C.J. Wilson a lock?

TommyG's picture

The cap hit they would take by cutting him.

packsmack25's picture
jh9's picture

Thanks. That makes sense. However, if the Packers are seriously looking for a difference-maker, I honestly can't recall C.J Wilson making such plays or being that kind of player. I'm willing to see what happens in these next two preseason games, but if Johnny Jolly continues to play like he did against the Rams he will have shown himself to be that difference-maker and he has to stay.

nick perry's picture

I doubt that too. Wilson a big cap hit? Common man. $12500.00 cap hit...That's nothing. Just think if Ted actually cut Crosby and signed a real kicker, that's a cap hit and way Crosby will be the kicker for Green Bay. Last season proved cap hits are more important to Ted. Nobody else would have kept that dude through that slump. Accountability, that's what every person is held to in the Packers organization, or so where told every year by Mike. Well except M.M., Ted T, and Crosby it seems.

larry valdes's picture

I always thouh that we miss jolly more than jekins.

mike's picture

i think boyd goes to the p.s he still needs some work and needs to gain some weight so he can take picketts place in the future

ben's picture

The biggest need for this team is a kick and punt returner. Cobb is just too valuable. Ross has some ability but his hands can be disastrous. Franklin is not a kick returner.

I'm guessing and hoping ted will be able to pick off somebody when another team tries to sneak em on their practice squad.

For now I'm hoping alex green get some work there to put him over the top in making the roster. I think he may be able to get us thru the regular season until cobb takes over the duties when it counts in the playoffs.

ben's picture

what about shields as a returner? fastest guy on the team, has some ball skills, was a receiver in college, comes from a position of team strength?

put him in there

packsmack25's picture

They tried it his rookie year, he's bad.

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah. I remember that. Ugh.

Patric's picture

The same reason you don't put Cobb there anymore. Too important to team. Shields makes plays, sometimes he can be sloppy but he's a playmaker and you don't want them injured in a kick return with guys barreling towards you.

ben's picture


Stroh's picture

Dump Wilson. He's a body, not much more. For his alleged ability vs the run, he hasn't elevated the play of anyone else and he's been a key contributor to the Packer POOR run D the past 2 years! Jolly is just the opposite, he makes impactful plays, he add toughness and tenacity to the D as a unit, he knocks down passes, makes tackles for loss. Jolly has and is still capable of doing everything the Packers have missed since he was suspended. Maybe not at quite as high of a level, but a hell of a lot better than Wilson!

This is such an easy decision to me, I just don't see how you can make a case to keep Wilson!

RC Packer Fan's picture

I don't feel quite as strongly about dumping Wilson, but I do agree with you.

I think its between Boyd and Wilson, not Boyd and Jolly..

BrianD's picture

I was impressed with how Ben Stockwell graded Johnny Jolly over at

"Returning to the NFL after he has turned 30, Johnny Jolly is wasting absolutely no time staking his claim for a spot on the Packers’ final 53 man roster. In his two preseason games so far, Jolly has a +4.6 overall grade and he built on his solid start against the Cardinals last week with an even more impactful display on only 14 snaps against the Rams last night. Jolly crammed in three tackles, one of which was a stop, a hurry, a batted pass which led to an interception for Jarrett Bush and an interception of his own off of a deflection by Loyce Means. That’s a lot of work to be fitting into only 14 snaps, 10 fewer than last week, and Packer fans should be eager to see if and how the defensive coaching staff can slot Jolly back into the defensive line rotation this season."

Lewis's picture

It actually would have been nice if you has broken down their tape and given us some more information as to what they are good at with examples..

for what it's worth, I can't see them cutting Jolly. They way he has played after such a long lay-off warrents a spot on the team in my eyes. rare movement for a guy that size with an uncanny ability to locate the ball with his hands. This D-line cut is going to be very difficult for sure because I did like what Boyd brought to the table against the Rams. Perhaps Wilson will be on the outside looking in? A good run defender but with very little upside.

Jay's picture

I seem to remember seeing Boyd pushing his man back into the pocket and actively using his hands on several occasions later in the game--albeit against backups.

Stroh's picture

"Perhaps Wilson will be on the outside looking in? A good run defender but with very little upside."

Yeah, except that Wilson has always been allegedly a good run defender on REALLY bad run Defenses. So really can he be that good?

Jay's picture

That's not exactly a fair point on Wilson's. If Wilson holds his gap but the rest--or even one (cough)Erik Walden (hack)--don't, then the defense gets shredded.

