Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry ready for bigger roles in Packers defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One look at Dean Lowry as he sat in his locker after Tuesday's practice showed the difference in the second-year defensive end compared to last season. The 23-year-old packed more muscle on his 6-foot-6 frame.

One look at Lowry on the practice field showed a difference, too.

In the highly competitive one-on-one pass-rush drill, the former fourth-round pick from Northwestern took on starting guard Jahri Evans and with a punch and a burst beat the veteran with an inside move.

"I think the big thing with that rep right there was knowing what to expect and for that one jump set he did, I made a quick inside move," Lowry said. "Not even adding the physical improvements I've made, just knowing what to expect and being able to make that quick move inside. This time last year, I never would have been able to do that."

Lowry's only two sacks last season came in back-to-back December games, but he played just 211 total defensive snaps in 18 games including playoffs as a rookie. That ranked fourth among Packers defensive linemen in snaps played last season, but it would appear coach Mike McCarthy has bigger plans for Lowry this season -- especially considering Letroy Guion is suspended for the first four games and now rookie Montravius Adams has a foot injury that required surgery this week.

"I think if you're looking for an excellent example -- and there's a number of them out there -- of a player taking a jump his second year, Dean may be near the top of the list," McCarthy said Tuesday. "[He's] bigger, faster, stronger, obviously anticipating the ability to play the different techniques up and down the defensive line, I think he's off to an excellent start. He looks really good."

The same could be said for fellow second-year defensive lineman Kenny Clark, the Packers' first-round pick last year. The stout Clark appears to have picked up where he left off last season, when he finished what was an inconsistent year with a strong stretch of games late in the regular season and into the playoffs.

Like most players coming off their rookie season, Clark took what he learned as a rookie and tailored his offseason workouts to make up for his shortcomings. Clark, who ranked third among the Packers' defensive linemen with 412 snaps last season, said he worked on his lower-body strength and explosiveness.

"We're always talking about how explosive my hips are going, and whenever I see that explosiveness, I know I'm pushing off my hips and I know I'm pushing off my lower body and my strength is there," Clark said. "That's what I focused on in the offseason. I'm a shorter guy, so that explosiveness to get around a guy is important."

So far in camp, it's been Clark, Lowry and Mike Daniels as the primary starters in the base 3-4 package. Given that the Packers likely will only keep five defensive linemen, the second-year duo should play a much larger role than they did last season.