Packers position preview: Suspensions hurt defensive line

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In advance of the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on Thursday, we break down each position group.

Next up, the defensive line.

Returning players: Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Josh Boyd, Datone Jones, Mike Pennel, Bruce Gaston, B.J. Raji (spent last season on injured reserve), Khyri Thornton (injured reserve).

Gone from last season: Luther Robinson.

New this season: Christian Ringo (sixth-round pick), Lavon Hooks (rookie free agent).

Position coach: Mike Trgovac (eighth season with the Packers, 1999 and 2009-present).

Biggest issue: The Packers are going to be short-handed to start the season because of the suspensions to Guion and Jones. Guion is appealing his three-game suspension but even if it is reduced, he's still almost certainly going to miss the regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears. So will Jones, who was docked one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. It leaves the Packers short one of their key run-stoppers in Guion and a pass-rusher in Jones.

Player to watch: He's only entering his second season, but Thornton already is on the bubble. The third-round pick in 2014 didn't look NFL ready last summer and the hamstring injury he sustained late in the preseason probably bought him a year. The Packers have questions about his work ethic, and he'll have to change their minds about that over the next month. "Obviously a big training camp coming up for Khyri, but he doesn't have to do anything special," Trgovac said this offseason. "Khyri's a good football player and has good size. He just has to keep developing, not panic like, 'This is my second year. I didn't play my first year.' Just keep developing as a football player."

Medical report: Raji missed all of last season because of the torn biceps tendon he sustained in the preseason but after staying around Lambeau Field and rehabbing all last season, he had no trouble participating in the offseason program.

Help wanted: Neither Guion nor Jones will count against the 53-man roster to start the season, leaving a couple of open spots on the defensive line, at least early on.

Quotable: "One thing I know is you can never have too many big guys who can play," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said this offseason. "We were very fortunate last year when B.J. went down to have Letroy, and Letroy stepped in and played very good football for us. I think starting out we'll have more depth on the defensive line. I think we've got the right combination of big, physical guys and athletic guys. We'll use a lot of different combinations and personnel groups. What those guys do up front kind of sets the tone for what you can do. Obviously, guys like B.J. and Letroy, they're big and physical and can stop blocks and give you the ability to play physical run defense."

Previous installments