The Green Bay Packers are in the middle of a transition period on their defensive line. Looking to replace Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry, two starting defensive ends who left in free agency, the team’s plan for the upcoming season seems to be moving nose tackle Kenny Clark to defensive end, playing T.J. Slaton at the nose and allowing second-year first-rounder Devonte Wyatt to see playing time at the other end spot.
Behind the first line on the depth chart, though, the Packers are expecting rookies Colby Wooden (fourth round) and Karl Brooks (sixth round) to give the starters breathers during the regular season. Luckily for the Packers, one of those players — Brooks — has stood out this preseason.
Karl Brooks had some nice plays versus the Patriots. Won a lot with his hands pic.twitter.com/1NTxH3GhTp— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) August 21, 2023
On the box score, Brooks was only credited with a single tackle against the New England Patriots on Saturday, but the film tells a very different story. Brooks, who has been taking advantage of offensive linemen with his active hands, was able to make several plays in the backfield versus New England. Beyond the tackle for loss, Brooks was credited with three pressures per Pro Football Focus and a sack that was later negated by a penalty. PFF had Brooks’ game graded as the third-best defensive performance against the Patriots.
While Brooks has rarely taken snaps with the first-team defense, it might be time for the team to give him some of the opportunities that have generally been going to Wooden — the higher draft choice between the two rookies.
At the college level, Brooks was a highly-productive defensive lineman in an unorthodox scheme that Bowling Green deployed to allow them to compete at the MAC level. Easily the Falcons’ best player, Brooks was able to record 30.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks over his final two seasons with the program — earning him back-to-back All-MAC honors.
That difficult projection led to Brooks slipping in the draft and falling directly into general manager Brian Gutekunst’s lap in April. Through two games in the preseason, Brooks is proving that he belongs on the NFL field. Now, he just has to convince the coaching staff to give him some extended playing time with the defense’s top unit.