The Green Bay Packers still have a few holes to fill on defense. However, the defensive line is not one of them as they are among the leagues best as a whole.
You have to go back to 2010 to find a Green Bay Packers defense that finished top-10 in yards allowed and points allowed per game. However, you only have to go as far as 2016 to find a Packers defensive line that finished top-10 in rushing yards allowed per game.
With all the defensive inconsistencies the Packers have seen over the years one aspect has remained consistent, the defensive line. Plus, with the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson this offseason the d-line became even better.
What makes this group so special is how they get the job done without an overwhelming amount of sacks. There is no Calais Campbell or Demarcus Lawrence who will record 10-plus sacks a year. In fact, Mike Daniels finished with the most sacks on the Packers d-line last season with five. Kenny Clark registered 4.5 and the newly welcomed Wilkerson finished with 3.5 on the New York Jets-his lowest since his rookie season.
Don’t overthink those numbers, however. The Packers style of play up front has never been attacking the quarterback. Instead, their top priority is stopping the run. This is where the Packers front three need to be recognized as one of the best groups in the league.
Last season the Packers allowed 3.9 yards per carry, which was tied for eight best in the league. If not for the stellar run defense of the d-line that number may be much higher.
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The Packers d-line ranked ninth against both the pass and rush last season. The strength of their run defense came in the open field. The group allowed 0.57 yards in the open field last season which ranked seventh in the league. In a nutshell, this means the line did enough to allow the linebackers and secondary to make a play on rushes more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. In other words, even if the line doesn’t make the play they are taking on blocks to allow the guys behind them to make the play.
Then we look at power success, which is a percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. It also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer.
Here, the Packers d-line also ranked seventh in the league with a success rate of 56 percent. This may be the most important stat you will see as power success represents crunch time. Knowing that the d-line can come up big time in big situations puts them among the leagues best.
Where the Packers line had trouble last season was defending the run up the middle. They ranked 29th allowing 4.62 yards per carry up the middle. Teams even ran the ball 50 percent of the time up the middle, so it’s clear opponents knew their weakness. However, the addition of Wilkerson will certainly improve the run protection.
Looking at the depth, the Packers have a solid starting three in Daniels, Clark and Wilkerson. Each of them could start and contribute on any team. Clark may be the only one who’s in question of that however, he came alive last season after a sluggish rookie year.
There shouldn’t be any concern over the first string players. If there’s any concern over the Packers defensive line it should be with the second string group. That consists of Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams, James Looney and newly acquired Joey Mbu. Each one of these four players are either a rookie, on their rookie contract or a career practice squad player.
However, Lowry and Adams showed a lot of promise last season. There are a lot of good words said about Mbu and what he can bring. Looney, the lone rookie of the group, is the only one with question marks surrounding him.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery feels confident in the group as a whole. He mentioned that this season we will see a lot more rotating between the guys on the d-line. He believes the team is talented enough there to keep guys fresh.
The Packers d-line has been consistently good over the years, specifically at stopping the run. Between the numbers and personnel, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t one of the best in the league.