Packers Defensive Front Is Ready For A Bigger Challenge

The Packers had 35 total pressures against the Bears

The new and young offense was always going to be the talk after week 1 for the Green Bay Packers, but another new and young area of the team was as important for the win over the Chicago Bears — and will be decisive again versus a strong running team, the Atlanta Falcons, in week 2.

The defensive front.

Before the game, defensive tackle Kenny Clark said people should expect change. Both in plan and in performance. And it happened against the Bears. The unit was clearly more active, disrupting the Bears interior of the offensive line with regularity.

Rashan is a monster

Rashan Gary's comeback from an ACL injury is a major factor for the Packers. He was on a pitch count and played only 12 snaps, 10 as a pass rusher, and generated five pressures. Just three edge defenders had more than that in week 1, even considering the ones who played their entire games.

His performance is impressive, particularly for a player coming off such a serious injury, and opens up the rest of the rotation. Preston Smith can be a secondary piece (he was the Packers highest-graded run defender by PFF), and Kingsley Enagbare might be a rotational edge. The roles make more sense when Gary is healthy.

They found something

It was difficult to expect immediate impact from such a raw player as Lukas Van Ness is. Well, there was immediate impact. In his first NFL regular season game, the first-rounder had five pressures and a sack on Justin Fields. His athleticism is evident, and the fact that the Packers have three established edge rushers ahead of him allows Van Ness time to develop and diversify his skill set.

The interior

You already know how good Kenny Clark is. But you already know he had been an island of talent on the defensive line for most of his time in Green Bay. That may be different now. Rookies Colby Wooden, with four pressures, and Karl Brooks, with a sack, were good right away. And it's clear that second-year player Devonte Wyatt, a former first-rounder, has taken developmental steps. He led the team in pressures, with six, and also had one and a half sacks.

What to expect in week 2

Atlanta certainly has a better offensive line than the Bears. But the schematic challenge is similar, as the Falcons are also a run-heavy team. In week 1, against the Carolina Panthers, second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder completed 15 of 18 passes for just 115 yards. It was the second lowest number of yards with a completion percentage that high in the last 70 years in the NFL — just Peyton Manning in 2007, when he had a game with 95 yards completing 14 of 16 passes.

And that tells you everything you need to know about how the Falcons approach the game. They want to run the ball and throw short passes. Ridder is seen as a point guard for the offense, and head coach Arthur Smith's idea is to minimize his quarterback impact. That's why they spent a first-round pick on running back Bijan Robinson, even when they already had a good runner in Tyler Allgeier. Tight end Kyle Pitts had just two receptions, even though they were for 44 yards, and wide receiver Drake London didn't have a single reception — just one target.

It's a bigger challenge to test the new Packers approach and personnel. But they passed the first, and now seem ready for the next step.

Photo: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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8 points
 

Comments (27)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Leatherhead's picture

September 13, 2023 at 11:18 am

"""And that tells you everything you need to know about how the Falcons approach the game. They want to run the ball and throw short passes"""

Good, because that's what the Packers want their opponents to do on offense.

I'm not really certain why you'd say Atlanta's offensive line is way better than the Bears. I mean, they got 225 yards of offense, including 13 first downs, against one of the weaker teams in the league. That kind of sounds like Atlanta's offensive line got handled quite a few times.

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mnbadger's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:02 pm

I'm not at all familiar with the flacons or the panthers, but I agree with your assessment at face value.
One game is not indicative of a team, just see our 2021 season opener vs the saints then finishing the season 13-3.
However, I love the start of what I hope becomes a trend for our defense.
GPG!

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:23 pm

It seems that way but it could be that was just their game one game plan because they knew the Panthers were weak offensively. They may look at the Packers 38 points and decide they'll need to open things up. Certainly have the weapons with Pitts and London. I think they might be limited by Ridder's arm a bit too. Don't remember him having a great arm in college.

Ridder was sacked 4 times in 22 drop backs so either he was holding it too long or the OL isn't great. The RBs averaged 5 YPC so they're probably better run blockers than the Bears OL.

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T7Steve's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:57 pm

I thought that the Panthers had a pretty good D, it was just their O that held them back last season? Am I remembering wrong?

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Leatherhead's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:20 pm

They were below average on both sides of the ball last season.

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Coldworld's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:16 pm

Or better RBs?

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Leatherhead's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:23 pm

The Plan was to get 13 first downs and 225 yards on offense??

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Coach Cleve Steamer's picture

September 13, 2023 at 07:51 pm

Lol. You’re right of course.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 14, 2023 at 05:15 am

How many times have you said it's all about points. IIRC they won the game by 14 of them.

The point was they might have had a conservative game plan last week and have a less conservative one this week. I'd prepare to see some deeper passes, especially if they get behind.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 13, 2023 at 11:09 pm

I agree and Atlanta's QB is not, I believe, the elusive running threat Fields is.

