Packers DL Devonte Wyatt with chance to ‘thrive’ in Jeff Hafley’s defense

When vice president of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan was answering questions about the Green Bay Packers’ Day 3 draft picks, he went out of his way to bring up a current player on the roster who he believes is going to greatly benefit from Jeff Hafley’s defense: Devonte Wyatt.

“Devonte Wyatt, I think he’s going to thrive in this defense,” said Sullivan. “Where you can kind of just pin your ears back, get off the ball. That’s what he was at Georgia — quick, work edges, penetrate, disrupt. I think there’s a bunch of guys who are going to benefit from what we’re doing.”

In his second NFL season in 2023, Wyatt saw much more steady playing time and was able to get after the quarterback regularly. He totaled 48 pressures, which was the fourth-most on the team and 20th overall among his position group.

Wyatt also recorded 5.5 sacks, although that figure could have been a lot higher if he was able to finish off some of those pressures. He would rank 12th among all interior defenders in pass rush win rate, although run defense is an area where he has to continue to improve.

Recently, Kenny Clark mentioned that Hafley’s defensive system will be really good for the interior defensive line, allowing them to be “way more disruptive.” Former Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said the role of the interior defenders in this type of defense will be “simplified.”

In Joe Barry’s 3-4 defense, the interior defenders were responsible for two gaps, having to read the offensive line and the ball carrier, deciphering which gap was more vulnerable, and then trying to fill that void. Interior defenders in this style of defense are often space eaters, and it’s their job to help the linebackers and edge rushers make plays.

On the flip side, in Hafley’s system, the interior defenders are responsible for only one gap, allowing them to “cut loose” and get upfield, creating what is hopefully a more proactive than reactive approach along the defensive front.

This is a Packers defense in 2023 that ranked 23rd in yards per carry allowed, which included four games with the opponent rushing for more than 200 yards. The pass rush was also very hot and cold.

Sustained success for any defense begins with the interior defensive line. The best way to wreck any play for an offense is with quick pressure up the middle. When the defensive front is playing well, every other player on the defense benefits.

A jump from Wyatt in Year 3, due to his continued development along with benefitting from Hafley’s defense, could lead to a very productive and highly disruptive season from him after what we saw in 2023.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire