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Packers’ defense against Bears will look vastly different from the teams’ 2018 meetings

Only four starters remain from the teams’ last meeting late last year, and four from week one in 2018.

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The personnel turnover on the Green Bay Packers’ defense has been a topic of significant discussion all offseason. Additions through free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft present coordinator Mike Pettine with myriad options, adding versatility and youthful experience to a group that was either too old or too green a year ago.

When the Packers take the field tonight against the Chicago Bears, the faces on defense will look different. But just how different will the lineup actually be?

As it turns out, very much so.

The Packers project to have seven different starters on defense Thursday night compared to the week 15 game a year ago and no fewer than seven different players in the lineup compared to week one of last season (depending on who takes the field at one uncertain position). Let’s take a look at the starting lineups in those three games, with tonight’s lineup being projected.

Packers Starting Defenses

Position 2018 Week 1 2018 Week 15 2019 Week 1
Position 2018 Week 1 2018 Week 15 2019 Week 1
DL Muhammad Wilkerson Dean Lowry Dean Lowry
DL Kenny Clark Tyler Lancaster Kenny Clark
OLB Clay Matthews Clay Matthews Za'Darius Smith
OLB Nick Perry Kyler Fackrell Preston Smith
ILB Blake Martinez Blake Martinez Blake Martinez
ILB/S Jermaine Whitehead Eddie Pleasant Raven Greene
CB Kevin King Jaire Alexander Jaire Alexander
CB Josh Jackson Josh Jackson Kevin King OR Tony Brown
CB Tramon Williams Bashaud Breeland Tramon Williams
S Kentrell Brice Josh Jones Adrian Amos
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Tramon Williams Darnell Savage

The only question is whether Kevin King or Tony Brown gets the start at corner, but what is notable is that the Packers seem likely to line up in a dime front for much of tonight’s game similar to how they defended the Bears a year ago. As with the two games in 2018, Pettine looks poised to utilize a safety as a hybrid linebacker, though this is largely out of necessity this week due to Oren Burks’ injury.

Still, one look at these lineups shows just how fluid the Packers’ defense was in 2018. Two week-one starters were either cut or traded by midseason (Clinton-Dix and Whitehead). Others suffered injuries and were unavailable by week 15 (Wilkerson, Clark, Perry). And then there are players who simply were passed over on the depth chart by recent additions (Kyler Fackrell).

In fact. only two players will end up being starters in all three games: linebacker Blake Martinez and defensive back Tramon Williams. And Williams even played a different position in week 15 than he did (or will) in either week one game!

It’s time to get used to a lot of new faces in green and gold when opponents have the football. Hopefully that will lead to positive results.