The Green Bay Packers will have a few tough decisions to make on defense as they construct their 53-man roster this September. On the defensive line, it appears that the starting positions on the base 3-man line are more or less set, but there is much less certainty about the players behind them and who will line up on the line in sub packages.
Because of several players with position versatility in the nickel and dime packages, the young linemen towards the back of the roster are not only competing for snaps with the players at their own position, but are doing so with some of the linebackers as well. Ultimately, Acme Packing Company believes that the team will roll with more players tabbed as linebackers than linemen. Here are our picks for the defensive linemen to make the 53-man roster, and stay tuned tomorrow as we break down the outside backers.
On the Roster
Starters: Letroy Guion (LE), Kenny Clark (NT), Mike Daniels (RE)
Obviously, Daniels is entrenched as the starter on the right side. Thanks to Guion’s positional versatility, he could line up as the starter at either the 5-technique or at nose; our bet is that Clark gets the call on the nose in week one and that Guion sets up at left end. These designations will probably be valid for about 25% of the team’s snaps, however, and this author’s hunch is that Daniels and Clark put in the most snaps in the nickel and dime packages when the Packers go to a two-man line. Don’t forget that two players listed as linebackers - Julius Peppers and Datone Jones - will also likely be logging snaps as interior rushers in sub packages as well.
Backups: Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo
By keeping these two players, the Packers have backups at each of the end positions while Guion can back up Clark at nose tackle until Mike Pennel returns (more on him in a second). Lowry and Ringo could also line up inside on sub packages, so there’s no need to fret too much about their base positions. Our assumption is that Lowry’s athleticism (and of course his status as a 4th-round pick) keep him on the roster, while Ringo’s development on the practice squad vaults him above the other young options on the 90-man roster.
Pennel definitely has a role on this team, but while he is under suspension for the first four games of the regular season, he will not count against the 53-man roster limit. While we expect the Packers to add him back once his suspension expires, it is impossible to project who might be released to make room for him; in fact, given the rate of injuries, it seems plausible that the team might have a roster spot open due to a player going on injured reserve anyway.
To Be Released
B.J. McBryde, Demetris Anderson, Tyler Kuder, Brian Price
Each of these players has an uphill battle to make the team, and since there are a few linebackers who can contribute as interior rushers, the Packers seem more likely to keep an extra player at that position than on the line. As such, these four players will find themselves on the outside looking in this September. However, it would be a shock if none of them end up on the Packers’ practice squad, especially if they do indeed only keep five on the opening-week roster.