Packers’ young defensive linemen deliver when elder statesmen Jenkins and Raji can’t answer the bell : Packers Insider

Packers’ young defensive linemen deliver when elder statesmen Jenkins and Raji can’t answer the bell

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Oct 26, 2010 ~By Brian E Murphy

~Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy presented AJ Hawk with the defensive game ball following the 28-24 win over the Vikings, and deservedly so.

But our official defensive game ball goes to the trio of BJ Raji, CJ Wilson, and Jarius Wynn as they were the only three guys to play beyond the first quarter on the D-line. AJ, BJ, or CJ, they all get straight A’s last night.

Oct 25, 2010

~by Jason Wilde

~Ryan Pickett could only shake his head. Having spent the better part of the night on the sideline – alongside another injured veteran defensive lineman, Cullen Jenkins – the Green Bay Packers elder statesman sounded like a proud papa. 

Down to only three healthy defensive linemen – second-year men B.J. Raji and Jarius Wynn, and rookie C.J. Wilson – after Jenkins pulled a calf in pre-pregame warm-ups and Pickett reinjured his sprained ankle during the Minnesota Vikings’ first touchdown drive, Pickett knew he’d watched something special during the Packers’ 28-24 victory over the Vikings at Lambeau Field Sunday night.

“It was just three of us,” Raji said. “I’m proud of C.J. and J-Dub. We’re three of the youngest D-linemen, and for us to step up and make some plays, I’m really proud of how we played tonight.

He’d seen the three youngsters come of age. 

“They stepped up,” Pickett, now in his 10th NFL season, said with a smile. “They played big when they had to. They had a huge load to carry – and they did it.” 

While Raji bore the heaviest load – by unofficial count, the unsung 2009 first-round pick played 61 of the Packers’ 66 defensive snaps – Wynn and Wilson delivered the most memorable plays. 

The Packers thought they went into the game with five active linemen, only to learn that Jenkins had pulled his calf “about an hour or so before the game,” according to coach Mike McCarthy – or about half an hour after the coach had turned in the inactive list, which included injured defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder) and recently added backup Mike Montgomery.

Then, after a pair of three-and-outs by the Vikings’ offense, Pickett reinjured the ankle he sprained at Washington on Oct. 10. Pickett was still on the field for Percy Harvin’s 17-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left in the first quarter, but he said afterward that he’d injured the ankle several plays earlier. 

“Heading into the game, we’ve had enough problems,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who resorted to his “psycho” package (five linebackers, one lineman) on the Vikings’ final drive and had to improvise with offensive tackle T.J. Lang playing defensive tackle on short-yardage plays and outside linebacker Frank Zombo playing defensive end on others. “We had already turned our active list in and I thought we were going with five linemen and we end up with four, with ‘Pick’ coming off an injury. And then ‘Pick’ didn’t last very long, either.” 

Fortunately for the Packers, the kids were all right. 

“I just can’t say enough of our three young defensive linemen. They played huge today,” McCarthy said. 

Wilson’s big moment came midway through the third quarter, with the Packers leading, 21-17. When quarterback Brett Favre dropped back, pulled the ball down and stepped up, Wilson, a rookie seventh-round draft pick who was among the last players to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp, stayed at home and was there to pressure Favre, putting his helmet into Favre’s belly as he threw. The ball went straight to linebacker Desmond Bishop, who intercepted it and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. 

“I grew up a lot. I’d say from 2 years old to about 10,” said Wilson, who found out 20 minutes before kickoff, upon going back in locker room after warm-ups, that he would be starting for Jenkins. “I think that’s the best way to grow up fast – like teaching a kid how to swim, you throw him in the water and then once they get where they’re not afraid of the water no more, it’s a good thing. I grew up pretty fast today, but I’ve still got a long ways to go in this game.” 

Then Wynn, who was cut on the final roster reduction and only brought back after Justin Harrell’s season-ending knee injury, delivered his biggest hit, on the Vikings’ final drive. 

Favre had just picked up a fourth-down and moved the Vikings to the Packers’ 35-yard line with 1:10 to play when he beat center John Sullivan and left guard Steve Hutchinson for a 6-yard sack – the first time the Packers had sacked Favre in three games, dating back to last year’s two sack-free losses to their former teammate. 

While Favre and the Vikings still had a chance to win it at the end, Wynn’s pressure helped lead to a pressure by linebacker Clay Matthews, who drew a 15-yard facemask penalty when he beat right tackle Phil Loadholt for what would have been a sack.

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