The Green Bay Packers don’t have many weaknesses on a roster that has gotten them to back-to-back NFC Championship games. However, their defensive line is clearly one of them.
Other than Pro Bowler Kenny Clark–who is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the game today–Green Bay doesn’t boast much talent upfront. Veterans Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster are coming off two consecutive down seasons and there is little hope they can turn it around in 2021.
Kingsley Keke may be one potential bright spot. He came ready to play in Year 2 and flashed some abilities that could earn him a much larger role this time around. As of now, 2021 fifth-round pick Tedarrell Slaton, Willington Previlon, Jack Heflin, and Anthony Rush round out the position. Not all of them will make the final roster, but let’s make three bold predictions for what this position group will do in 2021.
The Green Bay Packers’ defensive line has been pegged as one of their weak points once again heading into the 2021 NFL season.
3. Tedarrell Slaton will play a significant role on early downs.
The Packers have had major issues stopping the run over the last two seasons and will look to change that moving forward. New defensive coordinator Joe Barry has some creative ideas up his sleeve and will look to inject life into this unit.
It might help to have Slaton out there as a big body who can eat up space and blockers. At 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, he’s not easy to move. He should be able to set the line of scrimmage and free up blockers for the linebackers behind him to come in and make plays. Don’t be surprised to see him on the field a lot on first and second downs when the opponent is most likely to run the rock.
2. Kingsley Keke will become a full-time player.
Keke was one of the biggest pleasant surprises for Green Bay a year ago and seems poised to take another step forward in year 3. After only playing 107 total snaps in his rookie year, that number ballooned to 414 last season. During that time on the field, he showed off some impressive pass-rushing moves (that included 22 total pressures). He has work to do when it comes to stopping the run and wrapping up ball-carriers, but he should be able to outplay the downward trending Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster.
1. Kenny Clark will earn his first All-Pro honors.
For whatever reason, the NFL and the national media have been lagging when it comes to accurately evaluating Clark’s talent and contributions. He’s only made the Pro Bowl once–back in 2019 despite being one of the best linemen in all of the NFL.
His low sack total may play a role in that, as he’s never accrued more than six in a season. However, that’s not a true indicator of his success, as he’s often the only true defensive lineman on the field. He’s also not necessarily asked to get after the quarterback, instead, he takes on blockers or sucks up space to free things for the other guys on his team. I predict all that will change thanks to a monster season from one of the newest Packers to receive a contract extension.