One thing you can never have enough of in the National Football League is good defensive lineman. Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is always talking about how talented big guys are hard to come by, which is why the Packers have to be pleased with the early training camp returns from 2014 third-round draft pick Khyri Thorton.
Thorton, who racked up 75 tackles over this last two seasons at Southern Mississippi, is a player that Green Bay drafted because he has big-time potential. In college, he was not a tremendous pass-rusher but he was outstanding against the run and thus far in training camp he has flashed his potential as a run defender.
In one drill during one-on-one pass rush/pass block, Thorton bulldozed his way through Don Barclay, a player, who started 16-games for the Packers at right tackle a season ago. So, Thorton is proving that he can be disruptive at the NFL level, he just needs to continue developing his technique, which is part of the reason why it sometimes takes defensive lineman a year or two before they are ready to contribute.
“Has a ways to go, just like we knew he would,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said of Thornton to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “He’s got some good ability. We’re just working through his fundamentals right now.”
While the Packers were not thinking they would need to use Thorton right away with the depth compiled at defensive tackle, that depth has gotten a little shaky due to injuries to Jerel Worthy and Letroy Guion. Both players were expected to compete to be part of the defensive line rotation and have been unable to participate in camp due to injury.
That means that the Packers essentially have just B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Thorton along the defensive line. Mike Neal could also play defensive end if needed but normally only plays on the line in pass rushing situations.
Therefore, in terms of run-stopping defensive lineman, the Packers could be a little weaker than originally thought. Certainly, Green Bay is counting on Jones to take a big leap forward in 2014 and expect him to start at defensive end in the 3-4 defense. Daniels will be the other starter but due his lack of size, Boyd and Thorton could possibly see some time on run downs in the base defense.
It’s still early and the first preseason games will go a long way in determining the defensive line rotation, starting with Saturday Night’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Yet, at this point, one thing is sure; Thorton is already showing the talent to be an rotational player on the defensive line, he just needs to hone his skills but due to need, he may see meaningful snaps this season much sooner than expected.