Packers expect young defensive linemen to step up

Khyri Thornton (left) and Datone Jones (right) chat during a break at training camp.

GREEN BAY - Arguably no position group on the Packers has seen as much turnover this year as the defensive line. Gone are veterans like Ryan Pickett, CJ Wilson, and Johnny Jolly. The Packers coaching staff has faith that they have the bodies on the roster to replace the departed defensive linemen.

The defensive line received an infusion of youth the past two off-seasons with draft picks like Khyrie Thornton, Josh Boyd, and Datone Jones. They'll be counted on to produce.

Jones, last year’s first round pick understands the way the NFL works. "Every day we come in here you've got to remember this is a business and it's our job. You've got to perform every day or they're going to find somebody that can do what you do or better," Jones said.

His position coach, Mike Trgovac likes the hungriness that comes with youth. "I like the aggressiveness they play with. You referred to the young guys earlier that’s what young players give you. They give you that aggressiveness and emotion that we expect to see," Trgovac said.
With the rookie learning curve gone, the team expects a leap from their second year d-linemen Defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, said there’s a blue print for the younger players to follow within their position group. "Last year you saw Mike Daniels take a big step now this year we're hoping to see some other guys take a similar step.
Jones, who seemed really fired up to get the start in the first preseason game, also seems excited to have more expected of him. "Now we are the older guys. The rookie guys look up to us. Now we're setting the example, we’re writing the book."

Second year defender Josh Boyd said both knowledge and comfort in the system should help him get off to a faster start this season. "Last year I came in and I didn't know nothing so I had to learn from the ground up. This year I've been in it for a year and I'm trying to learn the schemes and why team are trying to do certain things to us so it's a little easier for us to run a play," Boyd.

As the staff attempts to sort through the talent on their roster Saturday's game against the Rams will serve as a powerful evaluation tool. "I think in this particular game once we get past the ones I think it will be particularly important for them to establish a rotation,” Mike McCarthy said. “That's what you want to see, the ability to get in and out of multiple personnel groups, not just playing base and not just playing sub."

Mike Pennel, an undrafted player from Colorado State-Pueblo, knows that preseason games are the time to shine. "They have a great offensive line so anything you can do against them will be held up to a higher value. That opportunity, I'm just ready to get it on and prove to the coaches I belong here," Pennel said. Even for undrafted players, the opportunity is there, they just need to grab it