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Mike Pettine’s Year Two Defense Just Got a Needed Boost – Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, and Preston Smith

Mike Pettine

Mike Pettine talks with a staff member during Training Camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Jim Matthews/Green Bay Press-Gazette via USA TODAY Sports

When the Green Bay Packers new head coach Matt LaFleur retained defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, they kept a man who lead the Packers to one of the top pass rushing teams in the NFL. Succeeding on the sidelines is nothing new for Pettine, who was defensive coordinator for the Jets from 2009-2012, for the Bills in 2013 and head coach for the Browns in 2014-2015.

Green Bay was seventh in sacks per pass attempt and had a remarkable 16 players with at least half a sack, second most in team history since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. In addition, the pass defense ranked 12th after a porous 23rd in 2017. Overall, the Packers were eighth in sacks with 44.

Heading into the free agency period, the team clearly wanted to maintain the direction Pettine is taking this defense. This means to add some top notch pass rushers, particularly from the edge. However, in order to be able to send numerous pass rushers, there is a need for reliable coverage men in the secondary.

The Packers may have very well filled those needs with the acquisitions of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. The deals are reportedly worth $37 million over four years for Amos, $66 million for four years for Za’Darius Smith and $52 million base value for Preston Smith. Certainly a lot of money is being spent, but if all the pieces fall into place, will be well worth it for the Packers. Why so much money? TP’s Rob Born has his own theory about Green Bay’s struggles with attracting free agents.

Za’Darius Smith is a four-year veteran who has played his entire career for the Baltimore Ravens. After three solid, but overall unremarkable seasons, Smith came to life last season, recording 8.5 sacks and 45 tackles. While his rush defense might be suspect, Smith is entering his prime and is an excellent pass rusher from the outside linebacker position, recording 60 quarterback pressures last season.

Preston Smith adds a solid combination of run defense and pass rushing skills to the table. In four seasons with the Redskins, Smith recorded 164 tackles, 24.5 sacks and two seasons with eight sacks each. He generated nearly as many pressures (53) as Za’Darius Smith last season. The combination of the two Smiths are nearly perfect for Pettine’s scheme. They love to pin their ears back and rush the passer at a feverish pitch.

Again, for this pass rushing scheme to work, there needs to be solid defenders at the back end. This is where the addition of Adrian Amos comes into play. After playing four years with the Bears, the Packers were perfectly aware of his capabilities. In four seasons with the Bears, Amos recorded 269 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and three forced fumbles. Excellent coming up defending the run, Amos also had nine passes defensed, showing he can be solid in pass coverage.

There should be plenty of excitement as to how good the Packers can be defensively in 2019, as Pettine’s play calling options have increased with the addition of these three players. Of course, they did not come cheap so it will turn out to be a great decision only when they prove their value in the lineup.

Under Pettine’s leadership, and with his style going into its second season, Gutekunst has provided the Packers the tools long needed on the defensive side of the ball. Looking forward, it is anyone’s guess as to how much more attention the defense will get in the draft or if the focus will now turn primarily on the future of the offense.

Another important factor to consider is how well-received Pettine is with players on the team. I have no doubt that the new additions to the roster will quickly find their place in the system.

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Ed Rooney

Just a guy with too much free time trying to help out.

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12 Comments

  1. PF4L March 14, 2019

    Sometimes when trying to solve a problem, admitting you have a problem is half the battle.

    I have a problem.

    His name is Billy Turner. I’m confused, what am i missing here? I don’t understand any of this signing.

    I may need the big gun for this one. Howard?…can you talk me down from this? What am i not understanding?

    1. PF4L March 14, 2019

      Fuck, i knew i shouldn’t have pulled up sportrac…i flippin knew it!!

    2. Skinny March 14, 2019

      Look at it this way. Byron Bell started some games for us last season I think right? And then there was this other guy and this other guy and hell one guy didn’t even show up for camp that may have started? To me this Billy Turner guy is a huge upgrade from what else we have right now so ill take it. I also expect them to draft a OL with one of those first or second round picks.

