Packers rookie interior DL Karl Brooks puts together strong week of practices

Green Bay Packers defensive end Karl Brooks, left, and defensive tackle Chris Slayton during the Packers’ 2023 training camp on Monday, July 31, 2023 at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wis.
Green Bay Packers defensive end Karl Brooks, left, and defensive tackle Chris Slayton during the Packers’ 2023 training camp on Monday, July 31, 2023 at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wis. /

There may not be a player who saw his training camp stock rise more over the last week than Green Bay Packers rookie interior defensive lineman Karl Brooks.

Since Monday’s practice, Brooks has consistently impressed, specifically as a pass rusher, making his way into the backfield on multiple occasions each practice. He capped his week off with what would have been a two “sack” performance during Family Night, one of which came at a crucial time moment during a two-minute drill. Brooks has more recently been working as a rotational member of the Packers second-team interior defensive line unit.

"“I credit it to our defensive line coach,” said Brooks after Family Night. “Continuing to work with us every day about hands, getting off the ball, setting up your offensive lineman. But I just go out there and practice full speed. I have won a couple of reps, but I’m just trying to be consistent right now.”"

Brooks was a versatile defender in college while at Bowling Green. Although he’s listed at nearly 300 pounds, the majority of his career snaps came lined up as a traditional edge rusher, along with seeing playing time inside at the B-gap and even some in the A-gap.

Brooks was dominant as both a pass rusher and run defender, logging 63 pressures in 2022 and ranking sixth among edge rushers in PFF’s run-stop rate metric.

After Brooks was selected, Brian Gutekunst said that he is someone who could impact the passing game as a rusher and be able to be moved up and down the line. Brooks has been given a little flexibility so far to move around but has largely lined up as a three-technique defender.

"“Right now,” said Brooks, “I’ve been flexible on the defensive line. Lining up in the shade, a three (tech), a five (tech) here and there, just basically doing my assignment. So a little bit of flexibility but not too much.”"

It’s not surprising that Brooks is starting with a specific role. Not only at this position group but for all rookies, the Packers want their young players to become proficient in one specific area before more is added to their plates. Brooks is currently being utilized as the fifth member of the defensive line rotation behind Kenny Clark, DeVonte Wyatt, TJ Slaton, and Colby Wooden. His role in 2023 will likely come on obvious passing situations, where Brooks can get after the quarterback.

Not only with Brooks, but the play of the entire interior defensive line unit at the start of training camp has been sound—an important development for the Packers’ defense.

The push up the middle from this group has been consistent. With Wyatt taking on a larger role along with the additions of Brooks and Colby Wooden, this looks like a much faster group as well, that is able to penetrate gaps and flow sideline-to-sideline to limit plays outside. Having that speed element along the defensive line as opposed to space eaters like the Packers have often had in recent years, is an important aspect for the Joe Barry defense.

"“Jerry (Montgomery), he really coaches us on get off and being direct in our approach,” said Slaton. “So that’s kind of what we are working on right now, so it does look a little bit faster than what it is, but that’s the direction we are trying to go.”"

As Gutekunst said prior to training camp, the Packers have a lot of pass rush options inside, especially if Brooks continues to build momentum, but success for this defense begins with stopping the run – an area with question marks – and putting the offense in predictable passing situations, where the pass rush can be aggressive.

Along with Slaton filling the early down role and contributions from Clark, others are going to have to step up in this capacity.

"“Just from an early glimpse,” said Matt LaFleur after Saturday’s practice, “there were some good things, just being able to get some pressure on the quarterback. Certainly some things in the run game.“Those are two guys (Brooks and Wooden) that give us some juice on the defensive line, and they are going to get a lot of minutes, a lot of snaps. It’s going to be a gradual process, but those are two guys we are going to have to count on.”"