2018 Position Preview - Defensive Line is Locked and Loaded
The Packers have no deeper position on either side of the ball than their defensive line. New general manager Brian Gutekunst spent his first offseason building on some of his predecessor’s greatest hits, adding Muhammad Wilkerson to a unit already featuring Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Dean Lowry.
Even beyond their top flight players, the Packers are chock full of interesting prospects. After a foot injury scuttled most of his rookie year, the explosive but inconsistent Montravius Adams has a chance to make his first real impact as a pro. He’s joined by the well-traveled Joey Mbu, who the Packers had long courted, and Tyler Lancaster and James Looney, both excellent athletes in very different ways. Rounding out the group is local product Conor Sheehy, who has a chance to complete the ultimate Wisconsin football trifecta, suiting up as a prep, collegian, and pro in the Badger State.
Along with the quality of the players, though, come questions of deployment. Shifting, malleable defensive fronts are a calling card of new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and how he chooses to utilize this deep, talented group will be one of this year’s most interesting storylines.
Just the basics
Mike Daniels - 6-0, 310 - Iowa - 7th season
Kenny Clark - 6-3, 314 - UCLA - 3rd season
Muhammad Wilkerson - 6-4, 315 - Temple - 8th season
Dean Lowry - 6-6, 296 - Northwestern - 3rd season
Montravius Adams - 6-4, 304 - Auburn - 2nd season
Joey Mbu - 6-3, 313 - Houston - 2nd season
Tyler Lancaster - 6-3, 313 - Northwestern - Rookie
James Looney - 6-3, 287 - Cal - Rookie
Conor Sheehy - 6-4, 295 - Wisconsin - Rookie
Who needs to be good?
Mike Daniels gets the headlines and Muhammad Wilkerson was this group’s big free agent catch, but Kenny Clark represents both the present and future of the Packers’ defensive line. After increasingly promising play as a rookie and second year player, Clark has a chance to make a big jump this season, and his success will only serve to elevate his teammates.
Who is the wild card?
Muhammad Wilkerson could be one of this year’s great free agent signings, but there’s a reason the 28-year-old former Pro Bowler was available this offseason. The Jets, one of the NFL’s perennially miserable franchises, couldn’t count on him to even mildly justify his contract. If that doesn’t spell out wild card in giant flashing letters, what else would? The Packers didn’t break the bank to bring Wilkerson in, but it’s hard to know exactly what kind of season they’ll get from him. But reunited with his former defensive coordinator, Wilkerson could be in for big things.
Who could be a sleeper?
“Sleeper” is a relative term for a position group that’s attracted as much attention as the Packers’ defensive line, but James Looney is probably as close as the Packers get this year. A bit on the small side for a defensive lineman, Looney was one of the most impressive athletes in this year’s draft class. If someone ahead of him falls off or ends up injured, Looney could carve out a small role.