If there’s anything to be proud of for a Packers defense coming off a season in which they finished ranked 22nd in the NFL, it’s their 8th ranked run defense. Each position group plays a part in how the defense does in any particular facet, but when it comes to run defense, no group plays a larger role than the defensive line. The 2017 unit looks strikingly similar to the 2016 group, and the team will be hoping they bear similar, if not better, results. The recent release of Letroy Guion shakes things up a bit, but the group is built to withstand the change. Here’s how things stand as of now.
1. Mike Daniels – Ranked by his peers as the 84th best player, regardless of position, in the NFL, Daniels is unquestionably the best defensive lineman the Packers have. He has started all 48 games over the past three seasons and he brings an anger to the game that the defense feeds off of. Daniels does everything well along the line. He takes up offensive lineman to free linebackers, is a sure-fire tackler, and can shed blocks and get to the quarterback. Expect another quality, Pro-Bowl-caliber year from number 76.
2. Ricky Jean-Francois – One of the rare men who has joined the Packers as a free agent signing over the past decade, Jean-Francois (and every other player on this list) gets bumped up a spot on the depth chart after Letroy Guion was let go. Look for Ricky to be a worthy No. 2 along the line, as he’s a top-flight run defender who’s a lock for a couple sacks a year.3. Kenny Clark – Entering his second year in the NFL, it’s time the Packers’ first-round pick from a year ago to show the team, and the league, what he can do. Just 21 years old but with the talent of a veteran, Clark’s ceiling appears to be extremely high. It’ll be a disappointment if he hasn’t supplanted Jean-Francois as the second best defensive lineman on the team by the end of the year.
4. Dean Lowry – Picked at the tail end of the fourth round a year ago, Lowry has been all Green Bay could’ve hoped for and more. He registered 2.0 sacks as a rookie in 2016 and will likely get more opportunities to showcase his skills against the pass this year. Much like Clark, it won’t surprise many if Lowry plays his way up the depth chart and into a starting role by the end of the season, which is saying something given the talent above him.
5. Montravius Adams – Built in much the same mold as Lowry and Clark, Adams has the potential to be a key contributor in the future. However, he’ll likely miss a week or two of the regular season after having a screw put into his ankle a couple weeks ago to repair an injury. The setback will likely take him longer to bounce back from, as he’s missing all of the valuable reps he could’ve had in the preseason. Expect Adams to be a backup seeing slim snaps once he does return to the field.
6. Christian Ringo – Drafted by the Packers in 2015, Ringo hasn’t done much to date in his NFL career. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad and appeared in just eight contests during his sophomore campaign. If he starts to see significant time it likely means those above him are injured. That’s not to say he’s terrible, but he’s a level below the five players ahead of him.
7. Brian Price – Price played for the Packers last year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never heard of him. He appeared in just one game and didn’t record any stats. He won’t be a major contributor and isn’t likely to make the opening day roster.
8. Izaah Lunsford – The lone undrafted rookie of the group, Lunsford has a long road ahead before he makes the roster. He’ll likely have a shot at the practice squad, where he could appear for the team later on in the season if injuries force them to add some depth.