Packers Pass Rush Needs More

The Green Bay Packers defense has been getting pressure on opposing passers at a good rate this season.  They rank tied for 12th in the league with 18 sacks.

Twice, however, the Packers finished a game with zero sacks.  One was the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the other was this past weekend's win over the Oakland Raiders.

Free agent additions Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith have been a boon for this defense, amassing 13 of those 18 sacks.  They've elevated the Green Bay defense to one of the better units in the league.

But when the opponent has a solid game plan for the Smith's, who steps up?

Rookie first rounder Rashan Gary has just one sack on the season.  He's created pressure and is setting the edge better than we've seen the Packers do in recent seasons.  Some of that doesn't show up in the stat sheet but, in the words of former Packers linebackers coach Kevin Greene: It. Is. Time.

Kyler Fackrell has been very quiet as a role player and despite his "breakout" 2018, it's unlikely that he has any memorable moments like that this season, barring injury.

The Raiders have taken good care of quarterback Derek Carr this season so it was no surprise they had an idea how to keep him clean in Green Bay.  Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine sent his front and when that didn't work, he blitzed several times, to no avail.

As the season wears on and the Packers hope to hit their full stride, one thing must remain constant: pressure on the passer.  They have to find a way to disrupt quarterbacks if they want to continue to win big games.

As Carr sat in the pocket looking to make quick throws, he had that extra half second to put the ball right where it needed to be.  The result was the Carr and Darren Waller show.  

The obvious trickle-down effect of not making opponents get the ball out sooner than they want is causing the secondary to hold coverage longer.  This Packers secondary has been very good this season but they can't continue to cover for days.

Perhaps the return of rookie safety Darnell Savage will help on the back end and give the rush more time to get home.  But is it ideal to be hinging so much hope on a first-year player who hasn't yet matured into anything close to elite?

Many have been calling for the Packers to acquire help at wide receiver, worried that the depth behind Davante Adams isn't enough for this team to accomplish something special later on.  What about the defense?

As good as they've been, when their best players are held in check, who's stepping up?  We've seen Will Redmond and Chandon Sullivan do so in the secondary.  Who's that guy up front? 

Is it truly time for Gary to break free?  Or does the defense need to look at the drawing board a bit and commit to not letting the obvious opponent strengths beat them?  

However Pettine chooses to attack it, this defense needs to keep the pressure on the passer.  The elite teams who are playing deep into January almost always have that trait and it's a big part of the winning formula.

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (52)

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

October 23, 2019 at 01:17 pm

This article is spot on. This is exactly what I've been saying the past few weeks. Everyone keeps talking about adding WR depth.. how about maybe another LB or DLineman. Seeing what teams can do to us with their TE really worries me in the long run.. With Kelce coming up- I don't care who's at QB- we are going to have issues until this is addressed. Great article.

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scullyitsme's picture

October 23, 2019 at 02:01 pm

I’ve been taking a lot of flak on here for calling for a couple of new pieces via trade or whatever means necessary, it’s not a popular position. This team right now is good with a chance. Another piece or two and it could be great with a better chance. It kinda feels like bizarro world. The last ten years people on this site begged for more free agents and ted to make a trade to put us over the top. This year the even mention of trading for a wr, or dL, can get you roasted and disliked. Twilight zone stuff. Apparently I didn’t get the memo from cheesehead tv that we were switching positions. Always too little too late.:(

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ALLGASNOBRAKES's picture

October 24, 2019 at 06:04 am

I'm sure you don't care but it's worth mentioning since you brought it up...Dislikes...Who cares?

Speak your mind just like you have and you'll get a "Thumbs Up" by me in most cases. I blamed Ted Thompson for the Packers failures LONG before it became okay to do so and was peppered with dislikes...MEH!

Gute has done a great job in the 21 months in office. BUT the draft will ALWAYS be the Packers way to rebuild. At least he dived in DEEP in FA this season and the turnaround was on. As much as I'd like to see him make a move or two I trust Gute will make the right move for the Packers if it's there.

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scullyitsme's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:30 am

Yep, I agree. Just taken aback at the venom with some people are against this. It’s like I mentioned I think meth is a good thing. It’s a over dramatic world we live in I guess. Your either a genius for thinking it or an idiot.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:29 pm

A step up from Gary or someone else would be nice, but they really just need another big load for someone else to handle.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:37 pm

Phrasing

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Razer's picture

October 23, 2019 at 03:31 pm

Totally agree about "another big load for the opposing O-Line to handle. Another Kenny Clark type player frees up the pass rushers, stiffens the run defense and collapses the "step-up pocket".

To many jags on the D-Line. A stud ILB would also help.

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Guam's picture

October 23, 2019 at 04:30 pm

Agreed. I am less concerned about the pass rush than I am about the run defense. Stiffening the middle against the run and providing a push against the middle of the pocket would be much more useful than another edge rusher. We have quality starters and depth at edge, we don't have that in the middle of our D-line.

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cuervo's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:34 pm

Carr has only been sacked 8 times this season because of the offense they run and quick passing game. There is nothing wrong with the packers pass rush or QB pressures. Run game issues, absolutely..but since the article seems to suggest we have a pass rush problem I say hooey to that. The defense has issues, rushing the QB isn't one of them.

