Over the course of this year the Green Bay Packers have seen their rookies play a huge role for their team. Christian Watson is of course a certified stud and Romeo Doubs will pair nicely with him for years to come, Kingsley Enagbare and Quay Walker have both shown flashes of huge upside in their starts for this defense, And it looks like they found anther 4th round OL gem in Zach Tom. Practically the only (active) player from their first 5 rounds that hasn’t been given a real shot to make an impact is Devonta Wyatt. This needs to change.
In general, defensive line is a position that takes a little while to grow into in the NFL. This was something a lot of people pointed to when the Packers drafted the 24 year old Wyatt out of Georgia. The Packers usually like young, top notch athletes who may start raw but have a sky-high ceiling. Wyatt may have a high ceiling, but he is not the raw athletic freak that we have seen Green Bay take in the past (see Rashan Gary, Christian Watson, & Quay Walker).
Still, he was a great prospect and was definitely not a reach at 28 in the draft. The question remains though, why are they not trying to expedite his growth with time on the field?
It would be one thing if our DL was a powerhouse that was dominating the trenches, but this is nowhere near the case. Kenny Clark has had a down year, eating up double teams and unable to overcome them. Jarran Reed has been.. fine. He has had a few games where he makes an impact and a few where he is invisible. TJ Slaton has absolutely earned more snaps as a run stopper but I won’t go there here. The player that I cannot figure out is Dean Lowry.
Lowry is playing 57% of snaps and is routinely being targeted in the run game, especially at the goal line. Teams know they can push him around and they take advantage of it constantly. Through 13 games he has had only a single tackle for a loss. He is not.. the worst. But he is not good and the upside is minimal at best.
Wyatt is only seeing 17% of snaps. While he hasn’t had the tackles that Lowry has, he boasts a higher PFF rating than any other DL on the Packers team with a 63 (Lowry: 60.1, Clark: 60, Reed: 57). This might not be a massive difference, but it shows that he is still playing at the same, if not slightly higher level than the starters. So why only give him a fraction of the snaps?
If you watch him in the games you’ll see even more reason to get him out there. He has a non-stop motor that chases down ball-carriers from behind and gets after the quarterback. He is faster and stronger than his fellow DEs in Lowry and Reed. Not only that, he’s a dang rookie! The expectation is that he will get better with more playing time. We have seen it in Walker, Enagbare, and Watson. Why do we refuse to give Wyatt a shot to do the same?
There is a very good chance this class will go down as Gutey’s best. These rookies look like stars in the making and Cheeseheads should be excited to see what they turn into. But there is no reason this defense shouldn’t be giving Wyatt a look sooner rather than later. Our defense is horrible, can it really get worse with giving a rookie more snaps to see if he can make an impact?
Maybe if he can help invigorate this defensive line, then we can win.
PJ is an Ohio native who was fortunate enough to be born into the green and gold family through his father who grew up in Green Bay. He now resides in NYC where he is an avid fan and fantasy football player. You can follow him on twitter at @PJsPack_.