3 under-the-radar breakout candidates for Packers in 2023

Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara
Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara / Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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Tedarrell "TJ" Slaton

I’ll preface this by saying I fully expect Devonte Wyatt to make more of an impact than TJ Slaton for the 2023 Packers. Wyatt is primed for a disruptive second season as the primary benefactor of Dean Lowry and Jarren Reed's departures out of Green Bay.

Lowry and Reed combined for just under 1,200 snaps for Green Bay in 2022 which hampered Wyatt and Slaton from getting more involved in the defense.

The Packers have regularly been, well, let's kindly call it atrocious, against the run. Most recently in 2022, the Packers' defense allowed 5.0 yards per rush, ranking 28th in the NFL. Green Bay also ranked 31st in total DVOA for run defense.

Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, things got so messy in 2022 that players started losing trust and confidence in the scheme.

"According to sources close to members of the Packers' defense, players have grown frustrated with the defensive scheme and playcalling. One source said there has been "a declining confidence in the defensive scheme and what's being called, and it's led to overall frustration with the defense." Another source confirmed that sentiment."

Rob Demovsky, ESPN

Enter TJ Slaton. Donning the 93 jersey that Gilbert "Gravedigger" Brown made famous in Green Bay for his game-wrecking ability against the run, Slaton fills those shoes well from a stature standpoint at 6-4, 330 pounds (the same weight Brown played at). 

Albeit in limited glimpses, besides now New York Jets safety Adrian Amos, Slaton was the only Packer to appear in all 35 games in the last two years.

While only averaging 20 snaps per game in year two, his tape flashed powerful hands, freakish athleticism, and ability to work into the backfield immediately. After posting eight stops in 2021 (10th among rookie defensive linemen), Slaton logged seven run stuffs in 2022, one more than Kenny Clark on 149 fewer attempts.

To heal one of the most broken aspects of Green Bay's defense in recent history, the Packers are desperate for a dominant run stuffer to step up and Slaton has the tools to be that. Following impressive showings in games such as Week 8 versus Buffalo, Slaton's tape is becoming hard to ignore.

Last season, the Packers on a very limited basis tried out their base 3-4 scheme with Clark, Slaton, and Wyatt all on the field at once. Clark kicked out to a more advantageous pass rush position lined up outside the guard and Slaton lined up as nose tackle. Clark is the premier pass rusher of the three and could be more regularly utilized as such in 2023, allowing more snaps for Slaton to plug the middle.

The Packers are again experimenting with this package in the 2023 training camp, signaling that this season might see more of the trio on the field together.

With no Lowry or Reed in the mix, the Packers seem committed to seeing what this defense could be with Wyatt, Clark, and Slaton as the primary interior D-line snap-getters. Slaton's increased snaps will give him plenty of opportunities to be a core reason why the Packers improve against the run in 2023.