The best thing about Green Bay's defensive line is that there are a number of players in the prime of their NFL careers, like defensive ends Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins, and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. Even better, defensive tackles Corey Williams and Colin Cole, and defensive end Michael Montgomery are quickly closing in on their prime NFL seasons. And, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, though on the downside of his prime seasons, could be in position this season to be the sack-happy defensive end that he was earlier this decade.
The addition of Harrell will only make the defensive line more effective than the one that ranked 13th in the league against the run last season. If he is everything NFL scouts and personnel are saying about him, he may crack the starting lineup as the season progresses. First, he will have to overcome a biceps injury that caused him to miss most of his senior year at Tennessee. Then, he will have to beat out Williams, who is coming off his best season as a Packer with seven sacks and a career-high 47 tackles.
Kampman, who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season after leading the NFC with 15 ½ sacks, also will have to rebound from off-season shoulder surgery that caused him to miss off-season workouts. Kampman and Jenkins, who signed a four-year contract extension in February, are expected to start at the end positions with Pickett and Williams in the middle.
Competition for jobs behind the starters will be intense in training camp. If the Packers keep eight defensive linemen, they will be forced to make some difficult decisions at the end of camp. Considering that Harrell and Gbaja-Biamila are locks to make the team, that leaves one spot at defensive end and one tackle position up for grabs. Those who will be in the mix for the two other roster spots include defensive ends Michael Montgomery, Jason Hunter and Larry Birdine; and defensive tackles Cole and Johnny Jolly.
Jenkins showed in his previous three seasons with the Packers that he can play end and tackle. Look for the coaching staff to use him at end on base downs and as an inside rusher with Gbaja-Biamila on the edge on passing downs.
Here is a prediction of the eight players who will make the Packers' roster this year:
1. Aaron Kampman, DE
2. Ryan Pickett, DT
3. Corey Williams, DT/DE
4. Cullen Jenkins, DE/DT
5. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DE
6. Justin Harrell, DT
7. Michael Montgomery, DE
8. Colin Cole, DT
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.