The 2015 Green Bay Packers ranked 19th in the league in rushing defense, giving up 112.7 rushing yards per game. That was an improvement on their 2014 numbers (125.4 rushing yards per game) but it’s certainly an aspect of the defensive game that the Packers will attempt to further refine in 2016.
Enter Dean Lowry, the Packers’ 4th round draft choice, a defensive end out of Northwestern. Normally 4th round picks are not expected to contribute immediately but Lowry may have what it takes to see some significant playing time on the defensive line in his rookie season.
Lowry lined up everywhere from the 0 technique to a stand up outside linebacker in the Northwestern defense. In Green Bay he will likely play almost exclusively 5 technique defensive end where his job will be to maintain the outside edge against the run.
Lowry’s pass rushing skills leave a lot to be desired. He may never be a 3 down defensive end in the NFL, but he has the size, strength, and tackling skills to make a difference on 1st and 2nd down against the run, undoubtedly his greatest asset as an NFL lineman. He is a tenacious defender who fights hard on every play. He’s not an overly athletic or fast end, but he perfectly suits the needs of a 3-4 defense. Lowry has the ability to overpower his blocker and eat up any plays run toward the edge, as he showcased against Nebraska.
On the play below, Lowry quickly overpowers his blocker, throws him aside, and fills in the running lane where he makes a nice open tackle.
In the play below, Lowry is double teamed by the tackle and guard, but fights through the blocks to get a hand in on the ballcarrier and help make the tackle. This is the kind of tenacity that the Packers need against the run.
While Lowry is not exceptionally fast, he has nice explosion for a nearly 300 lb defensive linemen. He’s not going to make many plays down the field, but on occasion he can shoot the gap and get into the backfield in a hurry.
At 6’6″, Lowry also adds some height and length to the outside of the defensive line, something that the Packers have missed for some time. The next tallest defender who lined up consistently in the 5 technique last year was Datone Jones at 6’4″. While he’s not an ideal defender on the field on 3rd and long, Lowry’s size gives him the opportunity to bat down short passes and get into the QB’s line of vision while scanning the field in short yardage situations.
The Packers have already declined Datone Jones’ fifth year option. His future with the team is uncertain. And though Lowry and Jones have very different skill sets (and Jones will actually be moving from 5 technique to playing more of an elephant linebacker role), the result is that the Packers are certainly in need of competent defensive ends who can make plays against the run and just generally eat up blocks to keep the linebackers free to make plays. Other players like Josh Boyd and Mike Pennel have spent time at the 5 technique, but their size is better suited on the interior of the defensive line.
Simply put, Lowry fits the prototypical mold of the 5 technique in a 3-4. He may not be a “starter” on the line, but he adds a skill and size set that is otherwise missing on the roster. Capers utilizes all of his guys according to their strengths with the defense looking more like a battalion of moving parts rather than a static depth chart of starters backed up by second stringers. It should not take long for Lowry to carve out a place for himself within the rotation of the defensive line.
It remains to be seen how Lowry’s game translates to the NFL, but he has certainly landed in a great position to step up and make an impact early in his career in Green Bay.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.