Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will enter the 2020 season on the hot seat. The 2019 Packers defense underachieved. That made his return as the defensive coordinator questionable. But head coach Matt LaFleur made the decision to bring Pettine back. Pettine will need to show that he is capable of coordinating a top-level defense. Today, we take a look at the personnel that will try to save Pettine’s job. Here is our breakdown of the Green Bay Packers final roster on the defensive side of the ball.
Green Bay Packers Final Roster Breakdown: Defense
Recently we reviewed the offensive side of the Packers 53 man roster. As we discussed, general manager Brian Gutekunst decided to go heavy on a couple of offensive units. But for the defensive side of the Packers 53 man roster, Gutekunst decided to run lean on a couple of positions.
That decision will be risky if injuries or COVID hits those units. The Packers defensive will need for their starters to not only play well but also stay healthy.
Defensive Line: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Montravius Adams (5)
Kenny Clark earned a new contract this off-season. Clark is the most talented defensive lineman the Packers have. He will be expected to lead this unit this season and seasons to come. Dean Lowry will be pegged to start at one of the other defensive line positions. He had some struggles in 2019 and will be expected to up his game in 2020.
Second-year player Kingsley Keke is being depended on to take over the other starting position. Keke had a solid training camp and the Packers are hoping it will carry over into the regular season. There isn’t much-proven talent behind Keke.
Tyler Lancaster is an overachiever. He isn’t that talented, but he is a grinder. If the Packers had more talent at the defensive line, it is doubtful he would be on the roster. While Lancaster has overachieved, you can say the exact opposite of Montravius Adams. Adams didn’t reach his talent at Auburn and that continues in the NFL. If Gutekunst does make a move at the defensive line, Adams would seem to be the one on the chopping block.
Outside Linebacker: Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, Randy Ramsey (5)
Gutekunst went heavy at outside linebacker. Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary will be the three primary outside linebackers. The Smiths made up one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL last season. They logged a lot of snaps last season. Gary will be asked to help ease their workload. From all reports, Gary had an outstanding training camp. A lot will be expected from the former first-round draft pick in 2020.
Jonathan Garvin was selected by Gutekunst in the seventh round of this year’s NFL draft. Garvin has a lot of potential but is still very raw. It is highly doubtful, except for injuries, that he will see a lot of time on defense this season.
Randy Ramsey spent last season on the Packers practice squad. His hard work on the practice squad and during training camp earned him a roster spot. Ramsey should be a major part of the Packers’ special teams this season.
Inside Linebacker: Christian Kirksey, Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Kamal Martin (4)
As we stated in our offensive breakdown, wide receiver will be the most scrutinized offensive position on offense. On defense, it appears inside linebacker will be.
The Packers are expecting a lot from veteran Christian Kirksey. Not only will he need to stay healthy, but he will also need to make plays. A playmaker inside has been missing on the Packers defense for quite a while. Kirksey’s health will be a talking point. He has struggled in recent history with staying healthy.
Rookie Kamal Martin was having a very strong training camp until he injured his knee. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Martin dealt with injuries during his time at the University of Minnesota. It appears his injury concerns have followed him to the NFL.
This will be a very big year for Oren Burks. The former third-round pick from 2018 hasn’t done much in his professional career. He has dealt with injuries and when healthy, his play has been subpar. With Gutekunst not doing much to improve this position, it will be up to Burks to provide help opposite of Kirksey to start the season.
Similar to Ramsey, Ty Summers will be asked to contribute on special teams. He does have a chance to see time on defense. If Burks continues to underachieve, Summers might get his shot on defense.
Cornerbacks: Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka’Dar Hollman, Kabion Ento (6)
For the defensive side of the Packers 53 man roster, the cornerback position’s talent will be leaned on heavily in 2020. Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are a very strong starting cornerback duo. King was finally able to stay healthy last season and played well. Alexander is the best draft pick Gutekunst has made. He has been a star among some questionable draft picks by Gutekunst.
Pettine confirmed that Chandon Sullivan will be the Packers starting nickel cornerback. That bit of news shouldn’t come as surprising. Sullivan played very well last season and should continue to do well in 2020. His 2019 play made it easier for the Packers to not re-sign veteran Tramon Williams.
Josh Jackson made some plays in training camp. But reports still say that his play was inconsistent. He will be the primary backup at the boundary. With King’s history of injuries, there is a chance Jackson will see time as one of the starting boundary cornerbacks this season.
Ka’Dar Hollman is another former draft choice of Gutekunst. He is a good developmental prospect, with solid size for a cornerback. Kabion Ento, a former college wide receiver, is expected to be placed on injured reserve. He suffered a foot injury this training camp which required surgery.
Safeties: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Will Redmond, Raven Greene, Vernon Scott (5)
Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage will be the starting safeties for the second year in a row. Amos has become a veteran presence in the back end of the Packers defense. He isn’t overly flashy, but he has solid fundamentals and is a quality leader. Savage, a former first round pick of Gutekunst, is expected to be a playmaker for the Packers defense this season. He dealt with some injuries in 2019, but if he can stay healthy in 2020, he should be that playmaker they need.
Raven Greene will not only be a backup safety, but will have the chance to play some at inside linebacker. The Packers inside linebacker position lacks quality depth and talent, so Greene might get more time there then at safety. He should be a big part of the Packers special teams as well.
Another backup safety who should be a big part of the Packers special teams is Will Redmond. When Greene was out part of last season, he was the primary backup to Amos and Savage. With Greene possibly getting time at inside linebacker, Redmond could be the primary safety backup again.
Vernon Scott making the Packers 53 man roster comes as a bit of a surprise. His numbers at TCU weren’t overwhelming. But his athletic ability, which played a part in being drafted in the seventh round this season, were a big reason he made the roster.
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