Kenny Got Some Help – Packers Finally Have Depth on Defensive Line

The Packers have finally surrounded Kenny Clark with some legitimate support.

The Packers have been blessed with an elite defensive tackle in the form of Kenny Clark for many years, but while the two-time Pro Bowler has anchored the defensive line, he has been given precious little in the way of legitimate support.

In previous seasons, the thought of Clark getting any kind of lengthy injury was enough to send shivers down the spines of Packers fans, such was the lack of quality options in reserve.

The acquisition and development of several new additions to the defensive line over the last two off seasons have given Green Bay real depth on the defensive line, which now figures to be a strength of Joe Barry’s defense, rather than an area of concern.

Of course, the most noteworthy recruits came this spring, when veteran Jarran Reed signed as a free agent and Devonte Wyatt was drafted in the first round.

Reed has been inconsistent throughout his NFL career to date, but there have certainly been highs, including a 10.5 sack season for the Seattle Seahawks back in 2018.

The 29-year-old has been getting rave reviews in training camp, leaving many wondering if Packers GM Brian Gutekunst has found another gem in the De’Vondre Campbell mold.

Wyatt has all the physical tools as well as a relentless energy which gives him a chance to be a true menace in the NFL, whether that be initially as a rotational interior pass rusher or in a larger role.

Elsewhere, there is real hope Dean Lowry and TJ Slaton can be valuable contributors. Lowry seemed to put it together a year ago and performed consistently well throughout the 2021 season, while Slaton also enjoyed a solid first year which was impressive considering his fifth-round pedigree.

Slaton looks primed to follow up his rookie season with an even better 2022. He was a disruptive presence versus the San Francisco 49ers in Green Bay’s first pre-season game.

Even the players further down the depth chart have shown signs of their potential.

Jack Heflin, also lovingly known as the ‘trash can full of dirt’, forced his way onto the 53-man roster a year ago with strong performances in the pre-season, and picked up right where he left off against the 49ers on Friday. Even suspected camp body Chris Slayton flashed against San Francisco.

Gutekunst’s continued his commitment to building in the trenches by drafting Jonathan Ford in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and while it could take him time to develop, similarly to Slaton, there is plenty to work with in the big bodied lineman.

With more viable options now behind Clark, the Packers may not only be able to survive if something were to happen to their star defensive tackle, but can also give him more plays off during the regular season, allowing him to stay fresh for the playoffs.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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3 points

Comments (35)

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splitpea1's picture

August 14, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Finally--better late than never. Along with a talented ILB unit (also finally!), you can only imagine what might have been if the front office had devoted the proper attention to these areas in years past, like maybe another Trophy. Very difficult to make it to the top without a strong interior defense and play-making LBs.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

August 14, 2022 at 02:04 pm

It’s pretty tough to have strength and depth at every position in the NFL, particularly when you’re constantly drafting towards the end of each round. People have complained about the lack of draft picks at ILB, WR, TE and Safety. There’s only so many draft picks and so much cap space to add vets when you have a HOF QB leading the team. Now with injuries, the offensive line, once a strength, appears to be a possible weakness, unless the knees heal up and/or the young players get better really quickly. One or more injuries at WR and there’s a weakness there as well. So yeah, they added some D-line talent, but they are thin at safety and CB if you go past the starters. It’s a crapshoot to guess where the best talent will shine and hope the injury bug avoids certain position where depth is lacking.

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DoubleJ's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:46 am

A good front 7 can cover a lot of warts on the back side. Look at Tampa in 2020. Their DBs were nothing to write home about but due to the front 7 being so good the DB's deficiencies were able to be hidden. Overall the game is still won in the trenches.

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cdoemel's picture

August 15, 2022 at 05:48 pm

I don’t know how anyone could give a 👎 to this comment. It is exactly the challenge of the NFL. You can’t draft or sign everyone with the salary cap and an MVP qb. And yes, some draft picks and signings don’t work out. It happens to every team. There is no crystal ball. I’m sooo freaking tired of hearing the ne’er-do-wells continue to complain about the Love pick. The GBP have been to the post season 12 of the last 14 seasons. If the only thing signing Jordan Love did was light a fire under Aaron Rodgers butt after two subpar years, it was worth the draft pick.

