Let’s just get this out of the way from the start: The Packers defensive line last year was awful.

It was a group that couldn’t get to the quarterback, totaling six sacks, all of which came from two players. The defense as a whole was last in the league in sacks per pass play, and the impotent up-front rush gave way to the worst pass defense in NFL history, a sorry unit that allowed 300 yards per game through the air.

So, now that that’s out of the way, how can it be fixed? General manager Ted Thompson started by signing three unrestricted free agents, a market gamble he’s typically loathe to take. Veterans Anthony Hargrove, Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling (combined 23.5 career stats) were brought in to add bodies and increase competition.

Thompson also drafted defensive ends Jerel Worthy (second round) and Mike Daniels (fourth round), who had a combined 27.5 sacks in college, hoping they’d bring a jolt of youth and energy to the enfeebled unit.

Those five newcomers join five holdovers: veteran DE Ryan Pickett, a mammoth run-stuffer; Pro-Bowl NT B.J. Raji, a physically gifted pass rusher when he’s not fatigued; and three unremarkable right defensive ends in C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal. Also in the mix is sizable DE Lawrence Guy (6-foot-4, 304 pounds), a seventh-round pick last year who spent the season on injured reserve, and practice-squad holdover Johnny Jones, who’s yet to practice in training camp due to a knee injury.

Green Bay brought 12 defensive linemen to camp and will probably keep six or seven on the roster. Pickett, Raji, Worthy and Daniels are locks. Wilson has been getting a lot of reps with the first team and is solid against the run. Muir has been a fiery playmaker and has probably earned a spot thanks to his passion and energy.

With Muir, the Packers would have two nose tackles, likely etching the writing on the wall for the exuberant Hargrove, who’s suspended the first eight games of the season for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal.

Neither the disappointing Merling, who has the size (6-foot-5, 315) but not the heart, nor Wynn, who had three sacks last year but has been distinctly left behind, will make the team. Guy and Jones, too, won’t have a spot, and it will be interesting to see whether either can sneak onto the practice squad.

That leaves Neal, who’s suspended the first four games for a violation of the league’s substance abuse program. He won’t count against the 53-man roster until he returns, so Green Bay could use that roster spot at another position for the first month of the season. The guess here is that, once he returns, he joins the fray with added motivation.

Final prediction: Pickett, Raji, Worthy, Daniels, Wilson and Muir make the season-opening roster, with Neal joining them after four games.

Follow Packers updates with James Carlton on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLGB.