GREEN BAY, Wis. — Rookie Kenny Clark is poised to take the next step in his young career with the Green Bay Packers.
If defensive tackle Letroy Guion can’t play on Sunday against Detroit because of a knee injury, Clark should be in line for much more playing time in the home opener at Lambeau Field.
This could be a momentous weekend for the 20-year-old Clark, the Packers’ first-round draft pick from UCLA.
“He definitely made a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2, and he has to take another step this week,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
Clark filled in admirably after Guion got hurt in last week’s 17-14 loss to Minnesota. Guion and fellow defensive lineman Mike Daniels have spearheaded the Packers’ strong start against the run, holding opponents to a league-best 1.63 yards per carry.
Last week, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson was held to 19 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury .
Clark had two tackles and played in 66 percent of the defensive snaps, up from 12 percent the previous week against Jacksonville.
Clark was slowed in training camp by a hamstring injury. Against Jacksonville, the rookie said he was “filling into the game too much,” or not really getting adjusted.
“I just needed to just come out and go,” Clark said this week. “I felt pretty good out there when I played Minnesota, and as the pace started going on, I felt more comfortable out there.”
He has a pretty good mentor lining up alongside of Daniels, a bulldozer of a lineman who is playing the best football of his five-year NFL career. Daniels consistently wins matchups in the trenches.
“I’ve liked our aggressiveness with the guys up front. … It’s not been sit and read, they’ve been attacking,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Thursday. “It comes down to lining up and whipping your man a lot of times.”
It’s not just against the run, either.
Daniels has one of the Packers’ six sacks this season. The pass rush has been strong, and the front seven, especially has played well.
“Being able to stop the run the way that we have definitely opens up the pass rush much more,” Daniels said.
“You can see by our productivity that the run game is definitely complementing the pass rush very well.”
Defensive depth will be tested, though, on Sunday.
Besides Guion, hybrid lineman-linebacker Datone Jones hasn’t practiced so far this week because of a knee injury.
Another lineman, Mike Pennel, is halfway through a four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
To help fill depth, the Packers activated defensive tackle Brian Price from the practice squad on Thursday. But expect Clark to get the first chance to line up next to Daniels if Guion can’t play.
“You see signs of what Kenny can do. And so, those young guys have to grow up in a hurry because we need them,” Capers said.
The Packers’ best pass rusher, LB Clay Matthews, missed practice again because of ankle and hamstring injuries suffered in the Vikings game. S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) also sat out on Thursday. … Starting CB Sam Shields (concussion) remains out. … OL T.J. Lang was added to the injury report on Thursday with a hip injury.
“He’s got some testing to do or something. He’ll be fine,” offensive line coach James Campen said.
S Chris Banjo and LB Jayrone Elliott, each with hamstring injuries, were full participants in practice for a second straight day. The special teams standouts missed the season’s first two games. “Well, you’ve kind of got two core guys that know the scheme, know what we’re doing, have got experience,” coordinator Ron Zook said. “I think it helps an awful lot.”
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