Packers defensive line must win matchup vs. Saints offensive line

Green Bay Packers, Kingsley Keke (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Kingsley Keke (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers’ defensive line will be tested against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.

Many changes have been made to the Green Bay Packers‘ defense this year, including at defensive coordinator with Joe Barry taking over the role.

Changes have also been made along the defensive line. Many key players from last season return, such as Kenny Clark and Kingsley Keke, but the Packers have also brought in rookies TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin, both making the initial 53-man roster.

The hope is that a change in scheme, the new additions, along with development of young players like Keke, will help the defensive line take a step forward in 2021.

They will be tested in their regular-season opener against the New Orleans Saints.

Up first is a meeting with one of the league’s top offensive lines. Last season, the Saints had the sixth-ranked rushing offense while the QB was sacked 29 times, 11th-fewest in the NFL. According to ESPN, New Orleans ranked fifth in the league for pass block win rate, and ninth for run block win rate.

Their offensive line was strong last year, and the same will be true in 2021. New Orleans is fourth in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings this season.

From left to right, there is talent. Left tackle Terron Armstead and left guard Andrus Peat have both been Pro Bowlers in each of the past three seasons. Center Erik McCoy was part of the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2019. Right guard Cesar Ruiz was a first-round pick in 2020. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk has been an All-Pro three years running.

This is a talented group, and they will create running lanes for All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara, while giving new starting quarterback Jameis Winston time in the pocket.

The Packers’ defensive line will need to be ready. In last season’s meeting with the Saints, Kingsley Keke stepped up with one of his best games as a Packer, making two sacks. The Packers are going to need more performances like this to shut down a talented rushing attack and get pressure on the quarterback.

If the Saints’ offensive line dominates this matchup, it could be a long day for the Packers’ defense.