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Packers coach Matt LaFleur excited about depth of defensive front in 2024

The Green Bay Packers are excited about the depth of talent and experience they’ve built along the defensive front — both at edge rusher and defensive tackle — entering the 2024 season.

“Similar to the receiving group, we feel really good about our front,” coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday during an answer about Lukas Van Ness.

After explaining how excited he was to see a potential Year 2 leap from Van Ness, LaFleur then proceeded to name off Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare, Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks, Colby Wooden and TJ Slaton, who all expected to be major contributors up front for the Packers defense in 2024.

“We feel really good about the collective unit, and I think each one of those guys is going to get more one-on-one opportunities along the way because it’s hard to zero in on one guy,” LaFleur said.

The Packers believe they are at least two-deep at defensive end and both defensive tackle positions in the 4-3 base front. Case in point: Even as a first-round pick entering his second season, Van Ness will likely still be a rotational player behind Gary and Smith, following the developmental path Gary once took to stardom.

LaFleur said Van Ness has put in a “ton of work” and his body “looks great” entering his second season.

“He’s certainly someone we’re excited about,” LaFleur said.

General manager Brian Gutekunst spent plenty of resources to rebuild the back seven of the defense, which now features free-agent addition Xavier McKinney and second-round picks Edgerrin Cooper and Javon Bullard. But all great defenses begin up front, and the Packers have a terrific mix of established veterans and up-and-coming recent draft picks.

Gary, Smith and Clark have seen everything. Van Ness could be in for a big jump. Enagbare avoided knee surgery and will get a chance to build on two years of experience as a rotational player. Wyatt broke out as a disruptive pass-rusher in 2023. Brooks was one of the most productive sixth-round picks in football last year. Wooden added weight and strength this offseason to improve as an interior player. Slaton isn’t flashy but he’s tough to move and generally reliable against the run.

The Packers certainly need McKinney to provide a big boost to the safety position, and Jaire Alexander to stay healthy and get back to his dominant coverage ways. The two second-round picks have a chance to contribute immediately. But Jeff Hafley’s defense will only be as good as the front, and there’s a lot to be excited about entering 2024.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire