Where’s the 2017 Packers Defense Now?
The Packers promoted cornerback Tony Brown from the practice squad Saturday, taking the roster spot of injured defensive lineman Muhammed Wilkerson.
On Twitter, we highlighted how dramatically different the Packers’ roster looks just one year later:
Nearly a quarter into the first season of general manager Brian Gutekunst and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with the Packers, let’s check in on the 2017 defensive roster. How many of the players who suited up for Green Bay in Week 4 of last season are still with the organization?
(Note: This analysis includes players under contract with the Packers and currently on injured reserve.)
cornerbacks: 2 of 6 remain with packers
2017 Week 4 Cornerbacks: Josh Hawkins, Davon House, Kevin King, Lenzy Pipkins, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins
Of the six cornerbacks on the 2017 Packers roster in Week 4, only Kevin King remains on the active roster in Green Bay with Davon House landing on injured reserve this week.
Two corners were jettisoned via trade: Randall was traded over the offseason to the Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer and Pipkins was traded in training camp to the Colts for linebacker Antonio Morrison.
Randall has transitioned to play safety for Cleveland, and Pipkins was released after the preseason by Indianapolis and signed to the practice squad.
Josh Hawkins was released by the Packers after training camp this season, and is on currently on the Carolina Panthers’ roster as their third-string corner.
Quinten Rollins remains a free agent after the Packers waived him on September 10 with an injury settlement. The 2015 second-round pick tried his hand at safety this preseason, but ultimately could not find his way onto the roster.
safeties: 3 of 5 remain with packers
2017 Week 4 Safeties: Kentrell Brice, Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Marwin Evans, Josh Jones
The changes in the Packers’ defensive backfield haven’t been limited to just the cornerbacks. Morgan Burnett left Green Bay in the offseason after eight seasons, signing a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Burnett has battled nagging injuries in his first season and missed Week 3.
Marwin Evans started the 2018 regular season on the Packers’ practice squad before being released after Week 1 in favor of cornerback Will Redmond. Evans is unsigned, but has tried out with the Buccaneers, Dolphins, Colts, and Seahawks.
Brice and Clinton-Dix have seen much of the playing time at safety for the Packers this season as Josh Jones has battled an early season injury.
linebackers: 5 of 7 remain with packers
2017 Week 4 Linebackers: Ahmad Brooks, Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez, Clay Matthews, Chris Odom, Nick Perry, Jake Ryan
The team’s high-paid pass rushers, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, both remain a year later. Through the first three contests last season, the pair had combined for three sacks. This season, only Perry’s game-clinching sack in Week 1 has counted in the record books.
Just Kyler Fackrell remains out of the three back-up pass rushers. The Packers brought Chris Odom back for training camp in 2018, but he was released after the preseason. He remains a free agent.
Ahmad Brooks came to Green Bay to provide depth as a pass rusher, yet he suffered a concussion in Week 1 and recorded just 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 12 games. He is suspended for the first six weeks of the 2018 NFL season and remains unsigned.
Inside linebackers Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan both remain with the team, but Ryan suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp.
Though he was on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list in 2017’s Week 4, Vince Biegel was expected to be a contributor on defense last season. He was released by Green Bay after the 2018 preseason after just one season, and is transitioning to an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme on the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.
defensive line: 4 of 6 remain with packers
2017 Week 4 Defensive Linemen: Montravius Adams, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Quinton Dial, Ricky Jean Francois, Dean Lowry
Pettine’s defense has benefitted from strong play out of both Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark this season. Montravius Adams and Dean Lowry are both expected to contribute more as the season continues, especially after Wilkerson’s injury.
It was a strange 2017 season for Ricky Jean Francois, who signed a one-year, $3 million contract in March with the Packers. He was released by the Packers on September 13, then re-signed with Green Bay eight days later. By November, he was waived again and joined the Patriots. The Patriots cut him a month later, only to sign him again the following week. This offseason, Jean Francois signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions.
Quinton Dial was not retained by the Packers in 2018, but after Wilkerson’s injury the team brought him in for a workout this past week. He is currently unsigned.