Drilling in: Defense

Sports Xchange

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DLE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Kenny Clark, DT Mike Daniels. Backups - DE Dean Lowry, NT Montravius Adams, NT James Looney, DE Conor Sheehy, NT Tyler Lancaster, DT Joey Mbu.

First-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has a gifted group up front to work with. Clark blossomed in his second year and is on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowler. Clark has impressive power and flashed surprising quickness a year ago when he had 4.5 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures. Daniels has a motor that doesn't quit, but saw his pressures fall to 19.5 last season, his lowest number since 2012. Wilkerson had 12.0 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl with the New York Jets in 2015, but slipped badly in recent seasons. If Wilkerson returns to past form, Green Bay's front could be devastating. Lowry is versatile, highly intelligent and provides terrific depth.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LOLB Clay Matthews, LILB Jake Ryan, MLB Blake Martinez, ROLB Nick Perry. Backups -- ROLB Kyler Fackrell, LOLB Vince Biegel, LOLB Reggie Gilbert, MLB Oren Burks, LILB Ahmad Thomas, LOLB Marcus Porter, LILB Kendall Donnerson, MLB Parris Bennett, ROLB Chris Odom, MLB CJ Johnson, LILB Naashon Hughes, LOLB Greer Martini.

Perry and Matthews are above average starters when healthy, but the problem is that isn't very often. Perry, now in his seventh season, has never played a full 16-game season and has missed 26 games since entering the league in 2012. Matthews, 32, is the Packers' all-time sack leader (80.0) and remains quick around the edge and strong enough to overpower tackles. But Matthews has played all 16 games just twice in the last eight years. Fackrell, Biegel and Gilbert are the top backups, but that trio hasn't inspired anyone to date. Martinez almost never leaves the field, is extremely bright and tied for the NFL lead with 144 tackles last season. Ryan is an overachieving tough guy, while Burks, a rookie third-round pick, is an elite athlete.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Tramon Williams, RCB Kevin King, Nickel CB Jaire Alexander, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Josh Jones. Backups - CB Josh Jackson, S Kentrell Brice, CB Josh Hawkins, S Jermaine Whitehead, CB Davon House, CB Quinten Rollins, S Marwin Evans, S Raven Greene, CB Demetri Goodson, CB Herb Waters, CB Lenzy Pipkins, CB Donatello Brown.

Green Bay's secondary has been an enormous Achilles heel for two years now. It set franchise marks for futility in 2017 in opponent's passer rating (102.0) and completion percentage (67.8 percent). So the Packers drafted Alexander of Louisville in Round 1 and Jackson of Iowa in Round 2. Green Bay also needs King, a second-year cornerback, to take a major jump. King (6-foot-3, 200) has terrific size, but is trying to come back from labrum surgery. Veteran corners Williams and House were signed in free agency, but are both stopgaps. Clinton-Dix is the most experienced safety on the roster, but he's coming off a dreadful year. Second-year Josh Jones and the unproven Brice will fight for the other safety position.