Josh Boyd

Defensive lineman Josh Boyd was a surprise to us last season. It was surprising to see the rookie fifth-round pick on the field to begin with and then more so when he started taking playing time away from first-round pick Datone Jones.

Boyd wasn’t a world beater, but he managed to make a few plays down the stretch. His continued improvement throughout the year makes us excited about his future. It makes Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy excited to.

McCarthy sees a bigger role for Boyd in 2014. That role could see him playing nose tackle, a position free agent Ryan Pickett occupied last season.

“I don’t want Josh to bulk up,” McCarthy said. “I think Josh definitely has the flexibility. He’s shown he can play the nose. He needs to take a huge step, and I think he’ll be one of those players that does in his second year.”

Second-year jump! Bam! We love talk of the second-year jump. There is no finer football cliche.

Joining Pickett as a free agent in March will be three more defensive linemen — Johnny Jolly, C.J. Wilson and fat-ass B.J. Raji. It was previously reported that the Packers would let both Pickett and Raji walk in free agency. It was also reported that they wanted to get more athletic on the defensive line.

McCarthy won’t concede that Pickett and Raji are gone, however. While he says it isn’t practical to bring all four free agents back, he also says he hasn’t closed the door on those two.

That’s probably because there’s still a chance the Packers could re-sign them for dirt cheap. At 34 years of age, there isn’t going to be a big market for Pickett. And after idiotically turning down $8 million annually from the Packers during the season, Raji is generating little interest after turning in a turd of a campaign.

The real question mark is Jolly, who was the Packers’ best defensive lineman not named Mike Daniels in 2013. There’s now speculation that the neck injury that ended his season may also cost him his career.

That would be unfortunate.

At the moment, there are a lot of moving parts on the defensive line. One of the few certainties is the Packers will be looking for more from Boyd in 2014.