Packer Over/Unders: Defensive Line

Predicting the 2018 production of an intriging defensive front.

The Packers’ defensive line has undergone major changes in recent years, emerging as a clear priority for former general manager Ted Thompson and his replacement Brian Gutekunst. Long gone are the days when B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett anchored a 2010 defense that racked up 47 sacks and 24 interceptions, both second-best in the league that year.

Green Bay’s decision makers have been consistently allocating assets to bolster the defensive front over recent years, even if a those moves haven’t made giant splashes, and that investment has started to pay dividends.

After using first- and fourth-round picks on Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry in 2016, Thompson returned to the well to draft Montravius Adams in the third round last year. Gutekunst took a different approach to the position by signing former Jets standout Muhammad Wilkerson to reunite with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. That recent influx of talent has raised expectations for the group in 2018.

With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at some over/unders for the 2018 defensive line.

Muhammad Wilkerson under 6.25 sacks

Wilkerson was a bona fide star for the Jets just a few years ago. The former first-round pick played in 105 of a possible 112 games in New York, totaling 44.5 sacks, including two double-digit sack seasons. But Wilkerson will also be playing in his age-29 campaign, his eighth in the NFL. He may not be the terror that he once was, but that’s fine for the Packers. Jets-centered media outlets reported that Wilkerson’s effort waned toward the end of his tenure in New York, but many fans are anticipating a huge bounce-back year as he joins forces with Pettine, who was his coordinator early in his career with the Jets. I think it’s likely he tops the 3.5 sacks he had last year, but the days of flirting with double-digit sacks are likely over. Five or six sacks should be enough, especially when coupled with sound run defense.

Kenny Clark over 0.5 Pro Bowl selections

The 2016 first-round pick blossomed last year, starting 15 games and accruing 4.5 sacks. Clark, entering his third season, is still just 22 (!!!) and was a rare bright spot last year for a defense that struggled. The UCLA product warranted Pro Bowl consideration last year, and such a young player always has a chance to make yet another jump. If he does improve significantly in 2018, opposing offenses will lose a lot of sleep trying to figure out how to block Clark’s combination of quickness and size—6-foot-3, 314 pounds—and the league would be forced to take notice.

Opponents under 1,600 rush yards

The Packers allowed 1,793 rushing yards last year but held opponents to just 3.9 yards per carry, a top-10 mark. With the return of Aaron Rodgers, opponents will likely be playing from behind more often than last year, and the defensive line looks to be a bit deeper with Montravius Adams looking like he’s ready to contribute in his second season. Rotating five or six talented players and playing with the lead should combine to make the Packers one of the league’s best rush defenses.

Position group over 17.5 sacks

Somehow we’ve gotten this far without mentioning perpetually underrated Mike Daniels, a steady producer and absolute joy to watch for anyone who enjoys line play. He led the defensive front in sacks last year with five and has totaled between four and 6.5 sacks for each of the last five seasons. He’s like clockwork. Although the Packers will use relatively little “base” 3-4 personnel, Daniels is listed as a starter alongside Clark and Wilkerson. With Adams and unsung 2017 contributor Dean Lowry getting frequent snaps, the line should have a perpetual rotation of fresh, versatile players if relatively healthy. Although 18 sacks doesn’t seem like a lot over 16 games, that kind of production—combined with 25 or so sacks by all the edge rushers and blitzers—would make the Packers’ defense a formidable pass rush unit. The depth of this defensive line will be its greatest strength.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Comments (20)

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Archie's picture

August 17, 2018 at 03:19 pm

They have 5 good ones. Finally.

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JonnieB12's picture

August 17, 2018 at 05:35 pm

I think that they will get over 17.5 sacks this year. I would not be surprised if Daniels, Clark, and Wilkerson each had at least 5 sacks. Dean Lowry was impressive last year, and from what I have heard Adams has looked very quick this year. However I think that the line will really help open up things on the edge. They need all the help they can get there.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 17, 2018 at 06:15 pm

Jonnie in last night's game against the Steelers Adams was constantly behind the LOS. He had a great 1st step. His problem is closing. He isn't getting the tackle or sack yet.

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Lare's picture

August 17, 2018 at 05:55 pm

IMO, the weak link on the DL is Wilkerson. He's obviously coasted the last couple of seasons and we 'll have to see if he's motivated this year. Hopefully he's not another veteran on the downside of his career similar to Martellus Bennett.

That said, the rest of the DL looks pretty solid even without Wilkerson. As I've said all offseason, Montravius Adams is my dark horse candidate for most improved player of the year.

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Oppy's picture

August 17, 2018 at 11:56 pm

It would be hard for Adams not to be the most improved considering he had no meaningful contribution in 2017 due to availability.

