Packers by position: Finally, reinforcements up front arrive for Kenny Clark up front – Madison.com

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Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark has 283 tackles and 22.5 sacks since being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft.
GREEN BAY — Jerry Montgomery paused and considered the question. The Green Bay Packers sometimes surly defensive line coach is demanding of his guys, and he’s a firm believer that in football, nothing is given — only earned.
Nonetheless, as he thought about what he has to work with this season — two-time Pro Bowl cornerstone Kenny Clark, veteran free-agent addition Jarran Reed, steady vet Dean Lowry, rising second-year project T.J. Slaton and first-round draft pick Devonte Wyatt — Montgomery couldn’t help but acknowledge that what he’d just been asked had merit:
Could this be the most talented defensive line he’s had since joining the coaching staff in 2015?
“Yeah, when you look at the talent and the production that these guys have had, absolutely,” Montgomery said during the offseason program. “So, (we’re) looking forward to it.”
It all starts with Clark, who despite getting his second Pro Bowl nod last season saw too many squandered opportunities. By his count, he missed out on four or five sacks he should have had, which would have made his season stat line (50 tackles, five sacks. 43.5 quarterback hurries and 14 quarterback hits, including playoffs) far more impressive.
“I know I’m right there. Definitely,” Clark said. “The goal is to win a Super Bowl and be an All-Pro. I really want to do that. But if I’m capitalizing on my opportunities, I feel like my film, you can put that up with anybody. The only thing I have to do is stay healthy, stay locked in on what I need to do.”
Reed, a former second-round pick whose best season was in 2018 when he had 10.5 sacks, spent last season with the Kansas City Chiefs but could prove to be another of general manager Brian Gutekunst’s bargain finds, like inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas last year.
“I’m just coming in and adding on what I can to contribute to this great defense,” Reed said. “When I heard (the Packers) were interested, I wanted to hold off on everything I was doing and see if I could get in (with them). It is a great defense. I did want to be a part of it.”
For all the talk throughout the offseason about how dominant Green Bay’s defense could be, it also has ample room to improve — especially against the run. While the Packers finished 11th in the NFL against the run based on yards allowed per game (109.1), they were 30th in the 32-team league based on yards allowed per attempt (4.70).
“You’ve got guys that know the system here already, and then you’ve got guys that are learning, and then you’ve got guys that are rookies. So everybody’s going to be on different levels,” Montgomery said.
“Our motto is we’re only as strong as our weakest link in the D-line room. And my job is to get that weakest link caught up to the top guys so there is no drop off. They’re going to be held to that standard and if it’s not that standard, I’m not going to be happy, right?”
Here’s a closer look at the defensive line as the Packers prepare for training camp, which is partially underway with the rookies having reported on Friday morning. Veterans are scheduled to report on Tuesday, with the first full-squad practice set for Wednesday:
90 Jarran Reed: 6-foot-3, 307 pounds, 29 years old, seventh year from Alabama.
97 Kenny Clark: 6-foot-3, 314 pounds, 26 years old, seventh year from UCLA.
94 Dean Lowry: 6-foot-6, 296 pounds, 28 years old, seventh year from Northwestern
95 Devonte Wyatt: 6-foot-3, 304 pounds, 24 years old, rookie from Georgia.
93 T.J. Slaton: 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, 24 years old, second year from Florida.
90 Jack Heflin: 6-foot-3, 304 pounds, 24 years old, second year from Iowa.
99 Jonathan Ford: 6-foot-5, 338 pounds, 23 years old, rookie from Miami (Fla.).
79 Hauati Pututau: 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, 26 years old, rookie from Utah.
98 Akial Byers: 6-foot-3, 308 pounds, 23 years old, rookie from Missouri.
60 Chris Slayton: 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, 25 years old, first year from Syracuse.
How much impact can Wyatt have?
Rookie defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice on May 24 in Green Bay.
The second of the Packers’ two first-round draft picks, Wyatt turned some heads — as much as a defensive lineman can in helmets-and-shorts workouts that don’t include much hand-to-hand combat at the line of scrimmage — during organized team activity practices and minicamp by showing burst and quickness during drills.
The true test, of course, will be when the pads come on in camp, but when asked if he believes he can have an immediate impact as a rookie, Wyatt didn’t hesitate.
“Yessir,” he replied. “They drafted me first round for a reason. I just want to come in, just do the thing I did at Georgia or even better.”
Wyatt didn’t put up big numbers in the national champion Bulldogs’ top-flight defense (2.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, two fumbles forced), but barring a rash of injuries, defensive coordinator Joe Barry simply needs Wyatt to be a consistent rotational contributor.
Slaton.
