The Packers don’t have a dominant pass rush right now (here’s why in case you forgot). Sure, Clay Matthews is still a freakish talent who strikes fear into defensive coordinators and tackles, but he will get hurt this year. Nick Perry put up a nice sack total last year, but he’s actually an edge-setting run-stopper with a mean bull rush more than a true sack artist. And he will also get hurt this year. After that, we have… Kyler Fackrell? In Fackrell’s two offseasons with the Packers, his lone pass rushing win came against Robert Leff, who is spending his day sitting around waiting for someone to call him and tell him he’s been cut.
Ted kept up his uncharacteristic offseason by signing Ahmad Brooks. I’m a fan of the signing because it put a solid vet in a position of need and I don’t think we need choir boys on defense. However, I don’t expect a 33 year old whose career high is 8.5 sacks to come in and take our defense to the next level. He’s only played all 16 games once in the last three years – he will probably also get hurt.
I like all three of these guys and I like Jayrone as a rotational player, but I think that, with injury probability taken into consideration, on the whole, this isn’t a top group and is potentially the weak link on defense this year.
Although OLBs are the stars of a 3-4 defense, they aren’t the only place pressure can come from.
Capers loves to call blitzes from his secondary and with Damarious Randall looking like a slot guy, you can expect to see him rush the passer. Josh Jones has already flashed the physicality to rush from the box and even using Morgan Burnett at ILB creates some intriguing pass rush opportunities. The secondary will get sacks this year.
But that’s not what I’m really excited about.
I’m excited about the defensive line.
Start with my main man: Mike Daniels. This guys wrecks sh!t for offenses. Whatever an offense wants to do, he’s going to p!ss in its Cheerios. Wanna run? Don’t do it by Mike. Wanna pass? Mike will be all up in your facemask. He may not get huge sack numbers (although by 3-4 DE standards, he gets more than his share), but when that bulldog is always in your backfield, he makes things difficult for the passing game.
Kenny Clark looks like a guy ready to take a big second year jump after earning snaps last year. Against the Cowboys, he did this to Zeke Elliott, the often-hyped running back who has no business getting chased down by a nose tackle. KC’s looked strong at the point and seemed to get more push in his limited preseason play.
Dean Lowry managed to avoid a major injury, which is really good because losing him would suck. When he was drafted, I really liked what I saw (well, after he was drafted, because I didn’t see that pick coming). I thought he could be a solid end, like a John Jurkovic. Then, he really started flashing last year and showed up to camp looking like a big boy. Now, I’m hoping he trends more towards an Aaron Kampman level of play. Not necessarily second-team all-pro, but a guy you really count on as a leader.
But all these guys were on the team last year and the defense sucked!
Yup, that was last year, but don’t forget (aside from unprecedented secondary injuries): players develop. Clark and Lowry were rookies last year, and young ones at that (Lowry just turned 22 during last year’s training camp and Clark is only 21 right now). They’re still growing and that growth will go a long way in improving their game, so will the game experience – these guys played very limited snaps the first two months of last season as they adjusted to the pro game. Offseason work helps, too – don’t forget that KC missed half the offseason program last year because of the stupidest rule in sports.
That’s three potentially really good defensive lineman (that are all very young). Combined, they have the ability to generate a three man rush. Remember when the Giants were winning Super Bowls? Everyone media chucklehead wants to give Eli Manning credit for “clutch” play (because chuck-and-duck looks clutch when David Tyree makes crazy amazing catches), but anyone with a beer belly and a recliner could see that the Giants won because of their defense and their defense was effective because they could generate a pass rush with only four guys.
Imagine generating a pass rush with three guys.
They can’t do it all by themselves, but if you send a safety or a corner when you’re generating push with three, you can really wreak some havoc. Heck, Jayrone Elliott should be effective with those three guys in front of him. Throw in a Clay Matthews or a Nick Perry if one of them is healthy each week, and you’re defense is starting to look like the kind that won’t give up 35 points every playoff game. An improved secondary could push this defense into the top 10.
The sky’s the limit every year before week 1, of course, and injury luck will have a lot to say along the way, but two things are still true:
- Defense wins championships
- The game is won and lost in the trenches
When you have a defensive line with three young ascending players (and toss in RJF for quality rotational snaps), it can make all the difference in the world to a pass rush.
We’ll know more in 8 days…