Packers training camp roster preview and prediction: Interior DL

May 23, 2023; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (95) is shown during organized team activities at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Jones-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2023; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (95) is shown during organized team activities at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

Training camp is less than two weeks away for the Green Bay Packers. As part of my preview, I will be highlighting all 91 players on the Packers roster as I make my way through each position group, taking a look at what I’ve seen during the offseason programs, where things stand, expectations, and more. I’ll also be making a final roster prediction as well.

On to the defensive side of the ball, where I’ll begin with the interior defensive line, another position on this Packers roster that features quite a few inexperienced players. Outside of Kenny Clark, the next most experienced defender is TJ Slaton, with 599 career snaps. Devonte Wyatt has only 224, and no one else currently on the roster has any.

If this Green Bay defense is going to find success this season, it begins with being better against the run, an area that this unit has struggled with for several years. The Packers ranked 28th in yards per rush last season and 31st by run defense DVOA. Allowing four, five, or six yards runs on first down puts the control in the offense’s hands. The entire playbook is open to them on second and third and shorts, putting the defense on its heels.

However, slowing the run leads to predictable passing situations in which the defensive front can pin its ears back, and the secondary can play more aggressively. The defense is now the one dictating things rather than the other way around. If you look back at the final few games of the 2022 season when the defense as a whole was playing its best, in part, it was because they were holding up much better against the run.

"“It’s a mindset,” said run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery on being a good run defender. “At the end of the day, it’s a mindset. We had a great conversation in our room a couple weeks ago. We are watching Kenny do it, and then we are watching other guys try to do it, and their being taught the same thing, but it’s in the mindset in which you do it. Kenny is trying to knock your head off across from you every single time while these other guys are just trying to the technique. So it’s a mindset and when those guys build that mindset, and I coach with that temperament, because I coach grown men and I’m teaching grown men to out physical other grown men from across from each other. And when you don’t have that mindset, you’re in the wrong business.“"

With this being such a heavily rotated position with four or five players seeing regular snaps, the Packers are going to have to “weather the storm,” as run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery said, that comes with relying heavily on inexperienced players. What those specific defensive rotations are going to look like on running-downs is a bit of an unknown. While we can expect to see Clark, Slaton, and Wyatt on the field together in those situations, Clark and Wyatt can’t play every run down either and still be on the field for every pass rush situation–again, they can’t play 100% of the snaps.

This means that rookies Colby Wooden and/or Karl Brooks will have to be worked into those situations, which is where we could really see the growing pains, as oftentimes, it takes longer for young players to make a regular impact against the run than it does the pass. With the additions of Wyatt, Wooden, and Brooks over the last two years, the Packers have really emphasized finding versatile, athletic gap penetrators, which best suits the Joe Barry defense, rather than having space eaters like Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster.

If you’ve missed any of the other articles in this series, you can find them below:


Running back

Tight end

Wide receiver

Offensive tackle

Interior offensive line

Kenny Clark

In a very young interior defensive line room, we are again asking ourselves the question, does Kenny Clark have enough help up front? The defensive front goes as Kenny Clark goes, and by his own admission last season, Clark experienced some ups and downs, contributing to the Packers’ inconsistent run defense.

"“It was up and down,” Clark said via after the 2022 season. “I wasn’t too happy about how I performed in the run game for the most part all year. Pass rush, I think I started off fast, ended up doing a pretty good job. But just from what I’m accustomed to, probably just too much inconsistency.”"

Clark was still effective in getting after the quarterback, logging 45 pressures and five sacks, including multiple pressure most weeks, and ranking 15th out of all interior defenders in pass rush win rate. However, he ranked 53rd out of 78 defenders in PFF’s run defense grade and 58th in total run stops.

As Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley noted on the Playcallers podcast presented by The Athletic, an important part of his defensive scheme, which is a similar scheme to what Barry runs, is the movement of the interior defenders. With Green Bay adding more versatile players upfront, that hopefully allows them added flexibility to move Clark around more, specifically more opportunities away from the interior, where he can find more one-on-one opportunities to be a disruptor.

Devonte Wyatt

Second-year player Devonte Wyatt is going to go from a relatively small role to being relied upon heavily. He finished out the 2022 season well as a pass rusher, totaling five pressures in the final four games, along with two sacks. But where he will have to continue to really refine his game is as a run defender.

"“He’s always going to be a great pass rusher as long as he keeps on developing,” said Clark about Wyatt. “The biggest thing is he has to learn the technique with the run. That’s what myself, coach are trying to push each other to do. Just helping him learn the technique of how we play the run and the mentality you need to have as a three-down player.”"

During one practice, in particular, this offseason, Wyatt really flashed as a pass rusher, making his way into the backfield multiple times. As already mentioned, when the Packers were in their base 3-4 defense, Wyatt was paired with Clark and Slaton. When the defense was in nickel, he was with Clark on the obvious passing downs.

