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How Muhammad Wilkerson can Ignite Packers Pass Rush

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How Muhammad Wilkerson can Ignite Packers Pass Rush

The Green Bay Packers lived up to their promise to be more aggressive in the free agent market this week and with the signing of Muhammad Wilkerson, that aggression will pay huge dividends.

Most fans, however, don’t really want to talk about Wilkerson. There is a large segment still mourning the loss of Jordy Nelson and for good reason. He was a tremendous player for the Packers and he will be dearly missed. But with little cap room, needs to fill and younger wide receivers like Davante Adams excelling, it was a tough, but understandable move.
Green Bay needs to change if it wants to catch the Vikings and getting rid of Jordy is just part of that. As to how it relates to Wilkerson, he and Jimmy Graham are the two positives this week. 
Without releasing Nelson, Graham and Wilkerson, might not have come aboard. But with the extra cap space, the Packers were able to give Wilkerson a one-year deal worth $5 million, with a chance to earn up to $8 million in incentives. 
I haven’t seen the contract personally, just what has been reported, but at this point, I would expect Wilkerson to earn just about all of those incentives. Not only will he make the Packers defense better against the run, but he is going to ignite a pass rush that desperately needs a spark. 
The thing that makes Wilkerson so valuable, is that in addition to his own pass-rush skills, he also has the ability to make others around him better. At 6-4, 300 pounds, Wilkerson is a unique athlete with 44.5 career sacks and 43.5 tackles for loss. His career stats also include 28 passes defensed and 10 forced fumbles.
But more than anything what makes him intriguing is his versatility. Wilkerson is a guy that can play defensive end in a 3-4, defensive end in a 4-3, nose tackle and three-technique. In pass-rush situations, he can rush from the edge or inside, similar to Julius Peppers.
That’s who I think of when I see Wilkerson. It’s another Julius Peppers, except that Wilkerson isn’t really an outside linebacker in the 3-4. But throw in Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Kyler Fackrell and that’s a group with potential.
Consider a lineup that has Wilkerson and Daniels lined up inside, while having Matthews and Perry lined up on the edge. Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert also have potential. Vince Biegel is another guy who could produce, along with Montravius Adams inside. If any can rush outside, it could allow Matthews to play more inside.
At this point in his career, Matthews might be better suited playing nickel snaps at inside linebacker. He covers pretty well and his ability to blitz up the middle might be his best asset. On run downs, he’s great at setting the edge against the run, but his ability to get to the quarterback aren't what they used to be. Yet through the scheme and his explosiveness, he can get pressure. 
Wilkerson could also be the Packers edge rusher along with Perry, assuming he’s healthy, then have Daniels and Clark inside. Those are all possibilities and it would give Mike Pettine a lot of different options. 
Pettine being his defensive coordinator previously with the Jets is another good sign. He will find a way to get the most out of Wilkerson, which is probably why the former Pro Bowler came to Green Bay. 
The fact that he’s on a one-year prove it deal is another good thing. Long term, the Packers might regret not signing him to a multi-year deal, but for 2018, they will get a motivated Wilkerson playing on a Super Bowl contender for the first time.
Those all sound like good things and that’s why I expect Wilkerson to be the next great free agent signing for the Packers. Hopefully, it will be more than just a rental.  




Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bure9620's picture

If I'm Nick Perry I am ecstatic. I really feel Pettine will run alot of 4-3 under next year, making Nick Perry a rush end which I always thought he is better suited for anyway. Wilkerson (if motivated) can cause lots of havok on the interior rushing the passer from under the guard. This will create lots of headaches for offensive lines. Really, if Wilkerson can just eat double teams from the 5 tech, it's going to give Perry one on one pash rushing opportunties and also Pettine opportunities to blitz up the middle with Matthews or Josh Jones.

John Kirk's picture

This doesn't fit anywhere, really, but I thought everyone would get a kick out of this bad joke telling session between Mike "I sound like Laurence Fishburne" Daniels and Davante Adams.

