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Whether the primary impulse has come from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Coach Matt LaFleur, or GM Brian Gutekunst, someone has put a stamp on Green Bay’s 2019 defense: they are going to pressure, harass, and disrupt opposing quarterbacks to an extent Packer fans haven’t witnessed in years. That firm commitment has been made.

If things work out as planned, gone are the days (in 2018) when Kirk Cousins (MIN) goes 35 of 48, C.J. Beatherd (SF) goes 16 of 23, Cousins goes again for 29 of 38, Mitchell Trubiski (CHI) goes 20 of 28, or Sam Darnold (NYJ) goes 24 of 35. By allowing these chumps so much undisturbed time to throw last year, Green Bay made them look like all-stars. Credit the new leadership of the Packers for vowing to change all that.

The manner in which Clay Matthews and Nick Perry were let go was one early indication. They failed to apply any semblance of pressure in 2018, and were unceremoniously shown the door. That’s what accountability is all about.

The team’s focused approach on acquiring edge rushers Za’Darius and Preston Smith, and how much they quite willingly agreed to pay them, renders the Packers’ commitment to harassing quarterbacks unmistakable.

Not satisfied, the Pack utilized its rare early Round 1 selection to land Rashan Gary. While it’s not clear if he’ll share time with the two new edge rushers or spend some time as a somewhat undersized defensive lineman, it is clear that he’s intended to be a pass rusher as well as a run stuffer. Gary is viewed as being versatile.

As if that wasn’t enough, Green Bay then went out and got defensive lineman Kingsley Keke in Round 5. Pro Football Focus just rated him as a “steal” in this draft.

 

Sep 29, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (8) reacts after making a sack in the third quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers’ scout for the Southwest region, Charles Walls, gave this assessment:

“(Kingsley Keke) is a big guy, who is athletic, can play across the front, he’s long, he’s got feet, hips and closing speed. Had production in the SEC. Another big guy with athleticism who adds versatility to us.”

At Texas A&M, Keke had lots of tackles for losses, and he registered four sacks as a sophomore and six as a senior. He could develop into a solid D-lineman.

 

Kenny Clark and Kyler Fackrell

Kenny Clark (97) celebrates with linebacker Kyler Fackrell (51) after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Trending Upward?

In 2018, the Packers defense produced a respectable 44 sacks. They did so by spreading the chores around – I believe 16 defenders contributed to that total. Last year’s sack leaders were OLB Kyler Fackrell (10.5), DE/NT Kenny Clark (6), and ILB Blake Martinez (5). They are all returning, and are all young and still getting better.

Also, Mike Daniels is bound to improve on his down year, in terms of sacks – though he’s had five or more sacks in three seasons, he had only two in 2018.

 

Mike Daniels

Kirk Cousins (8) gets pressure from Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels (76) in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Daniels, he packs 310 pounds onto a six-foot frame. Too much of that weight is not muscle. Back in the day, Packers’ center Frank Winters 1992-2002) was nicknamed “Ol’ Bag o’ Donuts.” Defensive end Dave “Hawg” Hanner (1952-64) got his moniker for similar reasons. Both became Packers’ Hall of Famers despite high body fat content.

That hasn’t cut it, though, in the NFL for a couple of decades. My opinion is that Daniels would be more effective if he dropped about 20 pounds, thereby gaining some quickness and agility. Daniels needs to be Flab shouldn’t be optional on this team. I’ll be watching to see if LaFleur puts Mike on the scales daily until he drops well below 300 pounds.

Where was I? Oh yes, the Packers’ sack total last season was quite misleading. I’d say that on one out of every three plays Packers defenders provided virtually no pressure on the quarterback for three, four, and sometimes five or more seconds. No defensive back can be expected to maintain good coverage for that amount of time. And even low-quality quarterbacks can march down the field under those conditions.

For that reason alone, it could be that Packers’ DBs got somewhat of an unfair rap last year. If we can cut a second off many of the times-to-throw, we might see guys like Oren Burks, Josh Jones, and Josh Jackson showing more talent than they seemed to possess a year ago.

Pressuring the quarterback affects a great many things: completion percentages, ability to throw deep balls, interception totals, making third down conversions more difficult, making long drives rarer, and so on.

Almost all the off-season attention has been lavished on the defense. There will be no excuses this season, for Pettine, Gutekunst, LaFleur, or Mark Murphy. This defense must perform. For me, anything less than a top-seven rating in yards, and points, given up will be a disappointment.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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16 Comments

  1. Nick Perry May 5, 2019

    I’ve been saying the same thing since the Smiths were added along with Amos. Anything less than a Top 10 finish in defense would be a disappointment. I’m thinking #7 is pretty reasonable, especially with the additions of Gary, Savage, and Keke. I happen to think in 3 years teams will be kicking themselves for passing a Gary. ESPECIALLY with a DC like Pettine who can scheme sacks out of anyone. I mean 10.5 from Frackrell?? This will be fun.

    Reply
  2. Ron Wlowich May 5, 2019

    I believe our defense will be scary as the whole line has the ability to get to the quqrterback

    Reply
  3. Kato May 5, 2019

    It would be interesting to see a statistic of average time to pressure a QB across all passing attempts. Also, out pass rushers need to do a better job of getting their hands up into throwing lanes if clearly aren’t going to beat their blocker. We haven’t had anyone real effective at that since the halcyon days of Johnny Jolly.

    Reply
  4. Kato May 5, 2019

    I honestly don’t care if this team gives up yardage. I want to see two things: giving up under 20 ppg, and I want to see them make important stops in big situations. Be clutch. Too many times over the years have I seen this defense play 55 minutes of good football only to shit down the side of their leg the last five minutes. They need to establish a “finisher” mentality.

    Reply
    1. Ash Paladium May 8, 2019

      Bottom line. The Packers need to create pressure and get sacks. No pressure means more pressure on the corners. Ive heard fans say “sacks aren’t everything”. That’s BS. The name of the game is getting to the QB and the Packers defensive line just doesn’t get it done. Gary will play in 2019 but eventually have shoulder surgery and end up just like King did. Like Baktiari said, there is no accountability for not performing, the last things the Packers needed was a meek coach.

  5. yawn May 5, 2019

    This article is laughable. I think I will trade down and go back to my porn.

    Reply
  6. S.A.P. May 5, 2019

    Sounds lots like the infamous words of Commander McBragg, Bully, Bully ! Just can’t wait to see this, that petrified look on the face of the opposing quarterback, like I think I just shit my pants … Go Pack Go !❣️🚀🌑🚀🌕🚀🌑🚀🌕🚀🌑🚀🌕🚀😋

    Reply
  7. David Wicklund May 6, 2019

    Well I sure hope so. Can’t get much worse than it has been. Defense wins championships offense wins games. Should have made playoffs last year. So improve on d will help.

    Reply
    1. Ash Paladium May 8, 2019

      Kick is up, kick is no good!!! That alone counted for two losses and a tie.

  8. Deepsky May 7, 2019

    Tom Oates has a really good article on how the Packers have started to use and value RAS score in selecting players which measures things like speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness. The guy who apparently was a steal based on RAS core was Ty Summers, the 7th round linebacker. Of the Packer draftees, only Gary had a higher RAS score.

    Jaire Alexander had a very high RAS score, so did Kevin King. Busts like Clinton-Dix and Quinten Rollins had extremely low RAS scores. Then again, Davante Adams had a low RAS score.

    So if RAS translates into NFL ability, Summers might be a sleeper.

    https://madison.com/wsj/sports/football/professional/tom-oates-packers-use-analytics-to-add-athleticism-in-nfl/article_e5e697c6-bb5e-55f8-ad86-354cf1fe3520.html

    Reply
    1. PF4L May 7, 2019

      In other words it’s…..who won the combine.

    2. Ash Paladium May 8, 2019

      What is Kevin Kings score? Even when he has played he has sucked.

  9. Droolingted May 8, 2019

    Can’t wait to see kurts cousin writhing in pain on the lambeau turf as 900 lbs of Smiths & Clark lay on top of him!!!

    Reply
    1. PF4L May 9, 2019

      I’m not the brightest guy in here, but i don’t think Kurts cousin even plays football.

    2. Ron Wlowich May 9, 2019

      I believe Pettine is giggling in his sleep with the amount of pass rush he will constantly will be able to send play after play with fresh pass rushers. I don’t think many quarterbacks will like Pettines fast destructive defense

  10. PF4L May 9, 2019

    The more i read, the more i feel like this defense is expected to be the 2nd coming of the Bears 85 defense.
    I don’t want to sound like i’d like to see them actually play a game first before i crown them, Maybe even an exhibition game? Hell, how about a padded training camp. I’m just saying, can they past the eye test?
    ******************************************************************
    Hell, maybe everyone is right, maybe this defense is going to be epic. I just need more than a pitcher of kool aid, a couple (non blue chip) expensive free agents, and a draft pick who has to learn a new position and learn how to drop in coverage to make me a believer.
    We went heavy in the 2011 draft for defense, we’ve been drafting defense heavy since then, and we’ve been mostly swinging and missing the last 7 years.

    Lets see them play, to see what we have.

    Reply

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