May 30, 2024

The Uncertain Status of Kenny Clark May Highlight TJ Slaton

This past Sunday, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 20-3, but they also lost their starting defensive tackle, Kenny Clark, to a shoulder injury at the beginning of the second quarter. The Packers would bench Clark for the remainder of the game after he rode the cart to the locker room. Fortunately, after the game Matt LaFleur stated that there was no need for concern regarding Clark’s injury in the long run. Additionally, Clark participated in only a limited amount of Green Bay’s Wednesday practice.


Injured Kenny Clark Helps Packers' Defense Deliver Pain vs. Rams - Sports  Illustrated Green Bay Packers News, Analysis and More


. .But in the short term, Clark might have to miss several games or reduce the number of snaps he takes. In that scenario, T.J. Slaton anchoring the defensive line throughout the run game shouldn’t come as a surprise. Over the past three years, Slaton’s PFF rating for the season has steadily improved, going from 52.8 in 2021 to 61.7 in 2022 to 68.3 in 2023. Slaton has improved from being a strong to above-average starter to a below-average rotational player.

Slaton has recorded a great deal more highlights. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Slaton recorded nine tackles, including two stops for loss. Additionally, he became the first defensive lineman for the Packers to record that many tackles since Ryan Pickett did so in 2010. In Green Bay’s most recent victory over the Rams, Slaton might have only played one tackle. But he applied quick interior pressure after the Rams threw a bad snap, which helped set Jonathan Owens up for a sack-fumble.

Slaton is in a rare position to assist in defending the run from the inside, even outside of splash plays. In the play below, Slaton demonstrates his remarkable mobility for his size as he chases an outside run, deftly maneuvers through traffic, and closes to make the stop.

Slaton engages and sheds inside offensive lineman with ease when he’s performing at his peak. He has the ability to make tackles for loss by cutting into the backfield. The highlight video from the New York Giants game from last year shows that. He skillfully reads when to shift offensive linemen into a position where he can pick up a tackle by using his muscle to control them.

In addition to Slaton, players like Karl Brooks, Colby Wooden, and Devonte Wyatt will all see more snaps if Clark is sidelined. Similar to Slaton, Wyatt’s 2023 breakthrough season has been quiet. Among all defensive linemen, he comes in fourth place according to PFF’s pass-rush productivity statistic. Despite playing just 144 pass-rush snaps this season, Wyatt has already racked up 23 pressures. From a regular nose tackle position, Slaton contributes more to the run defense. Nonetheless, Wyatt might be able to partially offset Clark’s defensive line pressure from the inside and 3-technique spots.

Additionally, rookies Wooden and Brooks may get additional reps on the defensive line. Although neither rookie is as large as Clark, Wooden has begun to play a little bit better in the run game. Wooden played more than thirty snaps in the first two games of the season, with varying degrees of success. However, Wooden has recorded 15 snaps with a 75.7 and 82.2 PFF rating in the past two weeks, showing excellent run defense performance. It can mean that Wooden is prepared for more work and has been able to catch up to the pace of an NFL game.

All things considered, this season has seen an increase in the maturity of the defensive line’s youth players. Kenny Clark praised his fellow linemen’s development, saying, “It’s awesome, man, anytime I see those guys ballin’ it’s good.” It demonstrates the effort they have been making. It displays how they get ready. For them, nothing is too large. When I went down, they were playing at a high level and knew all the calls and where to be. Clark’s remarks demonstrate how people are becoming more confident in Slaton, Wyatt, Wooden, and Brooks. The defensive line should perform to a high standard against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their running backs, Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, regardless of Clark’s fitness to play on Sunday.



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