Green Bay Packers

Devonte Wyatt Will Turn Kenny Clark Into An All-Pro

Photo credit: Joshua L Jones-Online Athens via USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Clark has already established himself as one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl in two of the last three seasons. When the Green Bay Packers selected defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt out of Georgia at the end of the first round in last month’s draft, it wasn’t to compete with Clark for playing time. Instead, it was to give him the help he needs to elevate his game from Pro Bowl to All-Pro levels.

Clark will be entering his seventh season in the league, but it’s easy to forget how young he is. He will turn 27 years old this October. Selected with the 27th-overall pick in 2016, Clark entered the league at just 20 years old after playing three seasons at UCLA. Why does that matter? It means that he may not even be in his prime yet. Clark earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2019 after a monster season in which he racked up six sacks, seven hits, and nine tackles for loss. He upped those numbers this past season, notching six sacks, seven hits, and nine tackles for loss, and earned another Pro Bowl selection.

Playing defensive tackle at an elite level isn’t solely about putting up numbers — although it certainly doesn’t hurt your case. That being said, it doesn’t take a ridiculous level of production to find yourself in the mix amongst the top DTs in the NFL. Yes, it’s incredible to see a guy like Aaron Donald put up 20.5 sacks in a season like he did in 2018. But the three players outside of Donald to make the All-Pro team had good-but-not-outrageous sack totals.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Cameron Heyward joined Donald on the first team with 10 sacks and had a career-high of 12 in 2017.
  • Chris Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs had nine sacks last year.
  • The Tennessee Titans’ Jeffery Simmons had 8.5 sacks in just his third season.

Jones and Simmons were named second-team All-Pro.

With those numbers as a frame of reference, it’s not crazy to see Clark get into double-digit sack totals even with a natural progression. He’s already gotten close. Davonte Wyatt can help supercharge those numbers with the respect he’s immediately going to command on the defensive line. Wyatt will be darn close to a mirror image of Clark from a physical standpoint, as each stand about 6’3” and weigh 315 lbs.

Where Wyatt has Clark beat — and what Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst fell in love with — is Wyatt’s freakish athleticism and burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s been described as a “pro-ready run defender,” which isn’t surprising given the caliber of the defense he played on last season at the University of Georgia. Playing alongside fellow first-round pick Jordan Davis and a guy in the early conversations to be a top pick in 2023 in Jalen Carter, Wyatt is used to playing a complementary role on the line.

Green Bay has attempted to find a running mate for Clark in the draft before, but they’ve never used as much capital as they did to select Wyatt. The year after selecting Clark, the Packers picked up Montravius Adams in the third round at 93rd overall in 2017. Two years later, they took a swing on Kingsley Keke in the fifth round, 150th overall. Last year, Gutekunst went to the well again and selected Tedarrell Slaton 173rd overall, late in the fifth round. Green Bay has spent premium draft resources at plenty of other position groups of late (Rashan Gary, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes) but hasn’t done so along the D-line. This is Gutekunst addressing that neglect and helping to fortify a position of strength.

Wyatt was the second of two Georgia Bulldog selections by Gutekunst in the first round. The first, Quay Walker, had nothing but glowing things to say about his college teammate. One quality the Packers will be counting on right away is his ability to command space and eat up blocks. He probably won’t be seeing many double teams, but his athleticism alone is enough to be respected. It will force teams not to be able to dedicate as many resources to double-teaming Clark. Even if he doesn’t grasp all of the intricacies of NFL line play as a rookie, Wyatt still has enough physical gifts to make an impact.

Kenny Clark is already a Pro Bowl-caliber defender and has been waiting on that perfect sidekick to help elevate his game. Devonte Wyatt can be that guy for Clark right off the bat, and there’s no reason Clark shouldn’t be flirting with a dozen sacks, a career year, and a spot on one of the first two All-Pro teams.

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