Jun 11, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly works out during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Jolly's Role on the Team Expands


The Green Bay Packers played their base 3-4 defense more than usual on Sunday. That’s understandable considering one of their top priorities going into the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers was to stop Frank Gore and contain Colin Kaepernick.

But when the Packers starting defense took the field, it wasn’t #98 lining up alongside Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji, but #97.

Yeah, that’s right. Johnny Jolly got the start at defensive end to open the 2013 season.

Pretty amazing considering Jolly was a long shot to even make the team this year. He returned to the Packers in the offseason after being suspended from the league for three years and spending some time in jail for his involvement in drugs.

Jolly has really turned things around since the suspension. He’s gone through rehab and gotten clean, he got married, he was given a chance to compete for his dream job, and he had a great preseason that earned him a spot on this team.

Jolly’s journey is one of the more compelling and inspirational stories of the year. Here is a man who has overcome some real challenges in life and has become a better person for it.

Now, Jolly is starting on the Green Bay Packers to begin the 2013 season and picking up where he left off in 2009.

Talk about redemption.

Tramon Williams (38) and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (97) tackle San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Tramon Williams (38) and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (97) tackle San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Jolly-Pickett-and-Raji three-man defensive front proved to be very effective against one of the best offensive lines in the league on Sunday. The Niners’ Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, and center Jonathan Goodwin are no chumps. They are some of the toughest linemen around.

But Jolly, Pickett, and Raji held their own, and even at times, outmuscled the Niners’ big interior three.

The Packers’ front seven, anchored by the three veteran defensive linemen, held the powerful Niners’ rushing attack to just 16 yards in the first half. They held Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore to 44 yards rushing on 21 carries for an unimpressive 2.1 rushing average.

This says a lot for a Packers team who only a year ago got demolished twice by the Niners’ ground game.

Now, the Packers still have plenty of things to shore up on defense from the loss on Sunday, but the way the Big Three on the Packers’ defensive line played should offer some encouragement for the season.

They will definitely be tested against the likes of Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte, but the next step is facing the challenge week two presents. The Packers will go up against last year’s top rushing offense in the league, the Washington Redskins.

Jolly’s new role on the team will be more vital than ever as he teams up with Pickett and Raji to form a solid defensive front against Alfred Morris and the Washington ground game.

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Tags: B.J. Raji Green Bay Packers Johnny Jolly Ryan Pickett

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