Colin_C's picture

For as tough as Mike is, he sure can't keep a straight face :-)

Spock's picture

JK, Wow, those were lame jokes. Here's one from a Bear's fan I was told:

What do you call a 350 pound woman in a Packers' jersey at a game at Lambeau?

(wait for it....)


Well, I thought it was funny. The verisimilitude is pretty on. When my wife and I were dating (40 plus years ago!) I warned her that the women in my Wisconsin home town (Waukesha) were huge and when they went to the store to buy dresses they were measured "in axe handles across the withers". She thought I was kidding until we went to my home town, whereupon she said, "You're right, I've never seen so many huge women!". Sadly, these days I'd give some of them competition. Sigh.

John Kirk's picture

Congrats on 40 plus years...and a bigger congrats to your wife. I don't know how she endured. :) That's why I married a girl from the west coast. :) Down in Texas they call them 2 balers.

I think this is my favorite football joke:

A man goes to the Chicago Bears ticket office and inquires about purchasing playoff tickets. The ticket teller replies that there weren’t any tickets for sale because the Bears did not make it to the playoffs.

The following day the same man goes to the Chicago Bears ticket office and inquires about purchasing Bears playoff tickets. The ticket teller politely replies that there weren’t any tickets for sale because the Bears did not make it to the playoffs.

This goes on for an entire week. The man goes to the Bears ticket office inquiring about play-off tickets and the teller says none are for sale because the Bears did not make it to the playoffs.

This goes on for another week, with the same man asking the ticket teller about Bears playoff tickets. Finally the ticket teller yells, “I’VE TOLD YOU FOR THE LAST TWO WEEKS THERE ARE NOT ANY TICKETS AVAILABLE BECAUSE THE THE BEARS DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!”

The man replied, “I know. I drive all the way from Green Bay just to hear you say that."

---Here's one more:

Whats the difference between a bears fan and the Back to the Future movie?

Eventually the movie quits going back to 1985

Nick Perry's picture

WHO in the hell would dislike this by John????

ANY attempt to make fun of the Bears or the Vikings should NEVER be disliked.

Bert's picture

I agree about the possible benefit to Perry but that will only happen if he is able to stay on the field.

Amy Berk's picture

That was very funny! I gotta tell my cousins in Chicago but I bet they won't like it.

Packer Fan's picture

The signing of Wilkerson and the optimism here are directly tied to the hiring of Pettine and BG. Players want to play for Pettine. That is something not evident with the last few years with Capers. And secondly, Gutekunst has brought a change of direction to player personnel. There are still holes in FA to fill. Especially CB. We will know how aggressive BG is in just a few days. We don't need to redo the whole team in FA. No, selective additions can alter a team performance alot. And we will see how BG deals with the draft. He has an opportunity to get a few high choices with the 12 picks he has. IMO I would rather see three total 1st and/or 2nd round picks rather that a real high pick. But there is time yet to do this.

So, yes, there is optimism building.

jww061356's picture

I am cautiously optimistic as well. I think at the very least they have greatly improved their depth and versatility; we won't be so damned predictable anymore. Still need EDGE and CB, maybe we can get one yet in FA and still draft a good one as well.

CAG123's picture

Packers could grab Rashaan Melvin as of right now he’s still available and could be relatively cheap. He had a pretty solid season last year with the Colts and would be a better option than anyone the Packers currently have on the roster (save KK).

cuervo's picture

Rumors are he's asking for 10 mio/year. Not cheap, but not many options yet either. There will be a multitude of CB's cut after the draft, there's plenty of time yet.

Finwiz's picture

If he's asking for 10 MIL/YR., I want to see 8+ INT's and 15-20 passes defensed, along with 30+ tackles.

I don't even have to look at the stats to know he isn't in that ball park, and thus the salary expectations are ridiculous.

CJ Bauckham's picture

He had 3 picks and 13 passes defensed last year in 10 games. That puts him in the range of 5 picks and 20 passes defensed over a full season. I don't think he's worth ten mil, but he might be closer to the ball park then you think

John Kirk's picture

With his injury history you can't give him a long contract or 10 million.

