An inexperienced interior defensive line
The youth on the offensive side of the ball, specifically at receiver and tight end, have garnered most of the attention–and understandably so. But there is also a lot of inexperience along the interior defensive line. Only Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton, and Devonte Wyatt have any NFL snaps, with Slaton playing fewer than 600 and Wyatt less than 250. The Packers are going to be relying heavily on two rookies, Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks, and another near rookie in Wyatt from a playing time perspective.
The good news is that Wooden and Brooks both had really impressive summers. As a whole, I was impressed with the play of the interior defensive line, specifically with their ability to create consistent push up the middle, along with how much faster this unit looks this season.
But with that said, performing in the preseason and doing so in the regular season are two very different things, and it remains to be seen if this position group can continue to make plays when it matters. If the defensive unit is going to improve this season, it all begins with the interior defensive line. The Packers have to be better at slowing the run and putting the opposing offense in predictable passing situations. This is also a defense that ranked 22nd in total pressures generated last season. In order to be better in those areas, it will take all 11 defenders, but it all starts up front.
With what we saw from the interior defensive line this summer, there are certainly reasons for optimism. However, when relying heavily on inexperience, down-to-down consistency can very much be an issue. And with an offense that may struggle to put up points, the margin for error for this unit is a lot smaller than what it has been over the years.
A rookie kicker
Since drafting Anders Carlson, the Packers knew that there would be ups and downs that came with relying heavily on a rookie kicker, and we’ve already seen plenty of that, but Gutekunst also made clear that patience was required and they would give Carlson time. During one practice, you would see Carlson go 6-for-6, and the next day, he might go 1-for-6.
Once again, I’ll reference that points may be at a premium for this offense early on, which means maximizing field goal and extra point opportunities–something that, at least initially, probably won’t be a given. Two aspects about Carlson that the Packers really liked were that he packs some power and his ability to bounce back, which are two things that have been on display all summer.
It’s also worth mentioning that holding for Carlson will be Daniel Whelan, another first-year NFL player. One reason that Whealn made the team over Pat O’Donnell was his improvement throughout training camp as a holder, but until we get to the regular season, there are going to be a lot of question marks around that entire operation.