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PhantomII's picture

August 16, 2022 at 05:59 am

There is truth there but the pick WAS JEFFERSON @ #20.....DA walks we still have a #1 WR.

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PhantomII's picture

August 16, 2022 at 06:07 am

When your overall team was as BAD as TT left it. Gute had to completely overhaul the Defense and we had a DC that wanted to bend the front end not break....LOL. Completely opposite mentality as it should have been. When you're a stretch OL what kills you is a tough DL and fast Backers filling the hole. This has been our Achilles Heel and the only way to defeat it is superior blocking. With injuries completely nullifying our 2 best blockers in the playoffs where it mattered most. The fix is to get a bigger...stronger OL imposing their will straight ahead in the run game....But that's not ML system. Looks like we are going bigger more athletic blockers so hopefully this change will get it done as well as more speed at WR. GPG

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 14, 2022 at 01:09 pm

If the Pack can win in the trenches this season, the playmakers behind them will be moving...and taking a lot of balls.

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stockholder's picture

August 14, 2022 at 01:18 pm

Games are won or lost in the trench. It wasn't a new idea.

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Vforrest's picture

August 14, 2022 at 02:08 pm

Yeh that other Slayton #60 was living in the backfield and definitely jumped off the screen. I watch without sound and just take notice of who’s doing something, not swayed by the running comments. Other noticeable’s…Etling is really fast…Baylor is slowest RB but everyone else showed a nice burst when given a crease. Doubs going to be interesting just can drop those layup’s. Danny D knows how to play football when it’s in the air, he has the knack!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 15, 2022 at 01:43 am

I was curious, so I just looked up Baylor. His pro day numbers aren't bad. 4.55 forty, (1.63 10 yard dash isn't great), 10'4" broad, 35.5" vertical, 7.03 three cone, 4.34 20 yard shuttle. RAS of 6.10, which isn't bad. That said, he didn't look like a gazelle out there.

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Vforrest's picture

August 15, 2022 at 08:20 am

Yeh kinda easily ran him down on that wheel route I thought he was gone when he caught it.

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LLCHESTY's picture

August 14, 2022 at 02:22 pm

Slaton is the real wild card. If he can play well at 2i besides 0 and 1 it opens up a whole bunch of combinations at 3, 4i and 5 for the others. I wouldn't be surprised to see some early down 2 DL looks with Slaton at 2i and Clark at 3T. It will be interesting to see if the new slim and trim Clark puts up better pressure numbers, which were already really good for a mainly inside the Gs player.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 14, 2022 at 02:56 pm

Agreed LL!

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jannes bjornson's picture

August 14, 2022 at 04:55 pm

There may/should be four-man fronts with Gary hand-on-the-ground. No light boxes on 3rd and 8 while still bringing pressure. Barry will open it up. I would recommend Six for the D-line depth chart.

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Johnblood27's picture

August 15, 2022 at 01:39 pm

After all the work that has gone into getting Gary primed and polished as a stand up OLB, why would you suggest his hand now be in the dirt? Especially now that there are actually decent options for those guys to contribute?

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jannes bjornson's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:35 pm

He goes with both techniques. He showed hands down last season and so has P. Smith. You get heavy inside with Wyatt and Reed, putting Gary and Clark as DEs. Multiple looks creates diverse pass rush and the four man front controls the the outside draw schemes and back side slams that are successful against the 3-4 picket line. Cannot give up first downs by Running plays on 3rd and long. Plus they have the roamers now with Walker and Campbell. Toss a little bit of Fritz's 4-3 in with the Dr. of Defense, Hank Bullough's 3-4 elephant. Zimmer's two-gap blitzes can also be mixed into the salad...

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packer132's picture

August 14, 2022 at 03:21 pm

Packers did a good job of fortifying the offensive line by drafting 9 guys in the last 3 years. Only one is gone and they could add a veteran prior to the first game. The young players will improve and the addition of Jenkins/Bakh will help after the first few games. The defensive line is the best in many years, and maybe that will be the focus in the next couple of drafts. Injuries will happen, and last year the Packers had their share. Hoping for a healthier year and the depth of both lines should result in another good season.