Cubbygold's picture

Butler signed for what, $12M a year? No chance he's worth 10 with that injury history

jeremyjjbrown's picture

he's long too.

If the get him it will go towards comfirming some suspicions of what Pettine has planned.

I don;t think he's earned 10 mil.

Packmaniac's picture

I wanted Wilkerson the year he was drafted, believing there was a very good chance he’d be there at pick 32. Alas, the Jets grabbed him at #30. Obviously there’s no way of knowing if Ted would have taken him at 32 anyway, but this post is my roundabout way of saying ‘Welcome aboard, big Mo, glad to have you.’

Largo-Lor's picture

New the site. I think another major effect, that hasn't been discussed much, is the more pressure up front and disrupting the timing of the quarterback forcing him to scramble or hurry, takes a huge load off the corners in coverage. That relieves some of the urgency in the back end. Covering for a few seconds rather than what we saw last year will make all of them more productive. All of the options stated in the article are exciting to speculate. I think the whole defense is going to be jazzed with Wilkerson and the possibilities...that is if he is everything as advertised.

Cubbygold's picture

'forcing him to scramble'

I can't wait to watch Cousins try to scramble twice a year.

Spock's picture

Welcome to the site! I had read CHTV & JERSEY Al'S sites for many years before venturing to comment (it's quite possible many would wish that I still didn't, lol). Of all the Packers' fan sites out there IMHO this is the best by far and the commenters are very accepting of new people. Hope to hear more from you!

Oppy's picture

Jersey Mike's makes subs

Jersey Al makes Packers fan websites


Spock's picture

Oppy, Thanks for the correction; we just got a Jersey Mike's in town a year or so ago and my stomach must have been rumbling!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Welcome, Agreed about it helping the CBs, but I think it helps CM3 more than any other player. CM3 doesn't beat OTs one on one as often as he once did, but if another player forces the QB to move, thus changing the spatial relationship between the OT and the QB, CM3 has the lateral agility, quickness and closing speed to take advantage.

egbertsouse's picture

I think he is a big upgrade from Lowery. My optimism is tempered by the fact that everything I hear or read from people who follow the Jets is that he is a bum and a quitter. My fingers are crossed that this doesn't become "Martellus Bennett, The Sequel."

worztik's picture

WC... the Jets sucked and maybe a player can only put so much on their shoulders before he says enough is enough. In GB he’ll have good people in the Dline to work with! Be patient, Pettine pis much different than Crappers and he’ll run a tight ship.!

Spock's picture

Worztik: "pis much different than Crappers", though, I'm sure inadvertent, is a pretty funny comment!

worztik's picture

Thank you! And yes, it was inadvertent...

Cubbygold's picture

Jason mccourty released. Pair him with tramon and a draft pick in the first three rounds...would solve the issue with a small cap hit

John Kirk's picture

Actually, Cleveland traded him to New England to be reunited with his twin bro. Peanuts trade. I'm sure we could've had him in the Damarious trade if we thought much of him.

Cubbygold's picture

Certainly seems like it. Compared to whats out tgere in FA, seems like a no brainer to bring him in

EddieLeeIvory's picture

One of these guys will almost certainly be available at #14. Which one would you prefer?
Let's assume BG adds 1 solid CB in FA, and another veteran CB later in FAgency.

Harold Landry
Marcus Davenport
Denzel Ward
Josh Jackson
Jaire Alexander
Isaiah Oliver
Mike Hughes
Roquan Smith

For me, tough call:

I don't list Derwin James, think he's for sure long gone. Smith probably will too, not for sure tho.

CheesyTex's picture

Denzel Ward, but he won't last to 14.

