As we continue our march toward camp, we have looked at the offense and seen where they stand. Now we move onto the other side of the ball and take an in-depth look at those who are paid to keep the ball out of the endzone. We start with the defensive line and there is a lot of shakeup here after the retirement of BJ Raji and the suspension of Mike Pennel.
For this series, which will finish by training camp starts, we will look at each and every player on the roster, breaking down their strengths, weaknesses, their role, and their best and worst case scenarios. I will also project their role. Let’s dive into the depths of the Packers pool of talent.
#76 MIKE DANIELS
6’0” 310 lbs. Age 27 (5th Season)
Drafted in the 4th Round (132nd Overall) in 2012 from Iowa
Strengths: Daniels strength and desire is unmatched on the team. His wrestling background shows with his leverage and pad level being almost flawless, allowing him to drive any blocker back and split double teams. More of a natural pass rusher early on, Daniels has become an elite run stuffer and block eater over his career. He also is a natural leader and has taken the role of vocal captain in the locker room.
Weaknesses: Mike’s only real weakness is his smaller frame in which he can be held at bay for a small amount of time.
Underrated Attribute: Leverage
Role: Starting DE, leader of the line.
Best Case: Daniels breaks the double digit sack barrier and becomes a Pro Bowl player.
Worst Case: Daniels has a pretty high floor so his worst case is probably around 4 sacks and a good season stuffing the run.
Projection: Daniels will finish with a career 7.5 sacks and be named to the Pro Bowl.
#97 KENNY CLARK
6’3” 314 lbs. Age 20 (Rookie)
Drafted in the 1st Round (27th Overall) in 2016 from UCLA
Strengths: Much like Mike Daniels, Clark is great at using his lower body strength and pad level to win battles. A good athlete, Clark has the burst to get around the center quickly after a snap and has the wherewithal to get into passing lanes and knock passes down at the line. He has an extremely high football IQ and an innate ability to sniff out running lanes. Pure power is his first instinct.
Weaknesses: Clark really only showed real pass rush ability in his last year at UCLA and that leads to concerns about his ceiling in the NFL. Short arms for his height and he can struggle if he can’t get the first punch to use his strength.
Underrated Attribute: Football IQ
Role: Starting Nose tackle
Best Case: Clark start all 16 games and becomes a force to be reckoned with in the middle with 5 sacks and 40 tackles.
Worst Case: Clark starts early but gets overwhelmed during the season, losing playing time to Guion and Pennel as the year goes on.
Projection: Clark should start all 16 games, and while he will have his struggles as an extremely young player, he will show more than enough to justify the pick and become the nose tackle the team needs.
#98 LETROY GUION
6’4” 322 lbs. Age 29 (9th Season)
Signed as a Free Agent in 2014
Drafted by Minnesota in the 5th Round (152nd Overall) in 2008 from Florida State
Strengths: Tall, long athlete who can disrupt at the line with his hands and power. Shows great strength to get through double teams and has good backside pursuit. A sure tackler, Guion is a great safe option at end. Innate knowledge of the NFC North after playing in Minnesota for his first six seasons.
Weaknesses: Guion doesn’t have a ton of pass rush ability and is definitely more of a run defender. Motor can be hit or miss at times. Can play too high and get driven backwards if not focused.
Underrated Attribute: Backside pursuit
Role: Starting DE.
Best Case: Guion becomes the opposite end of Daniels and starts all 16 games, providing solid support in the run game and recording 3 sacks. Performs very similar to 2014.
Worst Case: Guion regresses to his Minnesota days and shows flashes of his talent but is inconsistent, losing playing time to Pennel, Dean Lowry, and others as the season goes on.
Projection: Guion will be the starter for at least the first 4 games but will share time with Pennel and Lowry as the season goes on. That doesn’t indicate his level of play. He’ll be a fine player, but his lack of pass rush will limit him.
#95 DATONE JONES
6’4” 285 lbs. Age 25 (4th Season)
Drafted in the 1st Round (26th Overall) in 2013 from UCLA
*I know he’s playing the elephant positon and practicing with the OLB, but on the Packers roster he is listed as a DE.*
Strengths: A great athlete for his size, Jones has shown flashes of great pass rush ability. Has the ability to turn the corner and drive defenders back. Sets the edge well and is a solid run defender. Has a good motor and doesn’t take plays off.
