After the Green Bay Packers drafted Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks in the fourth and sixth rounds of April’s draft, respectively, the team came out and stated that one of their primary goals of the draft was to add players who would generate pressure on the interior defensive line. Wooden, a 278-pound defensive tackle with a 4.79-second 40-yard dash, and Brooks, who had 46 sacks at Bowling Green, certainly fit that mold.
Unfortunately, the Packers didn’t have the freedom to simply roster two depth linemen to rush the passer. With the loss of Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed in free agency and Devonte Wyatt and T.J. Slaton moving into full-time starting roles, it was always the assumption that Wooden and Brooks — despite being Day 3 rookies — were going to have to play some real snaps for this 2023 team.
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
In the preseason, you could argue — and I would — that Brooks had a much better summer. Against the New England Patriots, in particular, Brooks took over the game and made his presence known in the backfield over and over again.
For some reason, though, Brooks never was able to hurdle Wooden on the depth chart. During the preseason, Wooden played 17 snaps with the first-team defense, good for the third most among defensive linemen, while Brooks played just one — against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Fast forward to regular season and Wooden played a total of 72 defensive snaps over the first two weeks of the season, while Brooks had only played 43. That cost the Packers greatly against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2 when the Falcons were able to record over 200 yards on the ground. Pro Football Focus gave Wooden a 29.8 run defense grade versus Atlanta, which gives you some perspective on how badly he played in that game.
For all the complaining about how this defensive staff never adjusts, though, the Packers’ coaches made a change before Week 3: Brooks was going to be ahead of Wooden on the depth chart, finally. Against the New Orleans Saints, Brooks played 28 snaps (30 percent more than his Week 1-2 average) while Wooden only played 10 (only 28 percent of his Week 1-2 average.)
For the most part, Wooden played the role of a reserve lineman, rather than splitting time with Brooks as the team’s backup — as he had the first two weeks of the regular season. Even in his limited reps, Wooden remained one of the Packers’ five worst-graded defenders in the game on Sunday, according to PFF.
On one hand, it’s bad news that Green Bay seems to be phasing out a fourth-round rookie after just two games. On the other, the Packers seem to have something in Brooks — who assisted Green Bay in keeping New Orleans to just 77 rushing yards in Week 3. Expect to hear more of Brooks’ name moving forward, as the team is going to have to continue to lean on him off of the bench as their fourth defensive lineman.