CheesyTex's picture

And, if Ward is gone, Davenport. Would love that rotation with Wilkerson now on board -- equals continuous pressure on qb and less pressure on dbs.

lou's picture

Agree ChessyTex, I think Davenport has the most upside and similar skills as a young Clay Mathews. Also agree that having Perry (yes he must be healthy and on the field) with his hand in the dirt seals any edge he is on and adds greatly to the overall pass rush. Having someone as solid as Lowry in the rotation if not starting tells you the potential of the D-Line. My real concern is the CB position. Our new GM must have had a PLAN going into the start of free agency for CB and based on what has transpired getting at least 1 Veteran free agent CB was not a part of it, it now looks like the only way he gets that Vet is via a trade (after the draft probably Vets will come available) or relies entirely on the draft which is very risky. The 2 free agents signed are the real deal, giving Mo a 1 year incentive laden deal was good business, he has every reason to get back to where he was.

CheesyTex's picture

Agree with you too, lou.

Re CB, IMO Pack should bring in one or two low cost veterans (Devon House and/or Tramon Williams) to bridge the experience gap between current roster and a couple additions in this draft.

Guess that's what off-season is for, but I get excited about the prospect of adding Davenport (and Wilkerson) to the rotation. Think the bigs are key to returning D to respectability -- and key to giving receivers less time to get open, thereby helping DBs look better.

Bure9620's picture

James could be, the QBs could all be gone, theres 5 picks and the pass rushers are overvalued which could push Derwin James down. I think hes the 2nd best player in the draft behind Quenton Nelson. If hes there, nab him.

dblbogey's picture

I'd sure love getting Nelson, if you could move and get him at 9 or 10, He's going to be dominant. I'd love James too, but would probably require a slight move up. Otherwise, I guess Davenport.

worztik's picture

Davenport or Alexander...

John Kirk's picture

No WR's? Sutton is my preference at 14 as things stand right now, if he's there. Niners supposedly love him.

If I had to choose from that list...Landry, but I'd probably trade down if those were my choices.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Leighton VanderEsche. You didn't list him, and many publications have him going in the 2nd or later, but there are a few who also see him as a first rounder (one of the CBS prognosticators has the Packers picking him at 14!). I've watched a lot of tape now of Landry, Davenport, and VanderEsche, and I keep seeing greater consistency, explosiveness, speed, and intelligence in VDE's play. I really think he can be "the next Clay Matthews." I see an All-Pro difference-maker in him. I'm hoping for a CB prospect in the 2nd; I like Carlton Davis. I think a LOT of CBs are going to go between 14 and 45, so I'd be in favor of trying to move up in the 2nd; even 5-6 picks up might make a big difference in the best CB available.

fthisJack's picture

either one of the two you said would be long gone. either Smith or James should be there. i like both.

fthisJack's picture

i like DJ Moore in the second!

holmesmd's picture

Long gone by R1-14?! No way. They probably will both be there at 14 IMO.

dblbogey's picture

On a side note, Jerry Tagge was a poor pick for the Packers. Let's get this one right.

lou's picture

A look in the past, winning 2 National Championships at Nebraska and being a Green Bay boy carried a lot of weight before the amount of data available today and no combine equivalent. Strong armed but little touch, tough as nails and fearless (but not fast) runner when flushed from the pocket. Did fine in the CFL until he tore a knee up. Years later he admitted and addressed some alcohol problems and has done very well in the insurance business in the mid-west and is a cousin of mine. Also, he was an outstanding basketball and baseball player at Green Bay West High School, and 2 of his high school team mates went with him to Nebraska, one played some DB for the Packers for a short time and the Patriots, Dave Mason.

A Pickled Packer's picture

With Wilkerson on board, I bet Gute's told Rodgers in that phone call, we needed to cut your friend to get this guy but don't worry I'm going to find you a new weapon and promptly goes and finds him a burner in the first round.

Cubbygold's picture

Maybe in the third. Unless theres a trade back, there's not a WR Id consider taking at 14

Oppy's picture

The best thing about the predicting the draft is it's kinda like batting in baseball, even the very best at it miss more than they hit by a long shot.

Spock's picture

Well said Oppy. I personally hate baseball but I seem to remember that Babe Ruth not only had the most home runs but was also at or near the top stat of players who struck out? Kind of a feast or famine situation.

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