GREEN BAY – Dean Lowry has long been regarded as the workhorse of the Packers' defense; a hard-nosed, durable lineman willing to do the dirty work in the trenches.
As much as the sixth-year veteran appreciates that role, Lowry reviewed the tape this offseason with position coach Jerry Montgomery and saw an opportunity to become a more impactful pass rusher.
Physicality has never been a problem. It's been Lowry's calling card since the Packers drafted him in the fourth round out of Northwestern in 2016. But Lowry's inaugural season in Joe Barry's defense has allowed the 6-foot-6, 296-pound defensive lineman to show the full array of his arsenal.
"I've always been more of a physical pass rusher," Lowry said. "I've really mixed it up well (this year) with more stunts and more speed moves to keep the O-lineman guessing. Just really mixing that up and having a better combination and then when I do go more speed-to-power, having better pad level and getting off the ball better and just having a lot of confidence right now."
It's hard to argue with the results. With nine games remaining in the regular season, Lowry has already matched his previous career highs in both quarterback hits (five) and sacks (three).
Contributing heavily to those totals was as an impactful October in which Lowry recorded at least a half sack in four consecutive games, along with 17 tackles, two batted passes and a fumble recovery.
Lowry kept that hot streak going in Thursday's 24-21 win in Arizona, dropping the elusive Kyler Murray for a 10-yard sack on the second play of the third quarter.
Facing third-and-16, Murray was intercepted on the very next play by Packers safety Henry Black at the Cardinals' 14-yard line. Green Bay generated crucial points off the takeaway, with Aaron Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb giving the Packers their first two-score advantage.
With mounting injuries at outside linebacker, the Packers have leaned more on Lowry, Kenny Clark and the rest of their defensive line in third-down situations this season.
"I feel like he's been really consistent over the years, with us, and he's made some splash plays," said Rodgers of Lowry earlier this week. "I think when you're playing next to a guy like Kenny, who's going to get some respect in his ability to pass rush, and the way that Rashan (Gary) has played, there's going to be some single opportunities for guys like Dean. And I think he's made the most, especially the last few weeks, of those opportunities."
One other thing Lowry feels helped his game is getting a chance to work more on his pass rush in training camp, which in turn, gave him the confidence to dial up his pressures.
Lowry felt like he might have played with a bit "too much power" at the start of the year but has felt dialed in over the past month.
"He's really starting to be a lot more aggressive and not catching blocks, being more physical, more direct," defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said last week. "When he starts to do that, you recognize it. It shows up, and he's starting to put his stamp on his game right now."
Lowry is the second-longest tenured player on the Packers' defense, two days behind his 2016 draft classmate Clark, and fifth on the entire roster, behind Rodgers, kicker Mason Crosby and Cobb (nonconcurrent).
Rodgers has enjoyed his banter with Lowry over the years, particularly inside the locker room. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Packers began alternating the lockers of offensive and defensive players, which is what started the social-media rivalry between Clark and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Lowry, positioned a few spots over, takes it all in and observes.
"I love Dean," Rodgers said. "Dean is an ornery individual. There's nobody I maybe enjoy kind of ribbing on a daily basis than Dean. And in jest, for sure. But he's also a really smart guy. I enjoy our philosophical conversations from time to time in the locker room."
When asked about Rodgers' use of ornery of describe him, the 27-year-old Lowry just laughs. His goal is to play consistent, physical football, which has gone a long way for Green Bay's top 10 defense through the first eight games.
"I think that's beyond my vocabulary off the top of my head," Lowry joked. "I think it means on-edge and gritty in some ways. I try to play physical and that's been a big improvement this year. I'll definitely take it as a compliment from '12.'"