The rush of signing new free agents has ended. Who would be starting Week 1 for Green Bay’s defense if the season began tomorrow?
Free agency started almost a month ago, and teams are now turning their attention to the draft. The Packers added a few crucial pieces, but they also watched as many former starters signed with other teams. While the draft remains a month away, Green Bay knows what roster gaps it still must fill.
The current squad will undoubtedly look different in September, as the team adds rookies and additional free agents. But if the Packers finalized their roster tomorrow, which players would enter the season as defensive starters in the team’s base 3-4 defense?
Note: bolded names indicate a change from the Packers’ 2016 Week 1 starters.
Front Seven Starters
DE Kenny Clark: Clark made some big contributions as a rookie, and played better and better as the year went on. Barring a terrible camp, he’ll begin 2017 as a d-line starter. He could quickly become a cornerstone of the Green Bay defense.
NT Ricky Jean Francois: Normally this spot would belong to Letroy Guion, but he’ll start the year with a suspension. Jean Francois figures to benefit, as the free agent pick up should start his first game in Green Bay.
DT Mike Daniels: The sixth-year veteran has performed like the best defensive player on the team over the past two seasons. While the other two line spots changed between 2016 and 2017, Daniels’ remains a constant.
OLB Nick Perry: Perry led the Packers in sacks in 2016, but took a back seat to Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews as a Week 1 starter. That won’t be the case this year. Perry landed a five-year extension and earned his starting spot to open next season.
ILB Jake Ryan: Ryan experienced massive improvement in his second year. While not necessarily a superstar, he’s become a solid anchor in the linebacker corps.
ILB Blake Martinez: Martinez started nine games as a rookie, including the season opener. But injuries slowed him as the year progressed. Nonetheless, he showed promise and will likely assume a starting role–at least to start the year.
OLB Clay Matthew: Despite underperforming in 2016, Matthews remains the face of the defense. He’ll look to get back on track in 2017.
CB Davon House: House may not be a superstar, but he’ll take on the role of the team’s top corner in his second stint with Green Bay. That’s more a testament to the unit’s struggles last season than House’s own abilities.
CB Damarious Randall: The Packers’ 2015 first round pick will get another shot to prove that his promising rookie campaign was not a fluke.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Clinton-Dix led the team with five interceptions, earned his first Pro Bowl bid, and made second-team All-Pro. The young defensive star gets better every year, and will continue to be a bright spot in the secondary.
S Morgan Burnett: Burnett had one of the best year’s of his seven-year career in 2016. He and Clinton-Dix form a formidable safety duo that will try to alleviate the cornerbacks’ struggles.