For years we’ve talked about getting Kenny Clark help along the Defensive Line. Clark is often buried in double teams and is never quite able to show off his playmaking abilities consistently. There have been a few names that have come and gone that have been decent, but never enough. The Green Bay Packers need defensive line depth that can command attention and take some of the pressure off of Clark. With the drafting of Karl Brooks and Colby Wooden, that depth may finally be here.
The Packers already have last year’s first round pick, Devonte Wyatt, and T.J. Slaton that they are hoping to see a huge jump from this season. Last year, Slaton was fairly disruptive. Stuffing the runner for big plays on occasion and setting up an INT with a batted pass, he showed he’s not just a blip on the radar. Devonte Wyatt on the other hand, was fairly quiet his rookie season, and that includes the current Preseason. But has looked pretty good in camp practices ending up in the offensive backfield often for would-be sacks. Wyatt needs to translate that to game time. Both of those linemen still need a little work. So, rotating duties will be a must, and that is where Wooden and Brooks come in.
Enter the Rookies
In the fourth round of the 2023 draft the Packers selected Colby Wooden. Wooden was viewed as a versatile defensive lineman that could line up as a defensive end or defensive tackle. So far this Training Camp, Wooden has been in the offensive backfield a lot. He’s done a great job knocking away offensive linemen’s hands and disrupting the pass. He’s also done a decent job in the running game getting some good push and stuffing runners for no-gain.
Karl Brooks was drafted in the sixth round of the same draft. Brooks was heralded for his great first-step off the line. Similar to Wooden, Brooks has done a nice job knocking away the hands of offensive linemen. He’s also shown a few flashes with a swim-move in camp and has been outstanding in pass rush as well as run-defense. Brooks also showed off in the 2nd preseason game with a sack, some good QB pressures and rushing tackles in the backfield. So, by preseason standards, he’s off to a good start.
So, what does this mean for Kenny Clark?
Well, first off, Kenny Clark has always been thought of as a Nose-Tackle. But there’s a little problem with that term in a 3-4 defense. They tend to be block-eaters and space-fillers. Sure, there are exceptions, and Clark has been a bit of an exception during his career. But this doesn’t allow them to be the playmaker every down that they have the talent to be. Some might be able to overcome a double-team, but it’s going to wear on them eventually.
This is where the versatile depth comes in. I don’t mean to point fingers, but Dean Lowry had some good plays for the Packers. He could be an occasional force. But that’s the problem, occasional. He was a Defensive End that would show up in a highlight maybe 2-3 times a year. He didn’t exactly take pressure off of Kenny Clark. But the versatility of this defensive line now, could do just that.
Now, the Packers may have some rotation on the inside to help kick Kenny Clark to Defensive End. Karl Brooks spent a good amount of time on the inside and outside in college, T.J. Slaton and Devonte Wyatt as well. With four rotatable options at Nose Tackle, that helps give Clark the opportunity to line up inside or out, whenever he is on the field.
But the key to that rotation is impact. Kenny Clark can line up wherever he wants on the line and will still command attention if the rest of the defensive front is ho-hum. I feel that for the first time in Clark’s career he is surrounded by a supporting cast that can be difference makers. They may be young, but they have the talent to make their presence felt.
As we’ve already seen in Training Camp and the Preseason games thus far, Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks are special talents. Does that mean they’re going to be All-Pro’s this year? Of course not. If they even make their presence felt a handful of times this season, they will be successful. The main mark of success for these two rookies this year in my opinion is to take the weight off their teammates.
If Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks can be counted on to be big rotational role players in 2023, they will help. Get that push in the running game to be trusted that they won’t be a gaping hole. Get that pressure in the passing game to ensure the Quarterback is looking over his shoulder. If they can get that done and take the weight off their veteran counterparts, that is successful.
I’m excited for Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks this season. I think with their presence this defensive front could be a much bigger force than it has been in the past. Looking forward to seeing what they offer.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.