Losing Jolly a blow, but Packers prepared

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly on Friday, suspending him for at least the 2010 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

While the loss of Jolly is significant for Green Bay, it’s not devastating because the Packers have one of the deepest 3-4 lines in the NFL. Packers general manager Ted Thompson has stacked the defensive line to be able to survive the loss of Jolly, who played 79 and 68 percent of the defensive snaps the past two seasons. Last year’s selection of defensive lineman B.J. Raji in the first round gives the Packers that type of flexibility.

During the offseason, the Packers worked Raji at nose tackle and Ryan Pickett, last year’s starting nose tackle, at defensive end. While the loss of Jolly affects the depth of the defensive line, it won’t necessarily affect the quality of play up front. The Packers can still be a top-5 defense with Pickett, Raji and Cullen Jenkins starting and having Justin Harrell as a defensive end and Jarius Wynn and second-round choice Mike Neal as backups.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has the flexibility of moving Pickett to nose tackle to give Raji rest. The challenge during training camp will be to develop a backup nose tackle who can fit into the rotation.

Jolly will go on trial in late July for a 2008 arrest in which he was charged with illegally possessing at least 200 grams of codeine, a case that is linked to the use of “Purple Drank.’’ A conviction could lead to a 20-year sentence. Jolly has been a productive player for the Packers. A former sixth-round choice, Jolly had 39 tackles last season and 49 the year before.