GREEN BAY – Dean Lowry has stood at least 6-foot-5 since he was a junior at Boylan Catholic Central (Ill.) High School.
When the future Packers defensive end wasn’t wreaking havoc in the backfield, Lowry made life difficult on teams in the Northern Illinois Conference at the line of scrimmage.
“If you can’t get to the passer right away, you have to know how to affect him in a different way,” said Lowry, one of the Packers’ two fourth-round picks in May. “Just getting my hands up there.”
Lowry, listed at 6-6, 296 pounds, knows how to use his length to his advantage. He recorded 21 pass breakups in four years at Northwestern.
That intuitiveness was on display in practice on Monday when he tipped a Brett Hundley pass in a team period. Unfortunately, Hundley was able to catch the tip and complete the pass to himself.
The Packers have had players on their defensive line capable of swatting passes at the line of scrimmage. Julius Peppers had 11 pass deflections in 2014, while Johnny Jolly batted 10 in 2010.
However, Lowry’s combination of height and weight make him the closest lineman they’ve had to a prototypical five-technique defensive end, who lines up outside the tackle’s shoulder in a 3-4 alignment, since defensive coordinator Dom Capers arrived in 2009.
A week into camp, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy has been impressed with Lowry’s instincts and tempo.
“You look at Dean and you compare it to the other linemen in the room, he’s probably more suited for a five-technique than some of our other guys,” McCarthy said.
“That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for guys who can play as many techniques as possible. If it’s two or three, just making sure we’re taking advantage of that and making sure we’re utilizing him the right way. I think he gives us another long-levered player.”
This time of the year, the Packers want to work their linemen in as many different positions as possible and Lowry is no different.
While he spent most of his time at Northwestern as a five-technique end against the run, Lowry has been receiving reps as a three-technique tackle (outside the shoulder of the guard) against the run.
It’s new territory for the rookie, but it’s afforded him reps against Pro Bowl-level guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang – snaps he wouldn’t see if he was strictly lining up on the edge.
During individual drills, he’s held his own inside. Lowry has broken up a few plays in the backfield during half-line drills this week and been competitive during the one-on-one periods.
“(On Wednesday night), I used my quickness quite a bit inside,” Lowry said. “I think that I might be a little undersized to play the three-tech, but I can use my quickness to get in the backfield at times, especially in blitzes where we’re ripping inside and movements where I can get in the backfield.”
McCarthy said Lowry likely will get early reps in Sunday’s Hall of Fame game against Indianapolis in Canton, Ohio. It’s uncertain how much he’ll play, but he’s ready for his first on-field action.
If there’s an opportunity to bat a pass, it’s a good bet Lowry will find a way to get his hand on the ball. It just comes down to experience, film study and being in the right place at the right time.
That’s what happened on his deflection of Hundley. Only next time, Lowry hopes the quarterback won’t catch it on the rebound.
“I was a little frustrated because that’s sort of my forte in college – getting my hands up to get PBUs but then it went right back to Hundley,” Lowry said. “Hopefully, I get more of those and it actually gets batted down or intercepted in the future."