Green Bay Packers: Five players that exceeded expectations in 2015
Pennel made a big jump from year one to two, and played well when given an opportunity on defense. The focus going into the season was on the returning B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, but quietly Pennel put together a strong season and made a case for a bigger role in 2016.
Pro Football Focus agreed and graded him 73.2 for the season, which ranks second among Packers’ interior defenders behind just Mike Daniels. Pennel’s grade is good for No. 63 in the NFL. For comparison, Guion was given a 72.3 grade (No. 66) and Raji 64.1 (No. 97). Pennel recorded 25 tackles with one sack.
Holding Pennel back is the four-game suspension he must serve at the start of the 2016 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. How this affects his game time next season is uncertain at this point.
Next: What are the Packers' biggest draft needs?
Suspension aside, Pennel took strides in 2015 and has the look of a player who could become a starter along the defensive line. Whether that’s at nose tackle or defensive end opposite Daniels, Pennel is a talented player who exceeded expectations. If he can overcome the off-the-field issues, he’ll have a bright future in Green Bay.