The Green Bay Packers emphasized defense in recent NFL Drafts. Since 2012, the Hazmons have selected 12 players in the first round of the NFL Draft and 11 of them have been defensive players. The only exception was quarterback Jordan Love, who took over the two packs in 2020.
But a quick look at the Packers’ potential defense to start 2022 shows the team could line up with seven previous picks in the first round this year. This indicates that defense can be present in all situations.
The defensive line features Pro Bowler Kenny Clark twice. The former UCLA superstar is one of the few homegrown defensive line guys who can take on running padding hurdles and break through the backcourt to put pressure on an opposing quarterback.
For years, Clarke was considered the only elite talent in a position the Packers lacked but this year, general manager Brian Gutkunst added Devonte White with 28The tenth Public pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. White will likely become a key player before the season is over, and should be part of the rotation’s defensive line before that.
The former Georgia star has a great first step away from the ball and has a knack for lining up at different places along the line. His presence should prevent fouls from focusing exclusively on Clarke’s fouling and defensive coordinator Joe Barry will help line up players in various positions along the line to create favorable confrontations.
At the outside quarterback, the Packers have Rashaan Gary. The Michigan club is entering its fourth year in the league and is getting better every season. Gary has a strong work ethic, football intelligence and a desire to improve. He led the team with 9.5 sacks and had a steady press on the opposing midfielder. Gary looks set to earn his first Pro Bowl berth this season if he keeps developing.
Inside, the Packers added Quay Walker with their first-round pick this year. Walker is expected to start alongside De’Vondre Campbell who has become Packers First All Pro at linebacker since Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke back in the Lombardi Era.
Walker has great speed and is a sure attacker. Many Scouts remind Campbell when it comes to physical tools. Barry is hoping to play with his two inner-backs on the field a lot this season, resulting in fewer light chests. That should keep guesswork more often than not and improve the Packers run defense who still gave up 4.7 yards per dash attempt last season.
Minor Features Three Draft Number One he chooses as a beginner already. Jaire Alexander has become one of the best corner kicks in the league with his speed and covering ability. The former Louisville star earned Pro Bowl honors in 2020 despite only intercepting one pass all season. His speed and confidence help make him a corner-covering blockbuster and his stance sets the tone for the defense as a whole.
Unfortunately, Alexander sustained a shoulder injury in Week 4 last season when he faced Pittsburgh’s Nagy Harris. He made a comeback in the Packers playoff against San Francisco last season but made a few plays. His return will give the Lakers a fantastic hat-trick this season.
Player of the Year Eric Stokes is another former first-round pick starting defense. He will join Douglas Messenger and Alexander as the top three on the team. Stokes blazing fast and wanting to get better.
Stokes was forced into the starting lineup after early season injuries to Kevin King and Alexander. He started 14 games and allowed opposing players to complete only 49.5 percent of their passes when thrown into receivers that the former Georgia star had covered according to pro-football-reference.com. He also broke 14 passes last season.
If Stokes can improve his ability to track the ball through the air, he will have the potential to become a strong base player for secondary players for years to come.
Darnell Savage is the third former first-round pick to start in the Packers High School. He was selected the same year as Gary and started safe since his entry-level campaign.
Savage played his best in the second half of the 2020 season. He was making plays close to the scrimmage line when he was put in the box and had a knack for making big plays in high school.
In 2021, Savage fell back and was even more contradictory in his first year in Barry’s defence. If the Maryland field is more comfortable in Barry’s defense in year two, he may be able to return to the higher level he was playing at in 2020.
Obviously, having seven previous picks in the first round as starters in defense means that the Packers must have raw talent and athletic ability throughout the squad. But potential does not necessarily mean production.
As Jair Alexander said during the mandatory junior camp, “We have to play a game first, but we have all the pieces.”
Now it’s up to the technical staff to make sure all of these pieces fit together. If they do, the Packers could have the strongest defense since the last team to win the Super Bowl in 2010.