The Packers Defensive Line has often been a talking point during the last few seasons, most notably after the 2019-2020 NFC Championship defeat to the 49ers. In a game where a Super Bowl appearance hung in the balance, San Francisco passed the ball 8 total times en route to a 37 point offensive explosion. The characters on the line at that point were Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster.
While it’s unfair to encapsulate that one game as a summary of the overall performance of the defensive line (They ranked 26th in the league in run defense that season), the primary defensive concern heading into 2020 was making sure a repeat of that game didn’t happen again, especially in a playoff game.
The 2020-2021 NFC Championship game enters the chat, and the Packers bottled up Tampa Bay’s rushing attack for the most part, holding the Buccaneers to 3.2 yards per carry. During the season, the line still had their down moments, like when Dalvin Cook gashed them for 150+ and 4 touchdowns in a shocking November upset at Lambeau Field. Green Bay improved in 2020 and ended up finishing 10th best in the league in run defense.
The 2021-2022 season was another solid season statistically for the Packers D-Line, again finishing 10th best in the league in run defense and doing an outstanding job against the 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs, albeit the horrid weather conditions. Of course, run defense encompasses more than just a defensive line and a defensive line does more than just stop the run.
In the upcoming 2022 season, the Packers defensive line truly appears to be a strength, at least on paper. That’s the first time in a long time a lot of Packers fans can say that with a fair amount of confidence behind it.
DT Kenny Clark
How the time truly does fly. Kenny Clark is going into his 7th NFL season in 2022. With that said, the only-26 year old defensive tackle continues to be one of the best and underrated defensive lineman in football. His two pro bowl awards doesn’t do him justice into just how talented Clark is and how many times he’s single handedly carried the defense in games.
DE Dean Lowry
Like Clark, Dean Lowry heads into his 7th NFL season in 2022. The Northwestern alumni who often has been an popular target for criticism among Packer fans has found a way to start 68 games in his NFL career.
As Paul Bretl points out, Dean Lowry is coming off the best year of his career.
“Not typically someone who is going to fill the stat sheet, Lowry had his most productive season as a pass-rusher. He logged 42 pressures, according to PFF ($$) — his previous high was 29 — and he had six sacks, along with five tackles for loss, which tied a career-high”, Bretl wrote.
DT Jarran Reed
Something with the Packers and having players on their defensive line that were rookies in 2016. Reed, who spent the first 5 seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks and last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, signed with the Packers on a 1 year deal in free agency. Going into his 7th NFL season, Reed, 29, has played in 89 career games to go along with 80 career starts.
Reed’s best season statistically happened in 2018, when he posted an alarming 10.5 sacks as an interior lineman in the Seahawks defense. He also had 6.5 sacks in 2020. Reed gives the Packers experience, talent and depth and is an upgrade over Tyler Lancaster, who was with Green Bay from 2018-2021.
DT Tedarrell Slaton
Tedarrell “TJ” Slaton heads into his sophomore season with the Packers. The 2021 5th round selection from University of Florida checks in at 6’4, 330lb. A space-eating monster in the middle of the defense, it would give the Green Bay line a big boost if Slaton takes a notable jump from year 1 to year 2.
As our own Jordan Wolf points out from PackersTalk, he writes:
“TJ Slaton had flashes during his rookie campaign. There were moments where he looked like he could be a disruptive presence along the defensive line on all three downs. However, as is common with rookies, he disappeared for long stretches of games. This season the Packers are counting on Slaton to take a big leap forward and become a key part of the rotation.
If the Packers intend to continue their trend of playing with fewer players around the line of scrimmage, Slaton will be counted on during early downs. A player with his size, strength and leverage is essential for the defense to work as intended. Beyond that, Slaton’s development would lower the total snaps fellow lineman Kenny Clark plays, likely increasing the entire unit’s effectiveness in 2022″.
DT Devonte Wyatt
Wyatt, a rookie from University of Georgia, was selected by the Packers in the 1st round of the 2022 NFL Draft, along with ILB Quay Walker, who also went to Georgia and was also selected in the 1st round by the Packers. Given that General Manager Brian Gutekunst liked Wyatt enough to take him in the 1st round says a lot about the high hopes Green Bay has for their 24 year old rookie. Tyler Brooke of Acme Packing Company has a great breakdown of Wyatt here.
The Packers group of Clark, Lowry, Reed, Slaton and Wyatt has the potential to be one of the best defensive lines in football. I’m the first one to tell you that I couldn’t say that about prior years teams. This group has experience, talent and a lot of untapped potential. DE Jack Heflin rounds out the group, a 2021 undrafted free agent from University of Iowa who appeared for the Packers in a couple games last season. All in all, the defensive line, along with the majority if not all of the Packers positional groups on defense, appears to be a strength going into 2022.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a diehard Packers fan. Alex\\\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.