Weaknesses: For being a first round pick, Jones has been very inconsistent, showing burst of his potential but being wiped out of plays in others. Also has an extensive injury history, especially with his legs. Moving to a new position, so he could be a little behind on his adjustments and responsibilities.
Underrated Attribute: Stunts
Role: Rotational D-Lineman and Linebacker, pass rush specialist
Best Case: Jones finally shows why he was a first round pick, recording 7-8 sacks and consistently disrupting passing games. He earns a contract extension after the season.
Worst Case: Jones never really comes into his own as a player in Green Bay, falling behind Nick Perry and the other elephant players and doesn’t get anything more than a prove-it contract in free agency.
Projection: Jones will be a solid player this season and puts up 6 sacks while getting a short-term contract next year to try to build off it.
#64 MIKE PENNEL
6’4” 332 lbs. Age 25 (3rd Season)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 12, 2014 from Colorado State-Pueblo
Strengths: Best run stopper on the team, Pennel is a strong, strong man who can hold the point the best of anyone on the team. Doesn’t get driven off the ball much, if at all and has shown ability to shed blocks and make the play in the backfield. The prototypical nose tackle in frame and skill-set, Pennel has also shown a little more pass rush in the past year.
Weaknesses: Pennel is suspended for the first four games with a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. As such, he will cause a lot of wear on his linemates and potentially force guys like Lowry into time when they aren’t ready. As a pass rusher, he is limited to a bull rush and will likely be a two-down player.
Underrated Attribute: Backside pursuit
Role: Starting DE, run stopper
Best Case: Pennel returns and takes the starting spot from Guion and doesn’t look back. He ends up becoming a long-time starter on the line as the base end and becomes one of Ted Thompson’s better UDFA pickups.
Worst Case: Pennel struggles upon his return and never really recovered from his suspension. He loses playing time and eventually is not re-signed.
Projection: Pennel is too talented to not come back strong from his suspension. He has the trust of the coaches and Mike Daniels and will start the final 8 or so games after coming back and becomes a Top 15 run stopping end on Pro Football Focus.
#94 DEAN LOWRY
6’6” 296 lbs. Age 22 (Rookie)
Drafted in the 4th Round (137th Overall) in 2016 from Northwestern
Strengths: Long and fluid athletically, Lowry is a “football player” who does a little bit of everything. Has a great motor and plays very fast. Never takes plays off and shows spectacular backside pursuit. Doesn’t miss tackles and is more than willing to take a backseat on the line to allow others to make plays. Usually has good pad level.
Weaknesses: For a guy so tall, Lowry’s arms are smaller and he doesn’t generate a great bull rush. He needs work on consistent rush moves and can be driven out of a play if he doesn’t succeed on his first move.
Underrated Attribute: Tackling
Role: Rotational End, Special Teams
Best Case: Lowry shows flashes great upside in camp and becomes a rotational player during his rookie season, not needed to do too much and he excels in limited time.
Worst Case: Lowry doesn’t do much in camp besides show maximum effort and doesn’t become much more than a special teams guy as a rookie.
Projection: Lowry is a good guy to have on your team if you are building a blue-collar 3-4 defense and he gets 250 or so snaps and puts up 1-2 sacks and doesn’t make any major errors.
#96 BRIAN PRICE
6’3” 318 lbs. Age 22 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from UT-San Antonio
Strengths: Very strong, Price plays with an edge and tries to bury offensive linemen. More of a natural run stopper, but has some pass rush. A natural bull rusher, Price doesn’t have the sack stats but was disruptive in college. Very passionate on the field, he fires up teammates with his play and is a tireless worker on the field.
Weaknesses: Got ejected as a junior for shoving an official so he might be a target for penalties. Outside of bull rush, Price needs work on a counter-move to stick in the NFL.
Underrated Attribute: Football IQ
Role: Backup nose tackle, rotational lineman
Best Case: Price makes the team and takes playing time from Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel throughout the season and becomes similar to Pennel from 2014.
Worst Case: Price shows flashes but doesn’t show enough to make the roster over the drafted guys and is one of the final cuts.
