Packers DT Colby Wooden puts on weight to better suit role in 2024

By: Paul Bretl 5/22/24

Tuesday was the first Packers’ OTA practice that was open to the media, and as the players were going through their stretching period, it was clear that defensive tackle Coby Wooden had put on some weight during the offseason.

“I think a lot of our guys do (look different), quite frankly,” said Matt LaFleur after practice, “but he certainly is one of ’em. He has put on a few lbs. I think that’ll do him well, especially with some of the things we’re gonna ask him to do. But he’s looked great up to this point.”

When the Packers drafted Wooden in April of 2023, he was undersized for a defensive tackle. During the pre-draft process, he was listed at 273 pounds. Wooden said during the Packers’ virtual draft party that he played his rookie season at 278 pounds and got up to 290 pounds this offseason.

In order to put on that additional 12 pounds, Wooden’s focus this offseason was on strength training and yoga.

“Really it was just getting in the weight room,” said Wooden after Tuesday’s practice. “Mixing that with yoga. You still want to be flexible, versatile. All I did was weight room and yoga. Conditioning.”

For the first two games of last season, Wooden was the fourth member of the Packers’ defensive tackle rotation, playing 36 snaps each week. However, the quick emergence of Karl Brooks bumped Wooden back to the fifth spot in the rotation. 

From Weeks 3 through the NFC Divisional playoff round, Wooden averaged just over 13 snaps per game. He totaled 12 pressures and one sack.

With Wooden packing on some extra pounds, he won’t be making the move to defensive end in Jeff Hafley’s 4-3 defense. Instead, he will stay at defensive tackle.

Understandably so, much of the attention in this new Packers defense is on the secondary. But in terms of responsibilities, there is going to be a fairly big shift for the defensive front going from a two-gap front to a one-gap. 

As defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich recently said, this is an attacking front where it’s all about TFLs and sacks. Rather than reading what the offensive line and backfield are doing, this year, the front will play with a much more proactive approach.

“I would say last year we were more reading,” said Wooden. “This year we’re asked to just not think and go, which that plays into our favor. 

“We would get stuck on, you know, play-action, they would hold us and because we’re reading we can’t get to a pass rush and so this year, we’re not reading we’re just going. Full stop running on the way to the quarterback.”

This play-style should will be more “simplified” for the defensive front, as former Packer Mike Daniels put it. That then hopefully leads to more disruption. For Wooden, while there is change as the Packers transition to Hafley’s system, he’s played in a similar style defense previously and feels comfortable.

“Coming into Auburn,” added Wooden, “I was actually doing this. So I’m familiar with the system. I have two years in it.”

Last season, like the years before it, the Green Bay run defense struggled, ranking 23rd in yards per rush allowed, along with surrendering four games of 200-plus rushing yards. From a pass rush perspective, the Packers ran very hot and cold. In 2024, more consistency is needed.

Success for the Packers’ defense as a whole begins with the defensive front. The best way to slow any offensive play is with quick pressure up the middle. When the defensive tackles are playing well, every other position group benefits.