The Green Bay Packers knew they needed to get younger on the defensive line and with the release of Josh Boyd, it shows how much confidence they have in their young players, particularly Dean Lowry and Christian Ringo.
Of course, the fact that Boyd is no longer with the team isn’t a shock. When I did my first 53-man roster projection, Boyd didn’t make the cut. Yet, he was one of the final guys left off the roster and I thought he would be in a heated competition with guys like Lowry and Ringo for one of those final spots.
Boyd, a fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2013, played in 26 games for Green Bay, notching 16 tackles and one pass defense. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was a solid, rotational player and it was surprising to see Green Bay let him go before training camp.
Yet, at this point, Boyd is an afterthought, the attention now turns to Lowry, a fourth-round pick out of Northwestern and Ringo, a late-round project from 2015 that spent last season on the Packers’ practice squad.
Ringo was picked by Green Bay in the sixth round out of Louisiana-Lafayette and even though he wasn’t on the active roster last season, he still impressed, enough that he earned a big raise late in the season.
Practice squad players normally make $6,600 and the Packers bumped Ringo’s pay up to more than $25,000 per week, which shows that another team likely expressed interest in adding him to their 53-man roster and that the Packers liked Ringo enough to shell out the cash necessary to keep him.
At 6-1, 298 pounds, Ringo has good size and after posting 35.5 tackles for loss and 21 sacks in college, he has shown a knack for getting into the backfield. He was also impressive throughout his time on the practice squad last season and if he can continue to play well, he is a strong bet for the opening-day roster.
(Here’s a video of Ringo vs Texas State in 2014)
While Ringo offers good bulk for the 3-4 end spot and solid pass-rush skills, Lowry, who stands 6-6 and weighs in at close to 300 pounds, gives the Packers the ideal player, in terms of size, to play DE in the 3-4.
Throughout Dom Capers time running the defense in Green Bay, he has always had undersized five techniques. And when I say undersized, I mean when it comes to height. Big, long, defensive ends are ideal. They hold up well against the run and can use their long arms to disrupt passing lanes and tighten up throwing windows for quarterbacks.
Lowry excelled at batting down balls in college, finishing his Wildcat career with an astounding 17 pass breakups, including 13 over the past two seasons. He also racked up 139 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and an eye-opening three interceptions.
Yes that’s right — 17 pass breakups and three INT’s for a defensive lineman.
At Northwestern, Lowry played end in a 4-3, but was moved all around. In the video below, you will see him as a defensive end, a stand-up outside linebacker and a defensive tackle. That versatility will serve him well in Green Bay.
Some scouts had Lowry rated as a late-round pick, but the Packers obviously liked enough about his game to pick him in the fourth round and they better be right, because it’s looking like they will need him to contribute immediately.
With Mike Pennel missing four games due to suspension, Green Bay is a thin on the defensive line. Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Letroy Guion and Datone Jones should see plenty of snaps, although Jones is also playing outside linebacker, so who knows with him.
Yet, even if Jones does still play on the D-line some, the Packers are going to need Ringo or Lowry, or someone else to play early in the season. It’s possible they will both see time early in the year — Lowry at the five technique and Ringo possibly in sub-package pass-rushing situations.
Regardless of what happens, the Packers will be forced to rely on young players to play plenty of snaps on the defensive line this season and that means they are betting on Lowry and Ringo being productive players at the NFL level right from the get go.
We will find out if they are right come August and September.