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.
After examining the returning players and newcomers on the defensive line, we are ready to go on the record with our predictions for the players who will enter the 2015 regular season on the 53-man roster. These predictions were made by the APC writing staff as a whole, with nine writers submitting their individual projections and being compiled into a single master ranking.
Outside of powerball defensive end Mike Daniels, the Packers have a lot of questions about their defensive line. Can B.J. Raji return to form at his nature nose tackle position? Josh Boyd showed that he can be a serviceable player, but can he be a full-time starter? Also, Datone Jones won't play Week 1, it's unclear if the NFL will discipline Letroy Guion, Khyri Thornton faces a make-or-break camp and Bruce Gaston, Lavon Hooks, Christian Ringo and Mike Pennel are young developing players. Only five linemen made the 53 in 2014, but we see them including seven players in 2015 (although one will spend the first week of the year suspended.
Starters: Josh Boyd, B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels
Boyd gets the nod at end while Jones serves his one-game suspension, but if he performs well, he might have a chance to keep it for the remainder of the season. Jones hasn't made much of an impact for the Packers against the run, and looks to best be suited for just pass-rushing situations in sub-packages.
Guion started all 18 games at nose tackle last season for the Packers, but we see Raji re-taking the spot that was his before he tore his triceps against the Chiefs in the preseason. Guion started the season slow and came along strong midseason, but Raji (granted he's fully recovered from injury) is much better against the run, an area the Packers struggled by allowing 119.9 yards on the ground per game.
Daniels saw more action on the field (his 794 snaps accounted for 63.9 percent of the team's total defensive snaps), and established himself as the most consistent defensive lineman the Packers have on their roster. "Diesel" proved he's an every-down player in a 3-4 that can rush the passer and stop the run. According to Pro Football Focus, Daniels ranked No. 5 among 3-4 DE's in run stop percentage with an 8.9 rating. This is a contract year for Daniels, and it only makes sense for the Packers to lock him up as soon as they can.
Backups: Letroy Guion, Christian Ringo, Mike Pennel
The Packers will probably have more duties for Guion as a backup at the end position because of Jones' suspension and the ineffectiveness at the spot.
Rookie Christian Ringo makes the team because of the work he could do on special teams, while Mike Pennel could see game snaps if any starters underachieve. Pennel made the Packers roster last season as an undrafted free agent after a good preseason performance.
Unfortunately, we don't see Thornton impressing enough in camp to earn a roster spot. Even when he was healthy last offseason before injuring his hamstring and landing on IR, Thornton didn't make much of an impact.
Suspended: Datone Jones
As noted above, Jones won't be available for the Packers come Week 1 after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. If the Packers carry 52 players into Week 1 (an unlikely scenario), they won't need to make a corresponding move to make room for Jones. If they carry 53, as we believe (and have projected) that they will, they'll need to cut a player or they could place one on IR.