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GregC's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:06 pm

It will be very interesting to see how the Packers do against this run-heavy offense. This type of offense generally doesn't work in the NFL because it requires the O-line to be dominant. That's hard to do at this level.

I expect the Packers to go all out in crowding the line of scrimmage and trust their CBs to hold up in a lot of one-on-one situations.

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splitpea1's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:10 pm

Agreed. Minimizing the quarterback's impact to this degree isn't sustainable, although some of those recent Titan teams were able to do it on occasion. But the Falcons aren't there yet. And the advantage this game is that our guys won't need to worry about chasing down a shifty and elusive QB, although, LOL, it didn't appear to be much of a problem for Van Ness anyway.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 13, 2023 at 07:51 pm

Bijan Robinson can go to the house on any given play. The LBs will have to do their jobs. Now Ford is a question mark at safety.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 13, 2023 at 11:12 pm

True that. Maybe we will be seeing Wilson play this week. Our home run threat besides AJ.

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TheKanataThrilla's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:15 pm

I am optimistic about our defensive front 7 this game. I may agree with the notion that Atlanta has a better OL than Chicago, but Fields is much more elusive than Ridder. If we can get all those pressures and 4 sacks on a very difficult QB to contain, what kind of sack numbers can we expect with someone easier to take down?

I see us going into this game with pretty much the same formula as Chicago from the defensive side of the ball. Robinson and Pitts are the main threats. Stop the run as best as we can and hopefully contain Pitts. Unfortunately a good TE has often been our Achilles heel (too early?), but if we get pressure on Ridder this likely lessens Pitts' impact.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 13, 2023 at 12:16 pm

The way Gary played Sunday I'd leave him on a limited snap count until after the bye. Leave him itching to make a play every time he gets in the game. Worked for late career Charles Haley. Got Haley to the HOF.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 13, 2023 at 11:17 pm

Tempting. but I like seeing Gary more. Last game, wow. I really don't think I have seen such a dominant performance by any Packer in a very long time
Was Reggie like. And to a much lesser degree Wyatt's take down. That too was impressive and gives us a lot to be optimistic about this season.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 14, 2023 at 04:47 am

I think they should evaluate each player individually. It seems this organization is pretty good at being conservative with injuries and following medical advice. The big thing is not stressing anybody too much too soon and #52 certainly deserves that too. But returning to full strength also requires the proper use. Whatever that means, I hope they do that without overdoing it, and fortunately we've got the depth to be able to.

Will that mean gradually increasing his snap count and only keeping him in for a full game after the bye? Will that mean none at the position stay in for the full game all season? It will be interesting to see and I love the articles here showing the snap counts for everybody. I think TGR has been the only one going into that much detail IIRC.

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T7Steve's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:03 pm

Isn't it great that we can all talk optimistically about the D even after the season's started? Remember how we were the last 2 seasons after week 1? Keeping Barry in the booth might be the key for the budding front line. Don't know why, but why mess with it?

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Coldworld's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:18 pm

We need to see what they do against an offense that is capable in the air, and particularly one capable in both air and ground attack before we get excited. So far so good, but not only was that Bears O bad, it was incredibly conservative too.

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T7Steve's picture

September 13, 2023 at 01:46 pm

All true CW.

Still good to pass the week 1 goal.

That's all we can ask for and more than we received the last 2 week 1s. Just a relief and a hurdle behind us and on to the next.

This is a one week at a time season for me. I guess that's as it should be, and all teams too.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 13, 2023 at 02:19 pm

All along, I thought we'd hang 30 on the Bears in the opener. So I'll call that a win. Now, I'm trying to go 2-0.

Atlanta scored 24 points against Carolina, and they will not score that many against Green Bay, which has a better defense than Carolina. Packers go 2-0, on the road, to open the season.

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Gman1976's picture

September 13, 2023 at 03:44 pm

These first 2 games are great training grounds for our defense and young specialists and offensive players. We couldn't have asked for a better schedule. The quality of the opponents almost makes it like a couple of preseason games.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 14, 2023 at 04:50 am

I hope they prove to be an incrementally increasing challenge. I won't vouch for the Saints to be better but that seems to be the consensus opinion so I agree these opening three games are an ideal schedule in this respect.

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Lphill's picture

September 13, 2023 at 04:02 pm

I was screaming all last year for Wyatt to get more snap’s apparently Barry was seeing something different than the rest of us maybe he can see better from the booth .

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Tundraboy's picture

September 14, 2023 at 03:26 am

New glasses too?

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TxFred's picture

September 14, 2023 at 09:39 am

I thought Thapar should have rack up at least 10 points more in the first half. MLF trapped himself into pass first mindset. 1-2-3-punt. Damn.
2nd half comes to his senses. Much better results. GPG!!!

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