The Green Bay Packers are set to open training camp later this week. This is the next in a series of articles previewing the Packers position by position, analyzing the talent on the roster and discussing key questions that are facing the Packers as they begin preparation for the 2022 season.

Today we look at the defensive line. For our look at the quarterbacks, click here and for running backs, click here. The wide receivers can be found here and the tight ends here while the offensive line can be found here. We will examine another position each day until the start of training camp.

  1. Kenny Clark

Clark is coming off his second Pro Bowl season in the last three years. The former first round pick out of UCLA is quick and tough to move. He has played mostly on the nose although defensive coordinator moved him around the line more often last season, something we should see even more of in 2022.

Clark is one of the few interior defensive linemen who can occupy blockers, penetrate to make tackles for loss against the run and pressure the passer. He had four sacks and six tackles for loss last season.

At 26, Clark is in the prime of his career and could be primed to have his best season yet.

  1. Dean Lowry

Lowry is coming off his best season with five sacks, 42 tackles and five tackles for loss. The former Northwestern star was considered a possible cap casualty but GM Brian Gutekunst kept him on the roster.

Lowry is not flashy but he’s a dependable run defender who gives an all-out effort and occasionally gets pressure on the quarterback.

He had missed just one game in his six seasons with the Packers and enters the final year of his contract at the age of 28.

  1. Jarran Reed

The Packers signed Reed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Reed started his career with the Seahawks before joining the Chiefs in 2021. His best season came in 2018 when he recorded a career-high 10.5 sacks.

Reed is durable but hasn’t always been consistent when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Last season, he had just 2.5 sacks although he was credited with 12 quarterback hits.

He gives the Packers another potential pass rusher along the line to supplement Clark.

  1. T.J. Slaton

Slaton enters his second season in the league and the Packers are hoping he will take a step forward and be a bigger part of the defensive line rotation. As a rookie, he played 24 percent of the team’s defensive snaps while recording one sack and 23 total tackles.

At 6’4” and 330 pounds, Slaton is a big man who is tough to move out of the middle of the defensive line. He had a strong preseason last year but needs to prove he can get the job done during the regular season as well.

  1. Jack Heflin

The undrafted free agent out of Iowa was the feel-good story of last year’s training camp. He appeared in four games last year and played 17 snaps on defense.

Heflin will have to fight for a roster spot this year with the additional depth on the roster. His ability to contribute on special teams may be the key to earning a roster spot this summer.

  1. Devante Wyatt

The Packers added Wyatt with their second pick in the first round of this year’s draft. The Georgia alum has outstanding athletic ability highlighted by his quick first step off the snap of the ball.

Wyatt’s college statistics weren’t outstanding, but his athleticism helped his teammates make more plays.

Wyatt gives the Packers another weapon along the defensive line, a position they have not emphasized in recent years.

  1. Jonathan Ford

The Packers seventh-round pick in this year’s draft out of Miami (Florida) is a massive man who was selected in part because of his potential to help on special teams.

The 6’5”, 335-pound Ford should serve as a run stuffer if he makes the roster. He may also be a potential practice squad player if he isn’t ready for the active roster as a rookie.

  1. Chris Slayton

The Syracuse product has bounced around the league since being drafted by the Giants in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s spent time on the practice squads of five NFL teams without playing a down in a regular season game.

At 6’4” and 307-pounds, Slayton needs to show more of the form that helped him make so many tackles for loss in college.

  1. Hauati Pututau

The rookie out of Utah is already 26-years-old. Pututau missed OTAs with an injury and has started training camp on the PUP list. He is considered a long shot to make the roster.

  1. Akial Byers

Byers was a solid run defender at Missouri. His slow 40-time meant he wasn’t going to get drafted. The undrafted free agent needs to shine on special teams to have a chance to make the roster.

Three Key Questions

  1. How Will the Increased Depth Help Kenny Clark?

Clark has been the only standout along the Packers defensive line since his arrival in Green Bay in 2016. Now, with the additions of Reed and Wyatt, he has help along the line.

This means Barry can move Clark along the line to create mismatches with offensive linemen and get Clark off the nose sometimes so he has a chance to make more plays.

He also could take more plays off to keep him fresh late in games and late in the season.

The potential is there for this to be Clark’s best season.

  1. How Quickly Will Devonte Wyatt Be Ready to Contribute?

For the first time since they drafted Clark in 2016, the Packers drafted a defensive lineman in the first round.

How quickly Wyatt is ready to join the rotation and make consistent contributions will impact how much the defensive line can improve this season. The Packers will look for the rookie out of Georgia to become a part of the rotation sooner rather than later.

  1. What Can Jarran Reed Contribute?

Reed has been inconsistent over the course of his career. Seventeen of his 24.5 sacks have come in two seasons, 2018 and 2020. In his four other NFL campaigns, he has not registered more than 2.5 sacks in any one year.

The good news is, the Packers don’t need Reed to be the primary pass rusher off the defensive line. But with Clark also in the lineup, Reed should get his chances to get after the quarterback without being blocked by the best lineman opponents have on their roster.

A solid season from Reed, who signed a one-year, prove-it deal, could help take the defensive line to another level this season.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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