The Green Bay Packers selected defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt with the 28th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. The former Georgia star was drafted to fortify the interior defensive line which had been an issue for the Packers for years. Thus far, Wyatt has only been a part of the team’s defensive line rotation but with four games remaining on the schedule and the Packers clinging to only slim playoff hopes, the time has come to see more of what the rookie can do.

Wyatt has the tools to be successful in this league. It didn’t take long for head coach Matt LaFleur to notice Wyatt’s raw ability early in the team’s first minicamp.

“He sure looked good in some of the pass-rush things we were doing,” LaFleur said. “I love his intensity, his focus. You can tell he’s been coached hard. There’s a reason he was a first-round pick. You can see it.”

But once the season got started, Wyatt didn’t get a lot of playing time. The Packers started veterans Dean Lowry and free agent addition Jarran Reed ahead of Wyatt in the defensive line rotation. Wyatt has yet to play in more than 25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in any one game and has played in just 17 percent of the snaps on defense for the season.

Thus far, through 12 games, Wyatt has made 10 total tackles and knocked down one pass at the line of scrimmage. He has yet to record a sack, a tackle for loss or a quarterback hit. There have been flashes of the talent that made him a first round pick, but he hasn’t really played enough to make a substantial impact on defense this season.

The slow adjustment to the next level should not be a big surprise as Wyatt experienced something similar at Georgia.

“I feel like a freshman when you go to college,” Wyatt said as training camp was winding down. “That’s how I’m treating it, just trying to develop every day, every week. It took me, I’d say, about a year. That second year, I started clicking and moving fast and doing things, and I started moving up on the depth chart. So, I’d just say, you never know. It might be fifth game of this year, 12th, 18th game, 24th game. You never know.”

Through it all, Wyatt preached patience. “I’ve just got to take my time, be patient, take it step-by-step and just detail after detail,” he said. “The predicament I’m in right now, I’m not mad because I got the guys in front of me, [and I’m] learning from them. And when my time comes, I know I’m going to shine. My wings are going to open.”

But the time is fast approaching when we see more of Wyatt on the field. He has made at least one noticeable positive play per game in recent weeks and is gradually getting more playing time. The game is slowing down a bit for the rookie which is an encouraging sign and he has received his highest grades from Pro Football Focus as well.

The Packers also know that Reed and Lowry are unlikely to be back in 2023. Lowry is in the last year of his contract and has recorded only 0.5 sacks all year while rarely making much of an impact.

Reed signed a one-year deal with the Packers prior to this season and is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason unless GM Brian Gutekunst decides to sign him to a new deal. Reed has 1.5 sacks and has been inconsistent throughout the season, providing push and pressure in some games and being nearly invisible in others. Like many Packers defensive players, he has struggled against the run.

It would make sense for the Packers to play Wyatt more often down the stretch. The playoffs are increasingly a long shot and when he’s been in the lineup, Wyatt has provided the team with roughly the same production as Reed and Lowry and he has far more upside than the two veterans.

The final four games of the season should give Wyatt an opportunity to play more often and show the coaching staff what he can do. The Packers are hoping he’ll unlock more of the potential that caused them to draft him this spring and that he can be a big part of the future of the defense.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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