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.
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.
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.
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.
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