Packers Devonte Wyatt making most of recent opportunities

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 13: Devonte Wyatt #95 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 13, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 13: Devonte Wyatt #95 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 13, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Although still very early, the early returns from the Green Bay Packers 2022 draft class have been excellent; however, lost in the shuffle has been first-round pick Devonte Wyatt, who is still fighting for any sort of regular playing time.

Out of the Packers’ five-man interior defensive line rotation, Wyatt started the season as fifth on the depth chart, and in terms of snap counts, he has stayed there. He has appeared in 13 of the Packers’ 14 games and has only 134 total snaps or just over 10 per game.

With a defensive line group made up of veterans in Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed, and Dean Lowry, who the Packers are clearly choosing to lean on, along with TJ Slaton filling in as a run-stuffer, Wyatt’s opportunities have been few and far between as he fights to show that he is deserving of more playing time.

"“One, you’re taking Kenny Clark off the field, and you’re taking Jarran Reed off the field to get him reps,” said defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery following the Bears game. “Now, if those guys aren’t getting it done, it’s a lot easier to say, let’s go get a shot, but again, to me, you prove things in practice. So if you’re deserving of those reps, and you’re just that much better than the guy in front of you in third down right now, then let’s do it. Until you prove it on the field and prove it in practice, it’s hard to take away from the guys that are proven. He’s earned the reps that he’s getting, and he’s getting more of those reps, and he’s getting more passing situation reps. I think he’s going to be a guy who’s really good there, especially as he continues to develop.”"

Although the interior pass rush hasn’t exactly been great this season, Clark still ranks 13th in total pressures at the position, while Reed ranks 34th–not bad. The defensive front has really struggled against the run, however, but that isn’t where Wyatt is going to see many snaps this season. He has been on the field mostly during obvious passing situations.

Lowry, meanwhile, has been used more so on running downs but still averages nearly 14 pass rush snaps per game. He ranks near the bottom of the half of the position group in both pressures and win rate, according to PFF ($$). If the Packers want to get Wyatt more opportunities, this is where those snaps would most likely come from.

It’s a small sample size for sure, but Wyatt has made the most of his recent opportunities over the last two games. He has been on the field for just 18 total snaps, including 13 pass rush attempts, and has generated a sack, two tackles, and two stops. Among all interior defensive linemen during that two-game stretch, Wyatt ranks ninth in win rate and 13th in PFF’s pass rush productivity metric. When Wyatt is on the field, two aspects of his game immediately stand out, his athleticism, which included a 4.77-second 40-yard dash, and his relentlessness, resulting in a few downfield tackles.

It’s not uncommon for the Packers to take things slowly with early-round picks; in fact, many haven’t even been the preferred starters at their respective positions initially. Along with Wyatt, Rashan Gary, Jordan Love, and AJ Dillon are recent examples of first or second-round picks who saw little playing time that first season. However, unlike those three, who were behind Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Jamaal Williams, Wyatt is playing on an interior defensive line unit that has battled inconsistency.

While still in the thick of the playoff race, the Packers will have holes to fill at the interior defensive line position this offseason, with Reed and Lowry set to hit free agency, so one would think that they’d want a better look at Wyatt in live games than the 160 snaps he is on pace for. Not to mention that more in-game opportunities can help expedite his learning curve when it’s looking like he will be leaned on heavily next season.

Again, I don’t think anyone is expecting Wyatt to go from 10 snaps to 30, but he’s flashed enough in recent weeks and done so on a unit that hasn’t been great by any means to warrant more opportunities. A handful of Lowry’s pass rush snaps and/or a few from Reed as well each week could provide that pass rush more juice and also give those two a few additional snaps off, which may not be a bad thing either.

"“He’s going to be a really good player in this league,” said Montgomery. “And again, you’re learning a system. Things are new to you, calls are different, there’s a lot of adjustments. The more comfortable you get with something, the better you get at it. That’s why all of a sudden, you see a huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and then Year 3 from Year 2. So like I said, I think he’s got a bright future, I think he’s going to do some really great things, and I think he will be solid in the run game too.”"