Coming out of college, there were questions about Slaton’s work ethic and motor. He’d shown flashes of immense talent for the Gators and surely would have gone higher than the fifth round a year ago had he shown out more consistently. Nevertheless, the Packers liked what they saw from him during his 255 defensive snaps, and he came on down the stretch — fueling hope for 2022.
“Year 1 to Year 2, I’m expecting him to take a big jump,” Montgomery said. “Hopefully he comes back in shape and ready to go. He’s made a lot of progress from Point A to Point B. Now we need to get to C.”
Reed.
The former second-round pick may be on his third team in three years, but the Packers are thrilled to have added him for the bargain price of a one-year deal that included a $1.865 million signing bonus, a league-minimum base salary of $1.035 million and incentives that can push the total value to $4.5 million.
“(We’re) pretty excited to add a guy like that. Next to Kenny, next to Dean, that’ll be pretty exciting,” Montgomery said. “He’s been a dominant player in this league. Was really, really productive in Seattle and I think he had an OK year last year (in Kansas City). I’m excited to work with him. He brings a lot to the table — both in the run and in the pass.”
Heflin vs. Ford for No. 5 spot.
Heflin, an undrafted rookie a year ago, was one of the pleasant surprises of training camp last summer but faded late in the year. Ford is a massive human, but the seventh-round pick the Packers invested in him is hardly a one-way ticket to the 53-man roster.
Heflin, who played only 17 defensive snaps as a rookie before falling out of the rotation, has some Tyler Lancaster in him. Even after the Packers let Lancaster walk in free agency, Montgomery was raving about his approach. Heflin must earn his roster spot, and he can do it by following Lancaster’s playbook.
26.
That’s the age of both Pututau, an undrafted rookie from Utah, and Clark, who was 20 when the Packers picked him in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. While Pututau is among the oldest rookies in the league, his three sacks in his final season with the Utes last season does pique one’s interest. An injury kept him out of most of the offseason program, but given the Packers’ history with undrafted free agents, he has as much chance as anyone to make an impression.
Round: 1
Pick: 22
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 241 pounds
Notes: Walker, who registered 139 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks in four years at Georgia, was a one-year starter for the national champion Bulldogs, but he has good speed for his size and excellent length and athleticism and could be a Day 1 starter in Green Bay.
Round: 1
Pick: 28
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 304 pounds
Notes: Wyatt registered 113 tackles, five sacks and 12 tackles for loss in four seasons for the Bulldogs and was regarded as the best three-technique defensive tackle in this year’s draft.
Round: 2
Pick: 34
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 208 pounds
Notes: The Packers coveted Watson — trading a pair of second-round picks to move up to select the son of 1993 Packers sixth-round pick Tim Watson — after the younger Watson finished his NDSU career with 105 receptions for 2,104 yards and 16 touchdowns in four seasons, including 43 receptions for 801 yards and seven TDs as a senior last year, despite missing three games with a hamstring injury.
Round: 3
Pick: 92
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 321 pounds
Round: 4
Pick: 132
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 201 pounds
Round: 4
Pick: 140
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 241 pounds
Round: 5
Pick: 179
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 258 pounds
Round: 7
Pick: 228
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 225 pounds
Round: 7
Pick: 234
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 333 pounds
Round: 7
Pick: 249
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 313 pounds
Round: 7
Pick: 258
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 190 pounds
Linebacker Ellis Brooks stretches during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Linebacker Caliph Brice stretches during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Backup quarterback Jordan Love stretches during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Backup quarterback Jordan Love runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie running back Tyler Goodson runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Defensive lineman T.J. Slaton runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Running back Aaron Jones runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur throws a pass during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Ford runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Linebacker Ty Summers runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Safety Shawn Davis runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Safety Vernon Scott runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur throws a pass during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Cornerback Eric Stokes runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie cornerback Raleigh Texada runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Tight end Alizé Mack runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Tight end Tyler Davis runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Linebackers Ray Wilborn and Ty Summers run a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Tight end Dominique Dafney runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Wide receiver Malik Taylor runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Wide receiver Juwann Winfree runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Rookie linebacker Caliph Brice stretches during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Center Jake Hanson stretches during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Running back A.J. Dillon runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Green Bay.
Sunday: Quarterbacks.
Monday: Running backs.
Tuesday: Wide receivers.
Wednesday: Tight ends.
Thursday: Offensive line.
Friday: Defensive line.
Saturday: Outside linebackers.
July 24: Inside linebackers.
July 25: Defensive backs.
July 26: Special teams.
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The big question is when — or if — QB Aaron Rodgers will have the Packers’ cornerstone linemen protecting him this season, with both working back from the same injury: A torn ACL in the left knee.
Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark has 283 tackles and 22.5 sacks since being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft.
Rookie defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt runs a drill during a Packers training camp practice on May 24 in Green Bay.
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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