Stroh's picture

Maybe not totally fair, but it is the truth. Jolly meanwhile was the best DL on the best run D in '09. Wilson, Pickett and Raji should have made a strong DL vs the run. Both Pickett and Raji played w/ Jolly in '09 too. So why the drastic difference between '09 and the past couple years? Run D starts w/ the big boys on the DL and Wilson was a part of that! IMO he was a fairly good part of it.

And the part about limited upside in spot on!

mani2packers's picture

Packers should trade Jolly and Boyd for AJ Jenkins because 49ers really know how to draft!!! Right Cow?

Lucky953's picture

Trade Wilson for a SAFETY

Jake's picture

I haven't seen Boyd do much of anything. I wouldn't be afraid to expose him to waivers.

Bugeater's picture

Defenses need play makers and disruptors - Jolly is showing that he still fits into that category. He's the type of player who does things that ignite a defense. I think it also doesn't hurt to have a vet who has been through a lot and really has learned to appreciate playing - goes a long way in the locker room I'll bet. That kind of toughness and potential leadership could come in handy in January.

Lou's picture

When Thompson talked about Jolly having an innate ability to play the game prior to the exhibition game you knew he was a lock. The best way to describe him is he is a man among boys and no defense in the league needs to get rid of the "soft" label (whether it is deserved or not) more than the Packers. If Neal is listed as a LB then keep both, with Moses disappearing as a player it looks like Neal replaces him. I would not count on Worthy this year, being a defensive lineman the legs get really tourqed, and may lead to another ACL like Gamel if he comes back too soon.

PackerNation's picture

There are other choices between just Jolly v. Boyd.

For the record, I think Jolly has played his way onto the team. I also think it'd be foolish to expose Boyd by trying to stash him on the practice squad. Boyd is one of the few linemen we have who is under contract for next year; Pickett, Raji, Wilson, Neal, and yes, Jolly are all in the last year of their deals.

I also think that the 'cut Wilson' crowd is wrong....he was a starter for us last year and according to McGinn and others he's had a very good camp. He's a solid guy, in the clubhouse and on the practice field and cutting him because he's "not a difference maker" is just short-sighted.

We could carry all of these guys if we're willing to part ways with Dezman Moses. Or we could put Banjo on the PS and go with three safeties and Bush as the emergency 4th guy.

Or we could look to trade away one of these guys who is in the last year of his deal.

My attitude right now is keep them all and part company with Moses.

Stroh's picture

Cutting Wilson to keep playmakers makes a lot of sense, especially considering that Boyd has some talent. Who would you keep Wilson over?
Pickett? Not a chance
Raji? Hell no.
Neal? Don't think so not if you value Neal's pass rush.
Jones? He's is a lock.
Daniel? Another good pass rusher.

So it comes down to at most 2 of Jolly, Boyd and Wilson. I don't see keeping 8 DL, not when base is 3 DL and we use only 2 most downs anyway. Wilson is a decent, at best player. I doubt the Packers could even find takers for a trade of him. 7 DL counting Neal as a DL, even tho he'll be a hybrid. He's not really capable of being a full time OLB, just in packages of plays (read option?).

Jolly and Wilson are both really only run D players, like Pickett, and Jolly is just better!

treg's picture

I think Boyd will be a p.s. member and be replaced by a D man from next years draft.

MarkinMadison's picture

Brian, not trying to be a jerk, but when you said, "tale of the tape" in the headline I thought that maybe you were going to tell us what the tape told you. The discussion the other day turned to whether Jolly was playing well on all downs, and not just the ones where he did something spectacular. Did you have an opinion on that argument?

Brian Carriveau's picture

"Tale of the tape" is an idiom used in boxing to relay pre-fight measurements, a reference to using an actual tape measure. Hence the boxing imagery.

As far as Jolly's performance, he only played 15 downs, and he made a positive impact on a good number of them. Obviously it's a small sample size and he's playing against backups, but he's playing well when he's out on the field.

MarkinMadison's picture

Who you calling an idiom!?! :-) Sorry, caught begging for a little visual analysis. I think the real question with Jolly is can he put out enough quality snaps? If his conditioning is good enough that they can rely on him to start if they have then he is a lock. If not, then the Packers will be taking a bit of a chance by hanging on to him.

Al Dante's picture

Isn't the real question 'who is playing the best'. I mean Boyd has all the advantages of youth and the dis-advantage of experience. My take, either he can play at this level or he can't. Yes green around the edges but is there something there to be developed or not? Not everyone out of the SEC is a four star athlete.
Maybe just maybe, he isn't that good. Never will be. This team has an issue with that.

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