      1. PF4L March 15, 2019

        I just don’t get why 3 teams he was with don’t want him, coincidence? So we’re his 4th team inside 5 years.

        He made 2 million last year, and we have to fork over 11 million his first year? Denver didn’t think enough of him to even give him a tender, His other two teams clearly didn’t think he was worth keeping.

        I keep hearing….he’s versatile, over and over. The last guy i kept hearing that about was Don Barclay.

        He wouldn’t take 4 million?

        I just don’t get what he has done to receive such a huge raise when no one else seemed to have interest.

        I’ll agree they go to the O line in the draft, just don’t know when.

        1. Cheese March 15, 2019

          This guy went from $2mil to $11mil?!?!? J F’N C…. How the hell do you explain that one?

        2. Skinny March 15, 2019

          True, yeah. I dont know. All I heard is hes versatile and is strong in the zone blocking scheme. They must have really liked his tape. Im fine with it. We needed a FA OL somewhere. Im not sold on Lane Taylor or Bulaga going forward either. Wouldn’t surprise me if they use 2 of the picks in rounds 1-3 on OL.

  2. Deepsky March 15, 2019

    I just want to point out that our boy Kyler Fackrell had as many sacks last year as Calais Campbell and Fletcher Cox. And he had more sacks than Michael Bennett, Jadeveon Clowney and Justin Houston.

    Now if Pettine can get that out of Fackrell, what can he get out of the Smiths?

    1. PF4L March 15, 2019

      I haven’t looked up the Smith numbers yet because i’m not ready too. I have to let the Turner thing dissipate.

      But from what i hear, they better get a lot out of those two as it seems to me they are being paid on potential. which is fine i guess because at least they are trying. But we tried the last two years and they better hope year 3 yields much better results or the shit hits the fan ( i think ).

      The difference between Fackrell and those other boys, is the others have been doing it longer. I wanted Fletcher Cox awhile back before the Eagles resigned him. I would take a 1 armed Cox over Fackrell any day.

      Draft picks have a built in excuse for performance….they’re rookies. Free agents have no excuse. Speaking of, isn’t Jimmy due a big fat check today? We all know….he’s earned it amirite?….Nice Gute.

    2. Stiggy March 15, 2019

      Fackrells sack statistics are skewed. I think he racked 6 of them in garbage time against rookie QBs. Not taking away from his effort but his numbers were inflated by 2 games. He could be a great piece of our pass rush rotation but he is not in the conversation with any of the players mentioned above.

      To put it in perspective…

      Fackrell had 10.5 sacks in 12 qb hits… which is outlandishly high.

      Zdarious smith had 10 sacks and 25 qb hits.

      Literally got double the pressure fackrell did.

      Preston smith had 16 qb hits and 4 sacks… while being a stout defender against the run.

      In other words… both players are a lot better than fackrell and neither are in the tier of the clowneys/cox/etc.

      1. PF4L March 15, 2019

        Yea, i could have brought up Fackrell’s opposition, but i figured i’d let it slide as i think i’ve neg’d out this website enough :)

        Overpaying is almost expected from these boys at 1265. But it is what it is these days till we get over this nightmare. And even after then, when Rodgers is gone, we may have the same goals as today, getting in the playoffs.

        TICK TOCK

  3. Kato March 15, 2019

    Za’Darius Smith seems like the real deal, but time will tell. Joe Thomas is high on him, and he would know as well as anyone, he gas gone up against him one on one. And Joe Thomas is no slouch at LT

  4. Stiggy March 15, 2019

    Not so much fackrells opposition it’s more his insanely high QB hit to sack ratio. Realistically he should have had 3-6 sacks based on his hits. Regardless of competition it shows he doesnt create that much pressure overall… just happens to get a sack when he does.

    25 qb hits is a pretty good number for a guy you are counting on to rush the QB.