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Packers 2016 roster preview: Kenny Clark expected to play immediately

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With B.J. Raji's retirement leaving a massive void in the middle of the defense, the Packers need Kenny Clark to step up immediately.

Virginia v UCLA Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

As Acme Packing Company continues its look at the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster, we move from examining the returning defensive linemen to the ones that joined the team in the offseason.

B.J. Raji's surprise retirement left the Packers without a viable option under contract to anchor the defense. While the team re-signed Letroy Guion, general manager Ted Thompson made sure to acquire a potential long-term solution in the draft.

Kenny Clark, No. 97

H/W: 6-foot-3, 310 pounds

School: UCLA

2015 stats: 73 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks

True nose tackles play fewer snaps than ever with the proliferation of the up-tempo, pass-heavy offenses. Still, teams -- especially those like Green Bay which run a two-gap scheme -- need space eaters to free up the linebackers and collapse the middle of the pocket.

UCLA's Kenny Clark represents the rare mobile true nose tackle. His mass allows him to handle double teams while his movement skills make him a viable pass rusher. With so few viable alternatives available in the draft (Andrew Billings has comparable mass but not the burst of Clark), the Packers pounced on the former Bruin in the first round.

While Clark may bounce between nose tackle and defensive end during his first few years, the Packers need him to play significant snaps from Day 1. Mike Pennel, the team's starter at the five-tech heading into 2016, has to sits out the first quarter of the season while serving a suspension. Letroy Guion can play more snaps, but he doesn't tilt the field the way Raji could at times. That leaves Clark to handle a big role as a rookie and take pressure off of Mike Daniels.

Dean Lowry, No. 94

H/W: 6-foot-5, 282 pounds

School: Northwestern

2015 stats: 52 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3 sacks

The Packers made the selection of Dean Lowry based more on projectable physical attributes than on-field performance to date. Though he produced at Northwestern -- over 130 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks over the course of his career -- he still hasn't quite played up to his athletic profile, one of the best of any defensive linemen in his draft class.

If developed correctly, Lowry can become a fixture at the five-technique, a spot on the defensive line currently in flux. That may take some time, meaning Lowry's workload may fluctuate significantly week-to-week early in his career.

Tyler Kuder, No. 90

H/W: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds

School: Idaho State

2015 stats: 92 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks

Tyler Kuder's path to the NFL began as a highly coveted high school recruit held back by academics. Those issues led the defensive lineman to work construction for a year before restarting his football career at Montana Western, an NAIA program. He eventually moved up to Idaho State where he played his final three years.

For Kuder to make the Packers' roster, he needs to contribute at multiple spots along the defensive front. His build makes him a stronger fit at nose tackle, but if he can also handle snaps at five-technique, the team may find him difficult to waive at final cutdown.

Brian Price, No. 96

H/W: 6-foot-3, 322 pounds

School: Texas-San Antonio

2015 stats: 33 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack

Like Kuder, Brian Price needs to display positional versatility in order to stick around Green Bay. Prince, though, probably has to make his name as a one- or zero-tech first. In any case, the suspension of Pennel and the rawness of Lowry helps his cause to some degree.

Demetris Anderson

H/W: 6-foot-2, 304 pounds

School: Central Florida

2015 stats: n/a

A knee injury knocked Demetris Anderson out for the entirety of the 2015 season, likely preventing him from hearing his name called on draft day. Even his knee has fully recovered, his chances of breaking onto the team still appear fairly limited.