Projection: Price makes the team out of camp and shows flashes of being a very good run stopper in the future and is active for every game.
#99 CHRISTIAN RINGO
6’1” 298 lbs. Age 24 (2nd Season)
Drafted in the 6th Round (210th Overall) in 2015 from Louisiana-Lafayette
Strengths: A natural pass rusher, Ringo was extremely productive in college, put up 11.5 sacks his final year, and has a series of moves to avoid blockers. Tireless motor shows on tape and he can split double teams. Also has ability to long snap.
Weaknesses: Undersized but not as strong as Mike Daniels. Can be pushed out of plays and is inconsistent in run support.
Underrated Attribute: Motor
Role: Rotational Pass Rusher, backup long snapper
Best Case: Ringo makes the team this time around and sticks as a dime formation specialist
Worst Case: Ringo doesn’t make that next step and ends up on the practice squad again.
Projection: I think Ringo this times shows enough in preseason to make the roster and is active in about 10-12 games while recording 2.5 sacks out of the dime.
#90 TYLER KUDER
6’3” 307 lbs. Age 24 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Idaho State
Strengths: Extremely productive college player, put up 92 tackles as a senior. Sure tackling, good in run support and with solid length to hold the line.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t bring much as a pass rusher and doesn’t have a counter move. Old for a rookie and has a low ceiling. Doesn’t have much tape against top competition leaving questions about what he can do in the NFL.
Underrated Attribute: Tackling
Role: Backup DE, practice squad
Best Case: Kuder makes the team after a strong camp and is active in around 8 games.
Worst Case: Kuder shows good run stopping skills but no pass rush. He gets cut after the final game.
Projection: Kuder is a good run stopper but needs a lot of work on pass rushing, similar to Guion, Pennel, and Lowry. He is in a numbers game and gets cut after camp. But he makes the Practice Squad as a potential guy should Pennel and/or Jones leave.
#77 BJ MCBRYDE
6’5” 303 lbs. Age 24 (1st Season)
Signed as a Free Agent on January 19, 2016
Originally Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by Philadelphia in 2015 from Connecticut
Strengths: Long, athletic prospect who is definitely a block-occupying prospect. A natural nose tackle, McBryde has the strength to hold the point and the length to disrupt passing lanes. Has NFL Camp experience and knows what it takes to make the roster.
Weaknesses: Raw as a player and doesn’t have consistency yet in either the run or pass games. Doesn’t always play with great pad level and can get driven backwards.
Underrated Attribute: Lane disruption
Role: Rotational linemen, practice squad candidate
Best Case: McBryde, the most experiences of the young players at the bottom of the roster, shows enough in camp to get the final spot and is active in 6-8 games.
Worst Case: McBryde doesn’t show enough in camp and gets cut after the third game of the preseason.
Projection: McBryde is an intriguing prospect with his length and strength, but he is just too raw for a title contender. He ends up getting cut after camp ends.
#60 DEMETRIIUS ANDERSON
6’1” 312 lbs. Age 24 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 9, 2016 from Central Florida
Strengths: A two year at starter, Anderson is a consistent and intelligent player. Good size for his position and has a little bit of everything. Can stop the run (15.5 TFL) as well as rush the passer (4.5 sacks) in two seasons at UCF. High motor player.
Weaknesses: Coming off a serious knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2015 season. Older for a rookie, and is undersized at 6’1”.
Role: Practice Squad hopeful
Underrated Attribute: Football IQ
Best Case: Anderson probably doesn’t make the team after not playing football in over a year but makes the practice squad after flashing in camp.
Worst Case: Anderson still isn’t fully recovered and doesn’t make it past first cuts.
Projection: I think Anderson has potential as a rotational end, but it isn’t here. He still needs to prove he’s healthy and the Packers can’t have any more injury risks on the roster, especially if they are only prospects. He doesn’t make it past first cuts.
Summarizing my projections
First Cuts: Anderson
Final Cuts: McBryde, Kuder (PS)
Making the Team: Daniels, Clark, Guion, Lowry, D. Jones, Ringo, Price
Now with the defensive linemen figured out, we are at 32 roster players, leaving 18 for the other positions if we add three specialists. Next week we will tackle the linebackers with the outside guys on Wednesday and the Inside guys on Saturday.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.