What You Might've Missed: Grunt work

Packers DL Tyler Lancaster has been bottling up the middle


GREEN BAY – It's thankless duty, but if anyone truly loves it, it's Tyler Lancaster.

Several days after the Packers' Week 3 game at New Orleans, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine told the media Lancaster graded out at or near 100% for his performance in that game.

So, with a bye week available and more time to review the Week 4 Atlanta contest, it seemed worthwhile to check out Lancaster's grunt work in the trenches following Pettine's praise.

Turns out the former undrafted defensive lineman from Northwestern is earning every bit of that praise from his coaches. On a healthy number of plays, Lancaster held the point, occasionally battled double teams, and was a key factor in holding the Falcons to 3.1 yards per carry, whether he got in on the tackle or not.

Here's a sampling in chronological order:

Play No. 1: Second-and-6 from the Atlanta 29, first quarter, 14:29 left

Result: No gain for RB Todd Gurley

Lancaster made his presence felt from the second snap of the game, fighting through what starts as a double-team by C Alex Mack (51) and RG Chris Lindstrom (63) before shoving Mack out of the way to get Gurley at the line of scrimmage. The personal chest pound and congratulatory helmet tap from DL Dean Lowry are deserved.

Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 23, third quarter, 9:15 left

Result: No gain for Gurley

In a full base front with three defensive linemen, Lancaster is lined up square on the nose, and the leverage, separation and shed he gets against Mack here is textbook. Lancaster plugs the A gap right when Gurley wants to hit it, and he converges on the tackle with LB Za'Darius Smith (55), who has crashed from the outside and shoved TE Luke Stocker (88) into Gurley's path as well.

Play No. 3: Second-and-4 from the Atlanta 31, third quarter, 4:45 left

Result: 3-yard run by RB Ito Smith

This shows a good recovery by Lancaster, who initially gets knocked back from LG James Carpenter (77) and Mack. But when Mack moves off him to pick up LB Ty Summers (44), Lancaster braces Carpenter with his left arm to fill the hole, forcing Smith (25) to shift gaps and get wrapped up short of the first down. The work here by DL Montravius Adams (90) to get off a double-team and get in on the tackle is impressive, too.

Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the Atlanta 47, third quarter, 2:33 left

Result: No gain for Smith

Later that same drive, Lancaster and Adams again succeed up front. Adams makes the more aggressive play, tossing aside LT Jake Matthews (70) to freeze the ball carrier, while Lancaster holds the point against Mack and is there for the tackle when Smith spins his direction.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 14, fourth quarter, 15:00 left

Result: 4-yard completion to RB Brian Hill

Lancaster is usually not in the game on passing downs because the Packers have better interior rushers. But he shows some pass-rush skills here against Carpenter (arguably drawing a holding penalty, except those calls are way down so far this season) and getting a hand up to nearly deflect QB Matt Ryan's pass.

Play No. 6: First-and-goal from the Green Bay 4, fourth quarter, 13:39 left

Result: 1-yard run by Hill

Again, in a full base front, Lancaster is directly on the nose. He doesn't let Mack move him, and when Lindstrom shoves him in the back to create some room, that leaves Summers clean to stand tall in the hole and get Hill when he cuts back. Lancaster nods in approval at the result.

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