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LLCHESTY's picture

August 14, 2022 at 03:31 pm

Jenkins, Tonyan and Watson activated off PUP today.

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Guam's picture

August 14, 2022 at 03:41 pm

WOW! Shocked that Jenkins was activated before Bahk! Activating Watson puts more pressure on the "down the depth chart" WRs since he is a lock for the 53.

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Coldworld's picture

August 14, 2022 at 08:25 pm

It will be interesting to see how they use Watson, even in walkthroughs initially. Hopefully he can get into the last game at least.

I’ve always had Watson as a lock, but how much he’s going to see the field is the question. Very difficult to get going as a rookie once practices are just game prep, so this gives him a chance.

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Guam's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:29 am

With Watson's limited college route tree, he may just be a situational deep threat this year. Missing half of training camp is going to limit his development for 2022. Unfortunate, but I think he was always going to be a developmental player this year. Much like Rashan Gary, I don't think the Packers are going to rush him to the field.

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Guam's picture

August 14, 2022 at 03:43 pm

I was okay with the Packer D-line performance against SF and that was without Clark, Lowery and Reed. I can't wait to see the full D-line play!

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Coldworld's picture

August 14, 2022 at 08:26 pm

Was a shame we didn’t get to see Wyatt. I think he will show more in games, just like Enagbare has, due to his style of play.

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Guam's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:31 am

Agreed about Wyatt. I was really looking forward to watching him play. Essentially the Pack played SF without their top four D-linemen.

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friedt's picture

August 15, 2022 at 03:55 am

Jack Heflin, also lovingly known as the ‘trash can full of dirt’ - too funny. Almost as good a nickname as Frankie "bag of donuts". I'm pulling for Heflin. Seems like a hard working, blue collar type of guy always showing up in the mix of things. The D-line is going to rock this year!

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mnbadger's picture

August 15, 2022 at 01:26 pm

I've been saying and will repeat, we should trade Lowery for cap relief, replace him with the can of dirt, and invest in Safety or TE depth and talent.
GPG!

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WestWi_Packfan's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:27 am

Some help? I think he had some help, his name was Dean Lowry, Lowry had 42 tackles to Kenny's 48, he also had 5 sacks to Kenny's 4. So while Clark is the best player on the line, at least last year Lowry wasn't far behind. But yea I get what your saying. The addition of Reed, Wyatt and the improved TJ Slaton will make this line better significantly.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:56 am

Help to me means a several new D line looks, new players in new spots and continued horsepower in the 2nd half...especially the 4th QTR.

The D Line will be rotating quality players in and out as the opposing OL is standing around, hands on hips and tongues hanging out...vs vice versa.

Last year during Niners in playoffs...D line was gassed in the 4th and couldn't keep the winning score off the board. Not now. Reinforcements...top notch reinforcements, have arrived!

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Johnblood27's picture

August 15, 2022 at 01:44 pm

let's hope that mlf smells the coffee and uses the new depth early and often - in games and in the 17 game season - so that the freshness of the line shows when it really matters...

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jannes bjornson's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:38 pm

Six deep for the D-line.

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Cartwright's picture

August 15, 2022 at 02:24 pm

If the defensive line can live up to the hype, would like to think of them as the seven walls of granite, what they called the line Lombardy was on when he played at Fordham college. Although Lombardy's was an offensive line, I see nothing offensive about this one. GPG

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Johnblood27's picture

August 15, 2022 at 04:25 pm

7 BLOCKS of granite.... The pride of Rose Hill... The wall still stands...

Just sayin...

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Cartwright's picture

August 17, 2022 at 08:52 am

Thanks, I knew I didn't have it completely right.

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Johnblood27's picture

August 17, 2022 at 05:32 pm

Football has returned to Fordham! Go Rams!

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Grandfathered's picture

August 15, 2022 at 07:43 pm

Got your tickets for the London game Mike?

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