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Packers have depth to deal with season-long loss of Jolly

Don't expect the NFL's season-long suspension of Johnny Jolly to derail the Green Bay Packers' championship hopes.

Although Jolly was a critical piece of the team's top-ranked run defense last season, the Packers are well-positioned to deal with his absence in 2010 because of their excellent depth at defensive end. Few teams in the league can rival the exceptional talent that Green Bay boasts along its defensive line, and that will allow coordinator Dom Capers to make a few tweaks and keep the Packers among the elite.

Ryan Pickett will move from nose tackle to end, replacing Jolly. While Pickett, a 10th-year veteran, is ideally suited to be a run stopper in the middle of the defense, he possesses the size and athleticism to effectively work over offensive tackles in a shade technique.

With Pickett at end, second-year pro B.J. Raji will step in and give Green Bay an immovable force at nose tackle.

Raji is immensely talented and has the strength to control the line of scrimmage. Though he logged only one start last season, he's a rugged run stopper who will command double-team attention on early downs. His ability to occupy multiple blockers will allow linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk to run freely to the ball.

The Packers also will depend on a few intriguing young players, such as rookies Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson, to fill out their defensive line rotation. Both are a little raw and unpolished in their technique, but their size and length could pose problems for opponents. Neal, in particular, could give Green Bay a boost as he eventually develops into a credible threat on the edge.

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