Green Bay Packers: Dean Lowry ready to make an impact on defensive line

Jul 26, 2017 | by ALEX VANDENHOUTEN, La Crosse Tribune

GREEN BAY — Coming out of Northwestern University, second-year Green Bay Packers’ defensive lineman Dean Lowry was projected as a seventh-round pick or even an undrafted free agent.

He was considered by many scouts “a reach” when the Packers selected him in the fourth round (137th overall) in 2016 NFL draft. The Packers looked at his size (6-foot-6, 296 pounds) and his ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line as strong assets. But there were concerns about Lowry’s abnormally short arms for his size and the fact that he struggled to rush the passer at times while at Northwestern.

There were plenty of those who doubted whether Lowry would make it in the NFL.

Lowry, however, proved his worth last season when he recorded two sacks while making his presence felt with a solid interior pass rush. He said it came together in a Dec. 4 victory against Seattle.

“I think that Seattle game really showed that I could play out there,” Lowry said during minicamp. “I think I got a lot of good reps that game and I was able to get some good pass rush reps out there. I got my second sack that game, (and the Seahawks) are the first team that we play this year, so I think having a good game against Seattle last year gives me confidence for that Week 1 game.”

Lowry admittedly struggled early in the season as he had a hard time adjusting to being a 3-4 defensive end while also playing inside at defensive tackle. He really came on in the second half of the season where he recorded both of his sacks, which came in back-to-back weeks in December.

“I started off a bit slow the first half of the year, but I think I played really well the second half of the year,” Lowry said. “I am just going to try and build off of that, from playing well in those big time games, to propel me into this year.”

Lowry made a number of adjustments, and has worked hard to perfect them.

“The speed of the game slowed down from last year. To be able to have that technique and the fundamentals down as just a habit allows you to play a lot faster and allows you to play with your maximized ability out there,” Lowry said. “Last year I was playing more interior (line) than I did in college. It’s a bit of an adjustment; it’s a quicker game inside. It’s more important to have good footwork and good hands. After awhile I improved in practice, and once I had the opportunity in the game, it paid off.”

With the departure of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones, the Packers’ pass rush is one of the bigger areas of focus entering training camp on Thursday. In addition, the unknown status of Letroy Guion adds another question mark as the Packers could very well have a number of moving parts, along with some unproven talent, within their front seven. Green Bay is counting on Lowry to take the next step in his career.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes Lowry is capable of doing just that.

“He’s all over the place. He’s active, instinctive, very high on awareness, can play all the inside positions, even bounce outside and play the outside technique,” McCarthy said during minicamp. “Dean is very smart. Instincts and awareness are very high. He’s had a great offseason, too.”

With Lowry adjusting to playing inside, those instincts McCarthy spoke about weren’t present right away.

“I think instincts, that’s the one thing I didn’t have last year,” Lowry said. “Coming in from college, I think it’s hard to develop those instincts. They don’t come just naturally, you have to have that film study, you’ve got to study the game. I think my instincts have really taken off this year.”

A more comfortable Lowry, along with second-year pro Kenny Clark, are expected to shoulder most of the load for the defensive line. Training camp will go a long way in showing if that will happen or not.

“It depends on how these young guys come around,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said at minicamp. “Dean, Kenny, we’ll be counting on them. They’ve done a fabulous job up to this point, but we’re running around in underwear right now. We’ll find out when the pads come on and it’s for real. But they are two mature, hard-working guys.”