The Green Bay Packers’ defense will be under a great deal of pressure this season. While all eyes will be on the young offense and new starter Jordan Love, it is the defense with the majority of the weapons and with the most first round talent. In fact, that has been the case for quite some time.
With the addition of Lukas Van Ness in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Green Bay now has eight first round picks on defense. Indeed, general manager Brian Gutekunst is known for drafting defense first (much to the frustration of many Packers fans).
With so much investment in the defense, why haven’t the Packers had a top defense in a while? The answer is poor coaching and poor player management, and this is especially true on the defensive line.
PFF Ranks the Green Bay Packers Defensive Line 19th in the NFL
When ranking each NFL team’s defensive line, PFF was not kind to the Packers:
“There are still several pieces to work with on the Packers’ defensive line, but this unit has been trending in the wrong direction over the past few years.
“Kenny Clark’s PFF grade has declined in each of the last four seasons, with his 66.4 mark from last year representing a career-low that ranked only 45th at his position. And the unit’s best player, edge defender Rashan Gary, is coming off a torn ACL.
“Green Bay’s defensive line has two other former first-round picks with potential, though interior defender Devonte Wyatt barely played in his rookie season in 2022, and 2023 will be edge defender Lukas Van Ness’ first year in the NFL.”
Hopefully this year’s draft picks can help, but Devonte Wyatt should have been playing more last year. He was the highest graded player on the Packers’ defensive line last season, yet received the fewest amount of snaps.
Wyatt could barely get any snaps at all while Dean Lowry was healthy, despite Lowry’s incredibly bad season before his injury. That is just a poor coaching decision, plain and simple. There is no reason not to have your best lineman out on the field often.
As for player management, it has been clear that Kenny Clark cannot do it by himself for years now. Yet the front office has failed to provide him with any kind of competent help (and when they did, Barry refused to play him).
Football fans everywhere love to say, “the game is won in the trenches,” or “it’s a game of inches,” and both of these things are true. Coaches and general managers, countless times, have emphasized the need for good play on the offensive and defensive lines.
Yet, while the Packers have poured incredible resources into their offensive line, they have failed to do so on the defensive line. It is a big reason why the Packers were one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year AND the year before.
Hopefully this year is better and the players the Packers acquired in the draft get the chance to play and play well. Otherwise it will be just more of the same.