TJ Slaton

On early downs and obvious running situations, we are going to see TJ Slaton on the field for the Packers. While Wyatt was paired with Clark on passing situations during OTAs and minicamp when the defense was in nickel, it was Slaton next to Clark on early downs.

Although he is entering his third NFL season, it’s not as if Slaton has a ton of experience either, with fewer than 600 snaps. What the Packers need from him is more consistency. In his role, Slaton is likely never going to be someone who fills the stat sheet or leaps off the television screen on Sundays. Instead, his job is to take on double teams and occupy space. If done correctly, this will create gaps, pass-rush lanes, and opportunities for his teammates.

Colby Wooden

Colby Wooden was the Packers’ fourth-round pick this year out of Auburn, where he played up and down the defensive front, totaling 668 snaps in the B-gap, 355 over the offensive tackle, and 642 as an edge rusher. He already figures to be an important part of the Packers’ defensive line rotation, seeing his fair share of snaps during offseason programs with the starting defense. One specific defensive line rotation included Wooden, along with Slaton and Wyatt.

Brian Gutekunst mentioned after the draft that the team liked Wooden’s ability to pass rush from just about anywhere along the defensive front, but what he will have to prove is that he can hold up against the run.

Karl Brooks

Similarly to Wooden, the Packers really liked Brooks’ versatility and that he could pressure the quarterback from multiple alignments. Although listed at over 300 pounds, Brooks spent most of his career at Bowling Green lined up at edge rusher but also played over 1,000 snaps inside the tackle box. The combination of Clark, Wyatt, Slaton, and Wooden will likely account for the majority of the Packers’ snaps at defensive linemen, while I see Brooks utilized more so in specific pass-rushing situations. As a fifth-round pick, he is going to have more opportunities to develop before taking on a large role.

"“They’re going to be thrown into the fire,” said Montgomery about Wooden and Brooks. “So there’s going to be a lot of mistakes early, and hopefully, a lot of that happens in preseason and the practices that happen. But you’re going to have to put them in there and let them learn. We are going to have to live with those mistakes.“When you have veteran guys like Dean and J-Reed, you limit those opportunities for those guys to make those mistakes and hurt the defense because you have guys that know what they’re doing. But now, you have to throw them into the fire. So my job is to get them ready, so that’s what I have to do. Come season opener, they’ll be ready to go.”"

Jonathan Ford

Jonathan Ford was a 2022 seventh-round pick who was on the Packers’ 53-man roster but essentially had a red-shirt season as a healthy scratch on gamedays. There is no guarantee that he is going to make the roster this season, and if he is going to make a push, he is going to have to show that he can hold up against the run. Ford has a big frame at 6’5″ – 338 pounds, and as I’ve already discussed, Green Bay’s ability to slow the run is where the biggest question lies. There is the potential that if the Packers keep six interior defenders, which is fairly normal, he could carve out a rotational role as a secondary run-stuffing option to Slaton.

Chris Slayton

If you recall, Slayton had a really nice preseason in 2022 for the Packers, so much so that many on the outside thought he could earn a roster spot. In those three preseason games, Slayton totaled eight pressures, according to PFF. But with that said, making the 53-man is going to be an uphill battle. Although this defensive lien room is young, it is crowded, and unless significantly better than Ford, when discussing a final roster spot, the Packers are more likely to choose the player still on his rookie deal and entering his second season over Slayton, a 2019 draft pick made by another team. Again, the best way for Slayton to get noticed isn’t by getting after the quarterback, the Packers already have a lot of players who can do that, but he will need to stand out against the run.

Jason Lewan

Green Bay signed Jason Lewan after the 2023 draft after he spent his college career at Illinois State. Lewan was a rotational defender, never playing more than 470 snaps in a season, most of which came lined up at defensive end. He recorded 13 pressures and one sack in 2022, and his run defense grade ranked 25th out of draft-eligible players from the 2023 defensive tackle class.

Antonio Moultrie

The Packers had Antonio Moultrie in for a tryout during rookie mini-camp and signed him after those practices.  A 2023 undrafted rookie, like many other newcomers this interior defensive line room, Moultrie is versatile, having played up and down the defensive front while at Miami. He logged just four pressures in 2022 but ranked 27th in run defense grade out of all interior defenders. Moultrie’s ceiling in Year 1 with the Packers is likely the practice squad.

Roster prediction

Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, Colby Wooden, and Karl Brooks

We know that these five players are going to be on the Packers 53-man roster, and as of now, I think keeping just five interior defenders makes the most sense. The sixth defender will likely see very little playing time and with the NFL’s practice squad elevation rules, which allow teams to elevate a player for gameday up to three times before having to either sign him to the roster or release him, the Packers can still make sure they have the depth they need on Sundays in case of injury. If they do keep a sixth, Ford is, in my eyes, the clear front-runner for that role, but I’ll have to see more out of him this summer before assuming he’s going to be on the roster. With crowded position groups at edge rusher, linebacker, and safety, I think that extra roster spot could be better utilized elsewhere.