Earlier, in thinking about how much of a priority an edge rusher should be for the Green Bay Packers, I became bullish on Clay Matthews, who’s about to embark on his 10th season. I’m also optimistic about three other current edge rushers on the roster.
Nick Perry might have created some false expectations when he recorded 11 sacks in 2016 and got rewarded with a $60 million, five-year deal. The Packers don’t need that kind of annual production.
Perry is still developing. He only started 16 games in his first four years, prior to the 11-sack eruption. Here’s how Perry’s 2017 season went: hand, foot, shoulder and ankle injuries throughout the season. Finally, he was put out of his misery by going on injured reserve just before the final game of the year.
Seven sacks isn’t bad at all when you consider that Perry only played on 51.5 percent of the defensive snaps. Even in his banner year he was out there less than 60 percent of the time. I think the Packers would be pleased to see Perry get from seven to nine sacks a year and I think he’ll deliver those goods as long as he’s relatively healthy. At age 27, he should be just entering his prime.
There are essentially two types of edge rushers: the mauler and the finesse guy. Fackrell relies on quickness and agility rather than on strength. After getting less than 16 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie, Fackrell quietly jumped up to over 42 percent last year. He frequently subbed for Clay Matthews or Nick Perry and I didn’t see anything to be embarrassed about. He’s an adept tackler and pursues ball carriers well.
Five sacks in a backup role tells me he has a knack for eluding blockers and bringing down a QB once he gets penetration. Going back to his college days, he also had the ability to cause and recover fumbles – something he’s carried over to the pros. Fackrell has shown an ability to make some big plays. He might never become a starter, but he fills in rather well and I think he’ll be on the roster for the next several years.
Without having the luxury to watch Wisconsin Badgers games on TV, I’ll take fans’ words for it that this is an intense guy – one of those perpetual motion machines. Come to think of it, Clay used to play like that. Where did that spin move go?
We learned little from a rookie season mostly spent recuperating from foot surgery. Biegel got only 121 snaps on the year. As a fourth-round pick, however, he should have an excellent chance to become a starter within two or three years – about when an opening might present itself.
Edge Rusher Needs
Brian Gutekunst has made little effort to acquire an edge rusher by trade or free agency. That suggests that he feels, and I’m slowly starting to come around, that the Packer have four solid OLBs, all of whom have some ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
In 2017, Green Bay registered 37 sacks, ranking 17th. A year before that, they ranked sixth in the league with 40. Though these numbers don’t suggest there’s a reason to panic, we all watched the good passers in the league pick the defense apart last year. The difference this year could be defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He has a solid record of finding ways to bring pressure to the quarterback.
There’s another reason for cautious optimism. The Packers finally got some help last year from the defensive line: after a sackless rookie season, Kenny Clark busted out with 4.5 sacks in 2017. Plus, free agent signee Muhammad Wilkerson, recorded 44 sacks, 6.3 per season, in seven years as a defensive end for the Jets. I wish the Packers had signed him for more than a year. If he impresses he’s likely to go elsewhere, as did tight end Jared Cook a year ago.