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Packers' Player Grades and Future: Defensive Line

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This Packers' season is over, but the next one is just around the corner.  Soon, it will be the combine, then the draft, and before you know it training camp will begin.  So, I am going to try to grade the Packers for how they did this season individually, and then try and predict the future on what the line might look like in the future.  Today, I will be doing the defensive line, split up by ends and tackles according to packers.com.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Datone Jones: C+
I don't think re-signing former first round pick Datone Jones is a priority, as he really didn't have a good season despite having all of the opportunities in the world.  Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry all didn't play full seasons, and yet Jones only had 22 tackles and one sack on the season.  The difference between Jones and Perry is Perry came on strong to end last season, where Jones sort of fell off.  The good is that he was one of the few Packers to not be on the injured list much.
Dean Lowry: B+
Lowry was supposed to be a player who didn't play a whole lot this season, but he ended up being one of the more productive defensive linemen on the Packers, including over first round pick Kenny Clark in my opinion.  Lowry had two sacks in the second half of the season when his playing time increased, and a few more tackles for loss.  He had a bigger role than expected, and seemed to perform well when called upon.
Mike Pennel: F
Pennel served two drug suspensions and didn't have a huge impact on the field.  He was cut after receiving the second suspension.  He failed.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Mike Daniels: A
Daniels had another great year and is one of the three players on the defense that are "must keeps", along with the two safeties.  33 tackles and four sacks on the season for Daniels, and he was a key part of a surprisingly good run defense.  He's the guy on the cover photo for a reason, and he is the face of the defensive line.  He also started and played all 16 games, which was rare for the Packers this season.
Letroy Guion: B+
I heard the announcers say Guion's name a lot this season on running plays, and he is more evidence that the Packers are successful when going after free agents.  He had no sacks but still had 30 tackles in limited snaps, and played 15 games and started all of them.  He's the other reason why our run defense was better than expected.
Kenny Clark: C+
It might just be me, but I thought Lowry had the better season of the rookie defensive linemen.  Clark didn't have any sacks, but he was solid at stopping the run and is only 20.  He also had two pass deflections and fumble recoveries, and hopefully he builds on this solid rookie season and becomes a key part of the defense's future.
Christian Ringo and Brian Price: Incomplete
Ringo and Price didn't play enough this year for me to grade them, and when they were in there they didn't do enough to warrant attention.  Part of that is linemen usually don't get a lot of attention, but more of that was these guys had a minimal impact.

I don't really know where the Packers are going from here, as only Christian Ringo and Mike Pennel are currently free agents on the defensive line.  Obviously, adding depth all over the defense is important, but with an expected jump from Lowry and Clark, the line actually looks like it could almost be a strength.  When looking into free agency, one name that comes to mind is BJ Raji, as many believe he might have just been taking a year off and will return.  If that isn't the case, linemen like Tyrunn Walker, Jabaal Sheard and Ethan Westbrooks could be the type of players that Thompson (probably won't) look at.  As far as the draft goes, pass rushing and the secondary are the biggest needs, but if a Derek Barnett (Tennessee) level player slips, we have to take them.  I'd say look for the Packers to take a lineman somewhere in rounds 3-6.

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