Green Bay Packers new Defensive Coordinator Jeff Hafley is sure to shake things up this season. Whether that just applies to the scheme and the types of defensive coverages we’ll see on Sundays is not yet known, and perhaps we’ll see some unexpected personnel on the field as well. For now, lets talk about who the potential starters will be once the regular season rolls around in September.

Defensive Front:

There are no real question marks here. In a 4-3 scheme, the four guys we should see up front the most make up a very solid group. Rashan Gary at defensive end, Devonte Wyatt and Kenny Clark playing at defensive tackle, and Preston Smith on the other end with some room for Lukas Van Ness to come into the rotation to keep things fresh. Kinglsey Enagbare will see some work too, but barring injuries, Gary, Smith, Van Ness, and Enagbare should be the only four edge rushers that see any real time on the field this season.

Of course there will be moving pieces here, such as Clark getting rest throughout the games, which we saw as a theme last season. This will allow for T.J Slaton and Karl Brooks to see some much deserved playing time.

This group is all sorted out, and until Preston Smith and/or Kenny Clark move on from the Packers, these guys don’t need any help.


This is where things get just a tad bit more interesting. Obviously Quay Walker will be at the top of the depth chart, and second round rookie Edgerrin Cooper should be right behind him. Cooper was arguably the best linebacker in the 2024 draft class, and he is absolutely ready to start at the NFL level.

There will, however, be room for a third linebacker to be on the field at times in this scheme. That role will likely be rotational and depend on what plays are being called. The top three candidates that I can see playing a third linebacker spot are Isaiah McDuffie, rookie Evan Williams, and rookie Javon Bullard, who (spoiler) will likely be the second safety on the depth chart.


Here’s where things get really interesting. Let’s first start by saying that in a 4-3 scheme, sometimes things will be a little different, sometimes you’ll have four defensive backs on the field and sometimes you’ll have five. There are also very specific situations where you may have even fewer than four, or even more than five, such as goal line defense or prevent defense, but I digress. The point is, we’re going to look at the three cornerbacks and two safeties who should see the most snaps this season.

Let’s start with the obvious, Jaire Alexander will be the starting corner on the outside and Xavier McKinney will be the primary safety in the scheme. Whenever single high man-coverage is called in Hafley’s defense we can pretty much expect McKinney up top and Jaire on the opposing teams top wideout.

Slightly less obvious but still pretty clear is the “slot corner” spot. This is Keisean Nixon’s role to lose. He played more snaps at the cornerback position than anyone else on the roster in 2023. We can expect that there will sometimes be a hybrid linebacker/safety type player on the field in place of him; but whenever a true slot corner is needed, Nixon will get the nod.

Now for the interesting spots. We’ll start with the other starting safety. Second round rookie Javon Bullard looks poised to take over the role as a starting safety in this defense, but that’s just for now. I believe that Evan Williams may have the talent to work his way up to making that role a real competition. Either way, the safer bet for who’s starting in September is definitely Bullard.

The final spot that looks like a real competition could take place is the other boundary cornerback opposite from Jaire Alexander. There’s a serious case to be made for Carrington Valentine running away with that spot. He played well last season, and he played a lot. Injuries to the cornerback position were very prevalent in 2023 and Valentine ended up playing more snaps on defense than Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes combined. And with the volume that Valetine saw, he didn’t fold. He had errors at times, but he still outperformed all expectations that anyone could have had for a seventh round rookie.

All that is to say, this is still Eric Stokes’ spot to lose. Stokes is in the final year of his rookie deal after being selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. The expectations for Stokes have always been massive since coming out of that revered Georgia defense, and injuries have been the primary hinderance to his ability to meet those expectations. Nonetheless, if addressing his injuries during the offseason bore any positive results, he should see the starting role in 2024. If Stokes can stay healthy he deserves a chance to play up to the level that we all know he can, and hopefully he can even exceed that level of play while fighting for one of the most important achievements in an NFL player’s career; a second contract.


Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.