A fifth-round selection last spring, the journey to snaps hasn’t been linear for Green Bay Packers defensive lineman T.J. Slaton. A massive body out of Florida, while Green Bay has opted to add even more beef along the interior this offseason, Slaton has carved out an even larger role within the Packers’ defensive front.
“I think he’s light years ahead of where he was a year ago,” LaFleur said. “I think just his work capacity alone has definitely increased, and I think that’s a learning curve for a lot of young players is they don’t know necessarily what they’re getting into when they first get into this league.”
On the field for 255 snaps, or 24% of the Packers’ defensive total last fall, Slaton was used primarily as a rotational player. With more experienced defenders in Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry ahead of him on the depth chart, every snap was earned and Slaton didn’t see an uptick in reps until Week 9 when Clark left the game with a back injury.
That was his moment to impress, as more playing time saw him amass a season-high four tackles and a handful of instances where he had no issues in clogging run lanes as a 1-tech defensive tackle. Year two could see him blossom even further.
Packers 2nd year DT TJ Slaton looks lighter and quicker off the ball…
If he can provide this type of juice – with the other DL additions… Would be a lovely contribution! This front is stout! pic.twitter.com/FmPrBpSVTH
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 13, 2022
While you should take preseason success with a grain of salt until games officially count, it’s nice to see improvement—and man was Slaton impressive against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the preseason. Armed with power and explosiveness, Slaton has taken it upon himself to increase both his flexibility and stamina by trimming down from the 350 pounds that he entered the league at to a feathery 330. With multiple pressures and tackles in his first snaps of 2022, all signs point toward him evolving into an important piece to the Packers’ puzzle.
“I’m expecting him to take a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2,” Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said. “I think he can be a dominant run player when he’s doing the right things. The times when he did it right, you can see the line of scrimmage move the other way. When he’s attacking, knocking the line of scrimmage back, and using his hands and getting off blocks, he’s pretty dominant. He’s a big man, athletic, lean.”
While the additions of Jarran Reed via free agency and Devonte Wyatt via the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft have added competition for snaps, Slaton’s experience of fighting for reps as a Gator has prepared him well in the infant stages of his NFL tenure.
You can never have enough impact defenders within the trenches. While the aforementioned names will fill seats first around the table, Slaton has more than made his case for increased work in 2022.
Dayo Odeyingbo Looks Healthy, Ready To Wreak Havoc For Colts
- Aug 22, 2022
3 Teams That Should Trade For Isaiah Wynn
- Aug 22, 2022