Over the next few weeks, we will break down each position on the Green Bay Packers' 2015 roster in detail, discussing each player and making our predictions for the final 53-man roster.
The Packers finished the 2014 season 23rd in rushing defense, allowing 119.9 yards per game, but made up for that with the pressure they forced on opposing quarterbacks. With the emerging Mike Daniels and former Viking Letroy Guion stepping up in place of the injured B.J. Raji last year, the defensive line is set to improve upon last year's numbers with the same solid rotation. The Packers are also bringing back 2013 draft picks Josh Boyd and Datone Jones who saw a good amount of playing time in 2014, and produced as crucial role players. Also returning as reserve players are Mike Pennel, Khyri Thornton, and Bruce Gaston.
Here's a detailed look at the returning defensive lineman from the 2014 roster:
H/w: 6'2'', 337 lbs
NFL Seasons: 7
College: Boston College
2014 Stats: N/A (injury)
After missing the entire 2014 season with a torn bicep, Raji has endured his nine month rehabilitation process and is rearing to go this season. It was questionable as to whether Ted Thompson would re-sign him, but showed his faith in the veteran nose tackle inking him to a one year deal in which he will earn $3.5 million in 2015. Raji's best season was in 2010 when he posted 6.5 sacks (and a pretty entertaining touchdown dance), but hasn't been much of a factor in the pass rush since. The Packers will be counting on him at nose tackle again, hoping he can stuff the run up the middle, collapse the pocket, and bring experience to a still up-and-coming defensive front.
H/w: 6'4'', 322 lbs
NFL Seasons: 8
College: Florida State
2014 Stats: 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Guion was also brought back on a one year deal, but may have to miss some games at the start of the 2015 season for his arrest back in February. Neither he or the organization has heard back from the NFL, but it is expected he could miss one to four games. It shouldn't be too much of a cause for concern, as head coach Mike McCarthy believes this is one of his deepest lines in recent years. Guion stepped in at the nose for the injured Raji in 2014, posting a career year with 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks, and with Raji's return he will likely play more snaps at defensive end. If he and Raji can stay out of legal and injury trouble, the Packers should have a stout starting front.
H/w: 6'0'', 310 lbs
NFL Seasons: 4
2014 Stats: 29 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Daniels has easily been the most productive lineman on the team in recent years. At only age 26, Daniels has been a consistent producer for the Pack and has improved each season, along with being relatively injury-free. He is equally effective on base downs and as an interior pass-rusher. Finishing last season with 29 tackles and 5.5 sacks, Daniels will most likely build on those statistics with B.J. Raji back in the mix, and attracting more double teams and attention inside.
H/w: 6'4'', 285 lbs
NFL Seasons: 2
2014 Stats: 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception
Jones is the other Packers lineman to be involved in a drug-related incident, but the first to have his suspension announced (one game). Because of that, he'll be off to a slow start to his 2015 season, which is an important one for him. Jones hasn't shown his first round potential since being drafted in 2013, and is hoping to use this season as a statement season to prove himself. If he can perform at a high level, that gives the Packers more pressure off the edge and the ability to force plays inside to the playmakers.
H/w: 6'3'', 310 lbs
NFL Seasons: 3
College: Mississippi State
2014 Stats: 21 tackles
Boyd also helped fill in for the loss of Raji in 2014. He didn't have any outstanding plays or statistics that blow you away, but he proved to be a lineman who can be thrown into a run or pass defense situation and hold his own. He will be looked at to provide depth and playing time within the rotation in 2015, and Dom Capers has seen flashes in his rookie season and claims he has made good strides in the offseason.
H/w: 6'4'', 332 lbs
NFL Seasons: 2
College: Colorado State - Pueblo
2014 stats: 8 tackles
Pennel wasn't much of a factor in 2014, although he did get some defensive snaps in the middle of the season, spelling Guion at nose tackle on running downs. Pennel has the size to be a force in the run defense, but he will have to show he is capable of more if he is to make the active roster for the second year in a row.
H/w: 6'3'', 304 lbs
NFL Seasons: 2
College: Southern Mississippi
2014 Stats: N/A
Thornton has put on more muscle over the offseason and claims that he is gripping the NFL game better than last year, but he will need to improve his skills greatly on the field if he is to make the active roster. He will be competing with Mike Pennel and newcomer Christian Ringo for a spot.
H/w: 6'2'', 310 lbs
NFL Seasons: 1
2014 Stats: N/A
Gaston was signed from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad back in December 2014. He is in the same boat as Thornton, and will have to over-achieve for a chance to make the active roster this fall.