2018 Green Bay Packers Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

After completing a breakdown of all the offensive positions for the 2018 Green Bay Packers, I will spend the next couple of weeks going through each position on the defensive side of the ball.

2018 Green Bay Packers Position Breakdown Summary: Offense

 

We start with the big boys up front on the defensive line. While Dom Capers tended to prefer to go light with lineman in Nickel and Dime (he’d usually play1- 2 down lineman), Mike Pettine seems more likely to stick to 2-3. The line should be the most talented group on defense, so it makes sense to keep them on the field as much as possible.

 

Starters

DE Mike Daniels

Daniels is on the verge of superstardom. This could be the season that elevates him from Pro Bowler to All-Pro. He’s certainly the best player on the defense, and has taken over the role of emotional leader. I would imagine he’s probably Mike Pettine’s favorite player, and Daniels ability to get the most out of the rest of the defensive players will be a determining factor in the success of the Packers.

NT Kenny Clark

Clark has elevated his play to a Pro Bowl level. It is stunning that the defense was so atrocious last year, even though both Daniels and Clark played so well. He’s a force in the middle as a run stopper, and has started to use his athleticism and technique (love that wrestling background) to get after the QB in pass rush situations.

DE Muhammad Wilkerson

When properly motivated, Wilkerson was one of the best defensive linemen in the league. After getting a big contract from the Jets, calling Wilkerson’s play mediocre would be generous. He’s on a prove-it deal, so I think he’ll feel the urge to play hard and he had his most successful seasons playing for Mike Pettine’s defenses. I think he’ll love playing next to Daniels and Clark, and if healthy I see a double digit sack season in play for Wilkerson.

 

Depth

DE Dean Lowry

Lowry can take this unit from being three great starters, to a really deep position group. He has shown the ability to be an impact player, and having depth out of pass rushers has become a key factor in teams postseason success (see the Eagles from last year). Lowry is a good athlete, who has some physical limitations (arm length). However, he uses his strength, leverage, and refined pass rush moves to get himself into position to make plays. Lowry may end up being as important to the success of this group as the starters.

DT Montravius Adams

If healthy, last season would have been a great learning experience for Adams. However, he’ll have to pick things up on the fly this year. Depth is a major issue after Lowry, and Pettine will demand the players behind the starters are able to log major snaps. Adams needs to show he can make an impact early, or he could be a high round pick jettisoned much earlier than Green Bay can afford.

DE James Looney

I was surprised Looney fell to the 7th round in the draft. I think he has a bunch of pass rush potential, but he may be asked to stand up as the “elephant” position in the 3-4. He’s undersized for a traditional 3-4 DE, but Pettine is great at finding ways to fit talented athletes into his scheme.

 

BREAKING: Green Bay Packers select James Looney, DT, California at 232

 

Other Options

DE Connor Sheehy

DT Tyler Lancaster

DT Joey Mbu

Lancaster and Mbu are big boys in the middle who will compete for a roster spot if Montravius Adams doesn’t show progress or has more injury issues. I really liked Lancaster out of Northwestern as a dark horse to make the roster, but Brian Gutekunst may only want to keep 5 DL on the active roster. Connor Sheehy is the type of player out of Wisconsin who makes it really difficult to cut. He plays hard with great technique, and I have a feeling will stick with some team for a long time (think Beau Allen). He’d be a long shot to make the roster, so I’m hopeful they can keep teams away from him and stash him on the Practice Squad.

 

Defensive line is a position group that has a ton of talent, and could surprise fans with the depth potential. The success of this group in passing situations will go a long ways in their pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.

 

Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig
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4 thoughts on “2018 Green Bay Packers Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

  1. IMO, one key to success for the DL position group this season is Adams. He basically got a bye year in his rookie season which allowed him to learn from the sidelines and go through a year in the training program.

    Although everyone is touting Wilkerson to be a key addition to the defense, after seeing the debacle created by another veteran player with attitude issues in Bennett last year I’m going to have to see it to believe it.

  2. i wish health for the group.. Daniels and Clark are especially fun to watch. it will be interesting to see how Pettine will work these guys.

  3. I think this is a pretty good overall assessment. If people stay healthy our DL should be in pretty good shape, even in the winter, even in the 4th quarter.

    I would quibble with a few observations:

    1)Lowry does not have short arms, he has short arms for a guy as tall as he is. His arms are still pretty long.

    2) Adams is not going to be cut, even if he blow out his knee in the opener.

    3) Only 5 gameday active, but surely one more on the 53 man roster and one more on the practice squad. I like Mbu for the 53 man roster and our draft pick for the practice squad.

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