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Packers 2022 Roster Preview: Kenny Clark finally got some help – Acme Packing Company

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Two key editions should help reshape Green Bay’s defensive line room.
The 2021 Green Bay Packers struggled with defensive line depth throughout the season. Be it on the interior or on the edges, the defense always looked weakest when their starters were gassed or taking a breather on the bench, as offenses were able to wear out the few pocket-pushers they had on the team.
The team responded this offseason by adding Devonte Wyatt (a first-round pick) and Jarran Reed (a free agent signing), who should help keep the likes of Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry fresh this season. With snaps from defensive end Kingsley Keke and nose tackle Tyler Lancaster now gone, Wyatt and Reed should see action early on in a highly-rotated defensive line unit.
As a whole, the Packers have five players on their roster who should be expected to contribute this season to go along with some interesting prospects who could sneak in at the end of the roster or make the team’s practice squad. Here’s a look at Green Bay’s defensive line room as it stands today:
How acquired: 2016 NFL draft (1st round, #27)
NFL experience: 7th year
2021 stats: 48 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 sacks, 13 QB hits
Kenny Clark, rightfully so, has earned national recognition as one of the best all-around nose tackles in the league. Since being drafted in 2016, he has started 75 games and has made two Pro Bowls. Last year, the team played Clark as a defensive end in their three-linemen fronts at times with Tyler Lancaster eating snaps as the team’s nose tackle. With the additions of first-rounders Devonte Wyatt, who can play nose tackle, and Quay Walker, who should get the Packers to match 11 personnel with a true nickel front instead of a penny front, the question now is if that will continue or if defensive coordinator Joe Barry has other plans in mind for Clark.
How acquired: 2022 NFL draft (1st round, #28)
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: College
Green Bay’s second first-round pick of April’s draft was Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt, who has the ability to play all across the defensive line with the Packers. Had he not been paired with Jordan Davis, a mammoth nose tackle who was drafted earlier in the 2022 draft, Wyatt likely would have played nose tackle for the Bulldogs. Like his former teammate Quay Walker, Wyatt has received snaps with “the ones” in organized team activities and minicamp. If we’re to guess his role today, Wyatt probably starts as a defensive end in the Packers’ 3-4 base while the versatility of he and Kenny Clark’s game allows the duo to bounce around in nickel looks.
How acquired: 2016 NFL draft (4th round, #137)
NFL experience: 7th year
2021 stats: 42 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 sacks, 9 QB hits
Dean Lowry was a player who survived the chopping block this offseason. While he has made contributions to the team as a pocket-pusher with a true 3-4 defensive end’s frame, the fact that the team could release him and save $4 million made his status in 2022 uncertain until cap space was cleared with the release of tackle Billy Turner and the trade of receiver Davante Adams. Lowry will likely be the team’s third or fourth defensive lineman, as he figures to fight the newly-signed Jarran Reed for playing time. With how highly rotated defensive linemen are at the NFL level, both of those roles will probably play equally anyway.
How acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2022
NFL experience: 7th year
2021 stats: 43 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 12 QB hits
The Green Bay Packers’ big signing on the defensive side of the ball this free agency period was former second-rounder Jarran Reed, who recorded a 10.5-sack season with the Seattle Seahawks in 2018. Reed spent last season with the Kansas City Chiefs after he played out just one year of his extension with the Seahawks. Reed’s one-year deal with the Packers is worth $3.25 million and has about $1 million more in incentives, a contract that signifies that he will be a borderline starter for the team. Reed could start as a 3-4 defensive end if he is able to hop Dean Lowry on the depth chart, but at the very least will be the team’s fourth lineman.
How acquired: 2021 NFL draft (5th round, #173)
NFL experience: 2nd
2021 stats: 23 tackles, 0 TFLs, 1 sack, 2 QB hits
T.J. Slaton is somewhat of a project, a former high school offensive lineman who played sparingly at Florida but has tremendous explosiveness for his size. Slaton played in all 17 games in his rookie season, but the 330-pounder only played over 40 percent of the team’s snaps twice: once against Kansas City and the exhibition game against the Detroit Lions in Week 18. Slaton will likely see most of his playing time in 2022 as a nose tackle coming off the bench, though, Devonte Wyatt’s edition to the roster may eat some of those snaps as well.
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021
NFL experience: 2nd year
2021 stats: 1 tackle, 0 TFLs, 0 sacks, 0 QB hits
Jack Heflin made the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster last season after a great preseason stretch for the undrafted rookie. Unfortunately, Heflin was only able to suit up for four games during the regular season and was unable to translate preseason success to regular season flash. Heflin is a notable name on the roster bubble, as the defensive end must have another quality preseason to ensure he will make the squad.
How acquired: 2022 NFL draft (7th round, #234)
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: College
Jonathan Ford is a big nose tackle who gives the team an option to carry a third true nose tackle (Kenny Clark and T.J. Slaton), if the team wishes to. The seventh-round pick is listed at 337 pounds by the team and already played the nose tackle role with the Miami Hurricanes at the college level. While he didn’t test great at the combine and didn’t post tremendous college numbers (career highs of 3.5 TFLs and 3 sacks in 2019), Ford can play a space-eating role like Tyler Lancaster did on the cheap. First, he needs to make the team.
How acquired: Claimed off waivers in 2022 (via San Francisco)
NFL experience: 2nd
2021 stats: None
Chris Slayton is a former seventh-round pick from Syracuse who was drafted by the New York Giants in 2019. After turnover in the Giants’ coaching staff, Slayton has bounced around and is now on his sixth team since September of 2020. Even though he made the Giants’ roster in 2019 and was called up by the Atlanta Falcons in 2020, he has yet to play an NFL regular season snap. Like Jack Heflin and Jonathan Ford, Slayton will have to fight this preseason to prove that he’s a 53-man roster player and not a practice squadder.
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2022
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: College
Hauati Pututau was added to the Packers’ roster in undrafted free agency after starting 12 games for the Utah Utes over five seasons. Following a church mission, the former high school linebacker-receiver redshirted and focused on the defensive side of the ball in his true freshman and redshirt freshman seasons. As a redshirt sophomore, he played on both sides of the ball and actually earned a start as the team’s right tackle before transitioning back to the defensive side of the ball full-time for his final three years with the team. The 2014 high school graduate benefitted from extra eligibility as he made eight of his starts in his second redshirt senior season of 2021. Pututau likely will be a candidate for the team’s practice squad.
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2022
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: College
Akial Byers is currently listed at 308 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than what he was listed at on Missouri’s roster. The former Under Armour All-American was highly recruited as a high school prospect and started off-and-on with the Tigers for four seasons before taking over full-time in 2021. Like Hauati Putuau, Byers benefitted greatly from an extra season of eligibility last year. He also figures to be in the mix for a practice squad opportunity depending on how the summer plays out for him.
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