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MITM's picture

August 17, 2018 at 06:12 pm

Muhammad Wilkerson did not look very good last night.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 17, 2018 at 06:16 pm

He had a tackle that was right at the LOS aside from that was a nonfactor.

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GBPDAN1's picture

August 17, 2018 at 09:57 pm

I agree. Wilkerson did not impress last night, especially on the Steelers first TD drive were they ran over our D for 58 yards on 3 carries

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Savage57's picture

August 18, 2018 at 07:02 am

After the Packers put up 14 early, the Steelers stayed the Steelers and ran the ball down the Packers throats at their will.

The DL looked like they were on skates as their OL blew them 3-4 yards downfield. On Connor's TD run, Wilkerson got walked about 5 yards out of the play.

They might have something, but against the Steelers 1's, they got owned.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 18, 2018 at 10:50 am

They were awful at tackling. MM has virtually no live tackling drills in camp.

It shows in games early in the preseason and regular season....especially against a good blocking team like the Steelers.

And Pettine also played a straight up D with very little creativity as he stated he would do.

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Oppy's picture

August 18, 2018 at 11:19 am

MM doesn't limit live tackling; the current CBA limits live tackling.

This isn't on MM, this is on the player's union agreement.

Pete Carrol and the Seahawks got caught running live tackling drills at camp and were penalized for it a few years ago with the loss of a 5th round draft pick and nearly half a million dollar fine.

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Since'61's picture

August 19, 2018 at 11:03 am

Oppy exactly correct. Good post. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Oppy's picture

August 18, 2018 at 10:48 am

Kenny Clark is definitely athletic for his size, but I feel it's almost a slight to call it just "size".
He's actually somewhat undersized for a nose.. but Kenny Clark isn't just weight. Where many NT's in the league anchor agaist the double team with mass, Clark defeats doubles with raw strength.

It's impressive. He's incredibly lean and athletically cut for a 315 lb DT. He's a man among men at 22 years old.. and most DT's don't physically peak until almost 30. Lots of growth left for him.

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Turophile's picture

August 18, 2018 at 11:41 am

Just great value for the 27th overall pick in 2016. That level of play at 22 years old and at the NT position as well......rare indeed.

I am curious who will back him up after cutdown time ? Will Joey Mbu make the team as the 6th DL, as his backup (or even Lancaster), or will they prefer a different position for the 6th DL (like Looney) ?

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Oppy's picture

August 18, 2018 at 11:52 am

Looney had some 'rookie moments' vs. the Steelers, but overall, I thought he looked pretty good.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 18, 2018 at 12:43 pm

I agree. I put Looney on my 53-man roster. Lots of positive tweets in TC so far about Looney. I believe he is 4-0 in 1 on 1s, though I think his two most impressive wins were against Lucas Patrick and the other two were against Amichia. It doesn't sound like Amichia has improved at all, btw.

Since I am agreeing with you here, (smiley face would be useful here), I'd refer to a different post and suggest that Taylor isn't as good as Sitton was, bad back or no bad back. Taylor is about average, nothing more.

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Oppy's picture

August 18, 2018 at 01:01 pm

Booooo

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Since'61's picture

August 19, 2018 at 11:07 am

If I were actually a betting person I would take the over in rushing yards allowed and the under on sacks. 16 sacks by our DL would be one per game which would be huge, especially in Pettine’s defense. I expect the edge rushersa d our ILBs to get most of the sacks, we’ll see. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Cheezdik's picture

September 24, 2018 at 02:41 am

Their defensive line is garbage. Same underachieving line. No sacks and pressure is sporatic. Kenny Clark was a first round draft pick and in his third year with a meager five sacks. Pack signed Wilkinson and he has zero sacks still. Joe Whitt should have been the one fired instead of Dom Capers. He has done a horrible job with the corners/DB's. Why is it when our DB's leave Green Bay they excel elaewhere? Joe Whitt has repeatedly stood up for Clinton Ha ha "I can't tackle" Dixon when he has shown he isn't a team player. Guy doesn't show you for preseason workouts/meetings. Another weak link in the chain. Packers passed up on TJ Watt for Kevin King who hasn't played well at all. Passed on Myles Jack for the underachieving Kenny Clark. This organization has big problem. Starting with Russ Ball and Mark Murphy. Ace their ass.

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VioletteStiedemann's picture

January 31, 2020 at 06:42 am

Beisebol é o meu jogo favorito de todos os tempos, é por isso que tenho muito interesse neste jogo. Eu costumava jogar esse jogo também quando era jovem, mas agora, apenas assisto na TV. Ao visitar esta https://olatcc.com.br/comprar_artigo_cientifico fonte, você pode comprar artigos sobre diferentes tópicos. Estou satisfeito que a equipe brasileira esteja se saindo muito bem em nível internacional, porque a infraestrutura para este jogo é muito boa aqui.

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