Image via wifr.comThe production trucks have rolled out, the expensive suits and shoes have been packed away, and Mel Kiper Jr. has gone back into hiding. This means the dust has settled on the 2016 NFL Draft. The armchair GMs will scream about how uneventful and useless the Green Bay Packers draft was (they’d be wrong) but your main man T-squared isn’t going to fall for that trap. This, very quietly, was a good draft for Ted Thompson and this organization. Every player selected can eventually have an impact on this team. My focus is on one rook in particular. It’s time to look at the good and the bad of Dean Lowry.
Depth: Ted Thompson opted to take care of the void at nose tackle made by B.J. Raji’s departure, in the first round of the draft with Kenny Clark, but with Mike Pennel serving what is quickly becoming the Packers’ annual defensive lineman suspension (4-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy) and the recent release of veteran defensive lineman Josh Boyd, depth in multiple spots on the line is needed. Enter Dean Lowry, a 4th round pick out of Northwestern. Lowry made a name for himself as a defensive end for the Wildcats. (It pains me to say that, seeing as how Northwestern was gifted a game by the officials vs. Wisconsin last season.) At 6’5” and 297 pounds, Lowry has the ideal size to provide depth at the defensive end spot, which is of need. It is his skill set that makes it possible for Lowry to be a factor on this Packers D.
Backfield NOT in Motion: 46 tackles and 3 sacks. These numbers don’t jump off the page but they are what Dean
Lowry produced in his senior season at Northwestern. Here’s a number that should get you all excited. 13.5. As in 13.5 tackles for loss, which Lowry also produced in that season. Since I don’t hear any cheers from you all, I’ll tell you why that excites me. It shows me that Lowry has the ability to get into the opponent’s backfield and make plays. Which means he sends the opposition backward. This is a great thing. (No yards for you!) In a base 3-4 defense, which is what the Packers run, your defensive end isn’t going to be the guy who gets a ton of sacks. Your linebackers like Matthews and Peppers will get that glory. Your defensive linemen need to be adept at pushing the pocket and making plays in the run defense. Like tackles for loss. If Lowry can bring that same good burst off the line, and the same ball hunter mentality he had at Northwestern to the Packers, you’re looking at another building block of a steadily improving defense. Still not impressed? Let me put Lowry’s numbers from last season in perspective. Those 46 tackles and 13.5 TFL (tackles for loss) were more than the 3rd overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Joey Bosa, had.
Can’t Grab What You Can’t Reach: In college football, there are many “undersized” guys who play and are able to make an impact. Sometimes though, they are thoroughly beat by a guy who is the “prototypical size” for their position. No I’m not saying Dean Lowry is undersized. At least not all of him. At the NFL Combine, Lowry was measured as having 31” arms. (No not 31” pythons, Brother!) 31” arms as in length. This is fine if you want to grab a jar off the top shelf for Granny. Not so good when you’re trying to go head up with 300+ pound men, to stop their boys from running all over your squad. Long arms aid in your ability to shed blocks and stop guys in the backfield. (Telling the running back to not run in your hole again, like Mike Daniels said to Adrian Peterson, is optional.) Lowry was able to shed blocks against undersized guys in college, but this is the NFL. There aren’t many undersized guys to dominate off the line. Lowry’s ability to impact the game may be hampered by this.
Save it for what: Ryan Wood of USA Today wrote an article about a conversation Dean Lowry had with his
defensive line coach at Northwestern, Marty Long. To paraphrase, Lowry told his defensive line coach that he was holding back. Saving himself so he could be fresh late in games. Now to his credit, Lowry said he would no longer do that and play relentlessly for all 60 minutes of the game. The thing is, I have a problem with Lowry holding back. Save it for what?! The very fact that Lowry had this kind of attitude and didn’t give his team everything he had, bothers me. This isn’t the attitude I want in the Packers locker room. This is the attitude you need to make an impact on the game and for your squad. Who’s to say he won’t revert back to this kind of thinking? Re-commitment to giving 60 minutes of hell aside, saving it is a red flag for me.
Lowry falls underneath the draft and develop creed of the Green Bay Packers. He does some things well but will need work in order to make the impact that Thompson, McCarthy, and company, expect him to make. Lowry is a project folks, so patience is needed. He will see time on the field because he is a depth pick. The Packers are at their best defensively when they have a good defensive line rotation. If you are expecting him to make a Mike Daniels or B.J. Raji like impact, you played yourself. Lowry could be a solid backup, but I don’t see star written all over him. One can only hope Lowry develops into something more.