Green Bay Packers training camp battles: Defensive Line Depth
By Dan Dahlke
One of the most wide open positions going into training camp is without a doubt defensive line. More than likely the Green Bay Packers’ starting three at the position this upcoming season will be Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, and first-round pick Kenny Clark.
Beyond that, however, there is still a lot to be decided in camp this summer.
Pennel has to serve a four-game suspension for substance abuse to start the season, which opens the door for first and second-year players on the roster to earn bigger roles on defense, and maybe even replace the three-year veteran as the team’s top reserve nose tackle.
Daniels and Guion remain the only veterans on the defensive line, and finishing 21st against the run last season, the Packers need some young run stuffing defensive linemen to emerge in training camp.
When it comes to the defensive line not only are jobs up for grabs this summer, but players will also be competing for bigger roles as rotational players on the defensive line.
Reserve Defensive Line: Mike Pennel/Christian Ringo/Dean Lowry vs. Tyler Kuder/D.J. McBryde/Demetris Anderson/Brian Price
Typically, the Packers go into the regular season with six defensive linemen on their roster. With guys like Datone Jones and Julius Peppers also able to put their hand in the dirt and line up as interior pass rushers, Green Bay could get away with five players at the position.
If the Packers do keep six on their 53-man roster then on paper it would be easy to assume it would be Daniels, Clark, Guion, Pennel, Ringo, and Lowry.
However, Pennel’s suspension opens up an additional spot to start the season, and if a young player outplays him during the preseason, this could even jeopardize his spot on the roster.
While it is likely Lowry’s a lock for the final roster given he’s a mid-round draft choice, there isn’t a guarantee Ringo makes the final roster in his second year.The Packers may not feel as obligated to be patient with Ringo considering he only cost them a sixth-round selection in 2015.
Ringo’s body type and role on the team could also work against him. His strengths as a player are to generate interior pressure and get after the quarterback. In his senior season at Louisiana-La Fayette, Ringo finished twelfth in the nation in sacks with 11.5. An impressive feat for a defensive tackle.
However, there are several other players on the Packers’ roster that can fulfill this type of role, and with only two interior rusher spots in the Packers nickel, Ringo could become the odd man out. Daniels is a mainstay in Green Bay’s nickel defense, and guys like Clark, Guion, Peppers, and Jones can rotate in as the second interior rusher. The Packers also now have Lowry, who should also get some looks on third down.
Ringo is going to have to show he can be more than just an interior pass rusher in order to make the roster this year. He needs to develop as a run defender and show he can be a hold-the-point-of-attack defensive lineman who can two-gap as a 3-4 defensive end. This was a part of his game that still needed major development last year and was the main reason he didn’t see any snaps from scrimmage in his rookie season.
However, Ringo’s relentless motor on the field and physical playing style, which he consistently showed in college, remain intriguing and always give him a chance. If Ringo is able to make a big jump in his second year he could contribute as a rotational player on the defensive line.
Lowry could be the guy that pushes Ringo to the bottom of the depth chart. Lowry is the ideal body type for a 3-4 defensive end and the strength of his game is his ability to defend the run. This gives him a major advantage over Ringo. However, even though Lowry’s roster spot is most likely secure, he’s going to have to make some plays in the preseason in order to have a role on defense during his rookie season.
With Pennel’s suspension and Ringo and Lowry more equipped to play end in the 3-4, the Packers may feel inclined to keep an extra interior run stuffer, like Kuder or Price, on their regular season roster. Either Kuder or Price can play nose tackle and both players should be strong candidates to back up the position over the course of the first four games.
If either Clark or Guion get injured during the preseason, the Packers are going to need another big body to occupy space at the line of scrimmage and take on double teams.
Kuder, Price, Anderson, and Mcbride are all over the 6-foot-1 and 300-pound mark and offer much-needed size at the position. Given Green Bay’s need for more early-down run stuffers, there’s a good chance at least one of them will remain on the Packers roster going into the regular season.