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The Green Bay Packers believe they could have a valuable run-stopping weapon on their hands in 2022 if things go as planned with defensive tackle TJ Slaton.
Packers defensive line coach/run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery told reporters on April 12 that he is expecting Slaton — a 2021 fifth-round pick — to make a “big jump” between his first and second seasons in the league and believes he can develop into a “dominant run player” for them during the 2022 season.
“I am expecting him to take a big jump,” Montgomery said on April 12. “No different than when Kingsley (Keke) was here or (Pro Bowl nose tackle) Kenny (Clark) in Year 1 to Year 2 or (defensive end) Dean (Lowry). Hopefully he comes back in shape and ready to go. He’s made a lot of progress from Point A to Point B, and now we need to get to C.”
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Slaton Struggled With Consistency as Rookie
Slaton was generally inconsistent during his first season with the Packers, playing less than a quarter (24%) of snaps for their interior defensive line and struggling to make a noticeable impact when he was on the field. Pro Football Focus also graded him as the least-effective run defender on Green Bay’s defensive line in 2021 despite him notching 17 tackles and eight stops across his 255 defensive snaps.
When Slaton could put it all together, though, Montgomery saw the traits of someone who could become a truly “dominant” part of their defense.
“Just the times when he did it right, you could see the line of scrimmage move the other way,” Montgomery said of Slaton. “So when he’s attacking and knocking the line of scrimmage back and using his hands and getting off blocks, he’s pretty dominant. So he’s a big man, athletic, he’s lean, so if we can continue to do that on a consistent basis, we’ll have a pretty good player on our hands.”
Montgomery also added he needs Slaton to show him “just more consistency. Just doing the little things all the time. And when he gets in the game, there shouldn’t be a dropoff from him to Kenny and first and second down. I think he can be a dominant run player when he’s doing the right things and that’s what I’m going to hold him accountable for.”
Montgomery ‘Excited’ to Add Jarran Reed
The Packers are depending on more than just returning defensive linemen for 2022. They also signed former Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Jarran Reed to a one-year contract worth as much as $4.5 million, adding a veteran piece to their defensive line for the first time in several offseasons.
“Pretty excited to add a guy like that next to Kenny and Dean,” Montgomery said. “He’s been a dominant player in this league, was really really productive in Seattle and think he had an OK year last year, but I’m excited to work with him and he brings a lot to the table, both in the run and the pass.”
Montgomery also believes the extra depth that Reed provides could make his 2022 unit the best defensive line he has so far with the Packers.
“When you look at the talent and the production that these guys have had, absolutely (it could be), but just like anything, (Reed’s) got to come, he’s got to learn the system and we’ve got to get him to be able to play fast and be confident in what we’re asking him to do, which I believe he will be able to do. So, I’m looking forward to it.”