Rookie DE Wynn Making Steady Progress

For a young, 22-year-old kid like Jarius Wynn who just three years ago was playing at Georgia Military College before getting two seasons in at the Division I level, it’s understandable the pro game has been a bit overwhelming at times. But so far Wynn is holding his own and keeping himself in the running to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.


Joining the Green Bay Packers' new 3-4 defense has proven to be one learning experience after another for sixth-round draft choice Jarius Wynn.

Loaded with raw but impressive athletic ability, Wynn first had to focus on the responsibilities of a defensive end in the 3-4, which differ from those in the 4-3 scheme he played in college at Georgia.

Then when the coaching staff got a look at his natural pass-rush skills, they began working him as one of two down linemen in the nickel defense, where he rushes from the interior like a 4-3 defensive tackle, another change from his previous defensive end duties that featured him attacking off the edge.

For a young, 22-year-old kid who just three years ago was playing at Georgia Military College before getting two seasons in at the Division I level, it's understandable things have been a bit overwhelming at times. But so far Wynn is holding his own and keeping himself in the running to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.

"The defense is a lot different from what he's used to in college, so his eyes are kind of wide open right now," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "But I love his attitude, love his athletic skills, his body type and all that goes along with it."

Those athletic skills and body type are what have allowed Wynn to open others' eyes during training camp on occasion despite the steep learning curve he's on. The long-armed Wynn reportedly had one of the largest wingspans of any prospect at the 2009 scouting combine, and those long arms can make things tough on opposing offensive linemen.

"You're always looking for separation, and the more separation you can get the harder it is for a guy to recover on you once you make your move," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

Wynn took advantage of that in the preseason opener last Saturday against Cleveland to make perhaps his biggest play in three weeks of training camp.

Early in the third quarter, rushing from an inside position on third-and-long, Wynn beat the offensive guard one-on-one and leveled Browns quarterback Brett Ratliff just as he was releasing his throw. The resulting wobbly pass was picked off by linebacker Desmond Bishop, one of four Green Bay interceptions in the game.

"He had a great rush," Trgovac said. "He did a great job of using his long arms, kept the guy off him. The guy tried to put his hand on his chest and he just picked it right off him perfect. He had a burst to the quarterback. That's what we're looking for in there."

Earlier in the game, Wynn also had a solo stop of running back Jamal Lewis from the left end spot for a 1-yard gain. That was a good sign as well, because at 285 pounds, Wynn is smaller than the prototypical 3-4 defensive end, who needs to be stout against the run when lining head-up over the offensive tackle.

By contrast, the top three defensive ends on the Packers' depth chart weigh 305 (Cullen Jenkins), 337 (B.J. Raji) and 325 (Johnny Jolly), despite being equal to or an inch shorter than Wynn in height. Wynn physically speaking is a lot more like backup Michael Montgomery (6-5, 282), though at this stage there's certainly time for Wynn to add more bulk to his frame as time goes on.

"He uses his leverage well, and guys that can bend and use their leverage, that becomes an asset to them," Capers said. "We'll have different roles for guys. I think Jarius is a guy who could go inside on third down and play as an inside rusher."

Buried on the third-team defense when camp started, Wynn has taken advantage of additional reps he's received as injuries have hindered Jolly (ankle) and Justin Harrell (back).

Lately he's been with the No. 2 defense, both in the base and nickel alignments, and with Harrell definitely out and Jolly iffy for this Saturday's preseason game against Buffalo, he could have a ton of work thrown his way again.

"It's a good thing, not those guys being down, but it's giving me an opportunity to learn more," Wynn said. "I'm just trying to improve on everything."

{sportsad300}In practice, that means improving on his fundamentals and techniques more than anything. One of the more vocal assistant coaches during practice, Trgovac can often be heard harping on Wynn during individual position drills for his footwork and hand placement, among other things, but the rookie doesn't back down.

He'll repeat a rep once or twice if he needs to, in order to get it right, and when he can carry those corrections from the individual drills to the team (11-on-11) snaps, he'll get more encouraging hollers from Trgovac.

"Sometimes kids come out of college and they just need you as their coach to stay on them about the fundamentals, because the players are better at this level," Trgovac said. "The offensive linemen are better, so they're not just going to be able to beat guys with their natural ability. You have to really hit the fundamentals with them and stay after them. As a coach, that's my job."

And it's Wynn's job to keep learning.

"He's a guy that probably didn't play a lot of these techniques, particularly the 3-4 and some of the inside rush stuff in college, so it's different for him," Trgovac said. "He's come a long way. We've got a long way to go, but he's come a long way."

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