Packers: What Does Wilkerson’s Injury Mean for Defensive Line

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Injuries are just a part of football. We don’t want to accept, but it is inevitable. Packers defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson unfortunately is the most recent example of this. Wilkerson exited the game against Washington with a serious ankle injury and it was later announced that his season was over.

Green Bay brought Wilkerson to Wisconsin to create a formidable trio and Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels in the middle of the Packer defense. 2018 was off to a good start for Wilkerson as well. His current snap rate was at 56% and was a significant contributor for Green Bay. Wilkerson signed a one-year prove-it deal after a lame exit from the New York Jets.

The defensive line was already a strength for the Packers when they brought in the eight year veteran. The starters in 2017 were Clark, Daniels, and Dean Lowry. Lowry is still on the team as well as second-year pro Montravius Adams. One of the top rushing defenses from 2017 is still primarily intact.

We know who Lowry is. We know what we are going to get from him on every snap. Lowry is going to provide maximum effort. I will admit, he is nothing spectacular. But, he is consistent and dependable. There will be times when Lowry is overmatched and is easily disposed of by opposing offensive lines.

Lowry will primarily have a role in the base defense and some spell snaps as a rushing defensive lineman. Clark and Daniels will absorb a majority of the opportunities along the defensive front. But, fans won’t have to worry about Lowry unless he is asked to play a significant number of snaps. The only way that is going to happen is if yet another injury is sustained by either Clark or Daniels.

Adams is the most intriguing option to discuss. Adams spent most of his rookie year on the injured reserve with a foot injury. In limited snaps last year and an increased number of snaps in the preseason this year, Adams was impressive. He displayed an incredible first step and the power you look for in an NFL defensive lineman. He appeared to be on his way to an increased role this season. That success has yet to blossom in 2018.

Adams has currently only played 6.4% of defensive snaps. Surely, that number will increase. I would expect his amount of snaps to easily rival the amount of snaps that Lowry will get. Adams is only a second year player, therefore, the expectations need to be tamed. He is promising sure, but that doesn’t mean that it will lead to an immediate contribution. I do, however, expect Adams to get better as the season goes along just as he has already shown in his young career.

There also remains the possibility of Green Bay bringing in a free agent to ease the ask of the Lowry and Adams. There are players on the practice squad like undrafted nose tackle Tyler Lancaster or 7th round pick James Looney who could also be elevated to the 53-man roster. Green Bay has shown much more of a propensity to add players than they have in the past. New general manager Brian Gutekunst has shown that he will add players where and when he feels like he needs to.

The latest example of this was the signing of cornerback Bashaud Breeland earlier this week. I don’t expect that Gutekunst is done addressing the teams needs yet. After 3 games, those deficiencies are beginning to rear their ugly heads. Hopefully, the defensive line depth doesn’t become one of them.