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How Is the Packers’ Defensive Line at Knocking Down Passes?

Yesterday, I gave my opinion that the Green Bay Packers’ defensive linemen do a poor job of knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.

I did so based on my own observations, not on any statistics. Some commenters had the gall – unmitigated, no less – to question the assertion.

I don’t doubt that someone keeps such statistics. If anyone is aware of this, please let me know.

Here’s the best I could do to come up with some stats on passes being knocked down by pass rushers. Statistics are kept on “passes defended,” or PDs. These include passes knocked down around the line of scrimmage, but they mostly consist of passes being batted down by defensive backs and linebackers covering receivers.

With those major limitations, I confined myself to examining players listed as defensive linemen. In almost all cases, I assume such linemen credited with PDs managed to knock down a pass as they were in pursuit of the quarterback.

For 2016, I came up with these league-wide results: six defensive linemen had six or more PDs, five had five PDs, five had four PDs, 21 had three PDs, 22 had two PDs, and 70 had one PD.

The three top knockdown artists were: Carlos Dunlop, Bengals, with 15; Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants, with eight; and A’Shawn Robinson, Lions, with seven. I’ve got to wonder if defensive end Dunlop doesn’t drop back into pass coverage on a frequent basis, which would account for him having more PDs than all but a handful of defensive backs – he’s tied for 13th among all defenders. I also see he is 6’6” and 280 pounds, so maybe he uses his height to great advantage when pass rushing.

How did the Green Bay defensive linemen stack up? Julius Peppers had three PDs, Datone Jones and Kenny Clark had two each, and Letroy Guion, Mike Daniels, Mike Pennel and Dean Lowry each had one. With three of the seven guys on this list no longer on the team, and with Guion being suspended for the first part of the year, prospects are that Packers fans will see even fewer passes batted down by the Packers’ defensive line in 2017.

In my prior post, I guessed that the Packers seldom batted down more than one pass per game. These stats show 11 knockdowns in 16 games; though knockdowns by linebackers aren’t included, I’d say I’m pretty close. Furthermore, the guy who accounted for the most knock-downs, Julius Peppers, was trained in such fundamentals for his first 12 years by the coaching staffs of the Panthers and Bears.

Though far from conclusive, these stats support my premise that the Packers’ defensive linemen aren’t in the habit of putting up their hands when the opposing quarterback begins to throw.

So I stand by my claim that this is a fundamental skill that might be preached, but isn’t adequately practiced, by Green Bay’s defensive line players.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Kato May 9, 2017

    The packers haven’t had a defensive lineman good at knocking down passes since Johnny Jolly.

  2. MJ May 9, 2017

    Don’t go around flashing that idea! Ted will start drafting volleyball players to supplement our D line.

  3. GBORNBRED May 9, 2017

    I agree that the Packers could use much improvement at batting down passes, but I don’t necessarily agree that this is a matter of the D-Line not practicing what is preached by the coaching staff. Just like the ability to block a shot in basketball, decent height and athleticism lends the ability for a player to bat down passes in football, and you obviously can’t coach the natural gifts of height and athleticism. This is one of the reasons why I would prefer a 4-3 defense much more than the 3-4 employed by the Packers. A 3-4 typically consists of short and fat stopgap defenders like Mike Daniels (6-0 310 lbs) and Kenny Clark (6-2 314 lbs), whereas a 4-3 often features taller, more athletic lineman like a Carlos Dunlap (6-6 280 lbs) or a Jason Pierre-Paul (6-5 278 lbs).

  4. Carl M DeLuca May 9, 2017

    So how does that 11 knocked down passed to the rest of the team d line totals? Also, it could be practiced every day anyway and they just aren’t great at it. Daniels, for example, probably never will be great at it since he is a short lineman. You have no idea what the teams practices often without being there.

  5. Howard May 9, 2017

    I think the eye test says the defensive lineman do not get their hands up as often as they should. In their defense some times you have to be careful to not slow down momentum when close to sacking the QB. Some of the QBs are good at getting lineman up in the air then either take off or reset and then throw. I think if the D lineman is spying or can not get to the QB with their rush, that is when they need to be in the hands up mode. You don’t see it as often as needed in those conditions.

    Height may have something to do with batting passes, but I seam to remember a short defensive lineman named Steve Warren who batted down his share of passes without a lot of snaps.