Looking ahead – Green Bay Packers Defense & Special Teams

The Green Bay Packers selected 11 players in the 2021 NFL Draft, adding much-needed depth to their roster in places that needed it the most. Handling the draft as well as they did, while also mitigating the ongoing Aaron Rodgers situation made for a tough weekend for GM Brian Gutekunst, but this team seems to (hopefully) be on its way towards mending fences for their star QB.

Below is what the roster currently looks like on the defensive side of the ball after the draft, factoring in draftees and undrafted signings at the conclusion of the draft – while much too early to be thinking about what this team will look like, it never hurts to start early.

Defensive Line

Kenny Clark / T.J. Slaton (R) / Kingsley Keke / Tyler Lancaster / Dean Lowry

Anthony Rush / Wilington Previlon / Delontae Scott / Jack Heflin (UDFA)

Kenny Clark’s ascension into becoming one of the league’s defensive tackles makes him the most valuable aspect of the front seven on this team, but he is in desperate need of being surrounded by players that can help take pressure off of him.

Drafting Florida’s T.J. Slaton will do a lot towards adding a massive body to the line, and pairing him alongside Clark, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, and Dean Lowry will help get this team closer to establishing a solid rotation. While Slaton will eat up blocks and not commonly show up on the stat sheet, he looks to be the perfect solution to helping free Clark up.

Linebacker

Za’Darius Smith / Preston Smith / Rashon Gary / Krys Barnes / Kamal Martin

Oren Burks / Ty Summers / Tipa Galeai / Jonathan Garvin / Isaiah McDuffie (R)

Randy Ramsey / De’Jon Harris / Ray Wilborn / Carlo Kemp (UDFA)

Not much of a change here, which puts even more of an importance on the growth of the inside members of this group, specifically Krys Barnes, Oren Burks, Kamal Martin, and Ty Summers. Using a late-round selection on Isaiah McDuffie does help add depth to this area, and with the lack of solidified roles in the middle, it is not out of the question that McDuffie could become an impact player in his first season.

This season may very well be the Rashan Gary coming out party, especially with the likely cap casualty that Preston Smith will become next offseason – pairing Gary alongside Za’Darius Smith will help shore up the top two pass-rusher roles for GB, which means that someone out of the Tipa Galeai, Jonathan Garvin, and Randy Ramsey group will need to rise to the occasion as an up-and-coming third option.

Cornerback

Jaire Alexander / Eric Stokes / Kevin King / Chandon Sullivan

Josh Jackson / Ka’dar Hollman / Kabian Ento / KeiVarae Russell / Stanford Samuels

Needing to find that long-desired CB2 alongside Jaire Alexander, Green Bay used the 29th selection on Georgia’s Eric Stokes, who has the burning speed and coverage skills to fulfill that need. While a bit grabby while in coverage (which sounds a lot like Kevin King in college), Stokes will need to prove his skills acclimate to this level – quickly.

The resigning of King should be seen as a depth signing and not a long-term addition, and providing Chandon Sullivan, Ka’dar Hollman, and Josh Jackson with another body in the CB room for competition should be seen as a good thing, but it could also make one of those options a potential camp trade option should another team come calling.

Safety

Adrian Amos / Darnell Savage Jr. / Vernon Scott / Henry Black

Will Redmond / Christian Uphoff (UDFA) / Innis Gaines

One of this roster’s strongest areas is safety, and this group is built around Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. With both of these options playing solid roles in Mike Pettine’s defense, they should be able to roam about the defense a bit more freely under Joe Barry moving forward.

Needing to establish that third safety option would help get Savage more time in the ‘Star’ role, placing him closer to the line of scrimmage. Vernon Scott and Will Redmond have shown their strengths and weaknesses during their limited playing time, but Illinois State’s Christian Uphoff, a slightly surprising UDFA, could push for the fourth safety slot on this team in camp.

Special Teams

Mason Crosby (K) / JJ Molson (K)

JK Scott (P) / Ryan Winslow (P)

Hunter Bradley (LS) / Joe Fortunato (LS)

Competition is running rampant for all members of special teams, although Mason Crosby’s job security should be the most secure heading into camp. JJ Molson likely was brought in as a camp body that would also help this team gain information on an option in case Crosby were to be injured during the season.

JK Scott’s career so far has been unspectacular at best, so bringing in Ryan Winslow, who is a relative unknown, certainly can only help push both to produce the best option for the Packers moving forward. Punting has been under a lot of scrutiny over the past few seasons, so here’s to hoping that 2021 is when it turns around.

Hunter Bradley, must like Scott, has had an unspectacular career snapping the ball, but he has been relatively solid. Joe Fortunato is a proven NFL long snapper, and with this being an unheralded but very important position, it is imperative that Green Bay gets it right.

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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