2017 Packers Previews: DL More than Mike Daniels

The defensive line in a 3-4 schemed is both vital and easily overlooked. Generally speaking, it’s simply not their job to do more than take up space. Which is fine! Taking up space, though it sounds like an insult, can actually be a really good thing to do on defense. Unglamorous though it may be, soaking up space and blocks allows everyone else on a defense to work more effectively.

Following B.J. Raji’s abrupt retirement, space eaters and backfield wreckers have been in short supply outside of the perennially underrated Mike Daniels. The winds of change could be blowing, though. 2016 first round pick Kenny Clark is joined this year by another draft pick and (gasp) a free agent signing. Add the rising Dean Lowry to the mix and the Packers’ defensive line could be more than just a bunch of big bodies.

Veteran to watch: Mike Daniels

It could only be Mike Daniels. He’s the proverbial straw that stirs the proverbial drink, perhaps for the defense as a whole if not just the defensive line. The “heart and soul” cliche is overused to the point of meaninglessness, but in the case of Mr. Daniels it might also be true. His intensity and strength (literal and metaphorical) buoyed the defense through some tough slogs last year, and if he finds himself a running mate with approximately equal intensity in another position group, the Packers’ defense could become formidable in a hurry.

Notable newcomer: Ricky Jean Francois

The Francophile Packers fan’s dream player, Ricky Jean Francois has long been the object of Ted Thompson’s free agent desire. The Packers’ personnel man was reportedly interested in the stout defensive lineman after he finished his stint in San Francisco, only to be outbid for his services by the Washington Redskins.

Now, Jean Francois will line up at defensive end for the Packers. Though he doesn’t offer much in the way of pass rush, he’s an ox-strong run defender who should be able to hold his ground well along the Packers’ front.

Biggest question: What does Letroy Guion have to do to lose his job?

Guion must have access to the NFL version of the Contra Code, because he seems to have extra lives by the bucket load. Set to start the season with a suspension for the second time in his four year tenure in Green Bay, Guion was arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of DUI this offseason. It was his second high profile arrest, but the Packers showed no signs of looking to cut him loose. At this point it’s worth wondering what it would take for the Packers to cut ties.

Key number: 1

The Packers have ten linemen listed on their current roster, and exactly one of them is not considered a defensive tackle: Dean Lowry. However, Lowry played inside as much as outside last year, especially on passing downs, and players listed as tackles (like Ricky Jean Francois) will also play on the outside as much as inside. Though it means little statistically, it’s just further evidence that positions are more and more irrelevant to how the game is played in the present day.