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PFF’s Linebacker Rankings Show Potential Upgrade for Packers

In the ProFootballFocus.com position rankings, Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith rank among the best at their front-seven positions.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers defensive stalwarts Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith cracked the top-32 lists in the front-seven positional rankings at Pro Football Focus, but the interesting position group is linebacker.

Predictably, last year’s rookie tandem of Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin didn’t make the cut at linebacker. There’s a big upgrade available, though, with veteran K.J. Wright remaining a free agent. Linebacker was a position that general manager Brian Gutekunst said he’d like to upgrade.

“Inside ‘backer was obviously one of those things that we were hoping to address maybe earlier in the draft. It just didn’t happen to fall that way for us,” Gutekunst said after a draft in which he added only Boston College’s Isaiah McDuffie in the sixth round. “As we move forward, I’ve talked a lot about roster building being 365 days a year, so we’ll continue to look at that.”

Formerly with Seattle, Wright is PFF’s 14th-ranked linebacker. That’s two spots ahead of former Packers starter Blake Martinez.

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Lost for years in the shadow of Bobby Wagner, Wright was the only defender in the NFL last season with 10-plus tackles for losses and 10-plus passes defensed. All of Green Bay’s inside linebackers last year combined for 10 tackles for losses and five passes defensed. He’ll turn 32 before training camp.

Among edge rushers, Smith ranked 13th – one spot behind J.J. Watt. Clark was eighth among interior defenders.

“Clark is really the only nose tackle who can be discussed in the same vein as Vita Vea when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “His 65 pressures when lined up as a 0- or 1-technique since entering the league in 2016 are over 10 more than any other player. Green Bay now just needs to find consistent contributors alongside him on the defensive line, which has been a problem area in recent years.”