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flackcatcher's picture

October 24, 2019 at 02:29 am

Most of the issues is in the LOS-10 yards beyond. Most of those will be solved with the return of Savage at SS. Pettine has had to restrict his defense formations due to injuries in the secondary. With the return of Tony Brown and Jones, Pettine will be able to shift T. Williams into the other hybrid/SS/ILB to cover the second TE/slot WR. From a base 3-4 back to their preferred 3-3-5 will give them the match ups they want in the secondary to slow or shut down the short passing game. If they are able to get Raven Greene back, that will allow them to have their ILB press the LOS and move must faster to shut down the run.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 24, 2019 at 08:53 pm

How did the "purple people eaters" do against LenDawson and Hank Stram's precision passing game and inside draws????

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Lare's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:35 pm

The Packers defense needs help up the middle. Opposing teams are taking advantage of that with both the run and the pass. Campbell and Savage may improve that when they're healthy, but for the time being there's not much help available on the current roster.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:37 pm

Look at the amount of pressure the Smiths have put on opposing QBs sacks are one small piece of the defensive puzzle. The Smiths are the beat duo in the NFL at sacks and pressures. Packer fans are going out of their way to find something to whine about. The Packers held the Raiders to 17 points and gave them a free TD to end the game.

Aaron Rodgers is back in MVP form. That's going to force teams to throw the ball to stay in the game. That will open things up for our pass rush when offenses can't be 2 dimensional. Stopping the run isn't as important if you can put 30+ points on the board.

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Rak47's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:58 am

Heya JS! Ya know people are not taking into account the quality of opponents that GB has faced. There are only two teams with better records than GB [N.E. and San Fran] and both have better defensive ranking and NFL power rankings. But if you look closer the combined record for N.E.'s opposition is 11-27. The 49er's opposition has been even worse at 11-28. the Packers opposition by comparison is 22-23-1. If you take away Denver, and L.A. their opponents record is 17-15-1. The Packers have been playing some pretty tough teams while both the 49er's and Pats have feasted on weak AFC East and North teams while only having to play the Skins, Bucs, Giants, and Rams from the NFC. No Wonder the both looks so dominant. The Pats played one team with a winning record so far and that was the Bills and they struggled to a 16-10 win in Buffalo. I 'm hoping the tough schedule will have the Packers battle hardened come post season.

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sonomaca's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:37 pm

The key here is interior push. Don’t get much from existing DL’s. I’m thinking KeKe might be the guy to provide more inside rush.

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jsb937's picture

October 23, 2019 at 01:51 pm

Gary is a complete waste of a number one. If he was elite and worthy of a 12th, he would be playing now.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

October 23, 2019 at 08:19 pm

What a foolish post. He's about half way through his rookie season.

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Djanko's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:53 am

Agreed, all talk and no results. He won’t last his contract!

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stockholder's picture

October 23, 2019 at 02:20 pm

I miss CM3. Not outside, but @. ILB. I still feel that CM3 would have fixed the inside, with his heart. I'd trade a late pick to get him back.

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sam1's picture

October 23, 2019 at 02:38 pm

He can't play he broke his jaw and it out probably 8 weeks or more!

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PeteK's picture

October 24, 2019 at 08:30 am

He was having a great season up to that pt, 6 sacks.

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Tonkathunder's picture

October 23, 2019 at 03:34 pm

CM3 Made it very clear that he didn't want to play ILB. He's not coming back!

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Gort's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:02 am

10 thumbs up. CMIII did not want to play inside even though it was his best position.

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jlc1's picture

October 23, 2019 at 03:26 pm

savage is missed for sure but if it really is true that they can't figure it out without him then he may be rushed back. Montgomery came back too early from one and was not the same, in GB or elsewhere. Hurrying players back and then having them aggravate the injury I am sure can't be good for trust between the players and organization. Give him plenty of time and find some sort of solution with this roster or an addition to it.

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Archie's picture

October 23, 2019 at 03:27 pm

Where's Owen Burks? He should be ready to play - it's week 8 for cripes sake. If he's still not over his injury then it was a mistake to keep him on the 53. Or is he a bust, like Josh Jackson?

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Jonathan Spader's picture

October 23, 2019 at 05:40 pm

Burks has been on the field vs Detroit and Oakland he just hasn't had many stats with 1 solo tackle in each game or made any sort of impact.

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Coldworld's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:38 am

Well his return has coincided with a lot of focus on the run due to opponents. That plus potentially working him back in mean we probably are only now at the point where we may see how Pettine plans to use him.

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PeteK's picture

October 24, 2019 at 08:26 am

He has been on the field the last 3 wks.

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canadapacker's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:29 pm

He played a few snaps did he not? He made 3 solo tackles but he is not up to full speed due to his injury. We need more out of the middle of the Dline - Adams, Clark , Lowry , Lancaster need to press the pocket better and allow the Outside guys get it on. We blew too many coverages

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Lphill's picture

October 23, 2019 at 03:47 pm

Let’s see what Ty Summers can do at linebacker , what are they waiting for.

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dblbogey's picture

October 23, 2019 at 05:06 pm

I'm guessing that, unlike you, the coaches realize he's not the answer.

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stockholder's picture

October 23, 2019 at 06:16 pm

Martinez and Ryan moved back and forth. Cm3 moved around. I believe they want Burks. Burks was compared to Joe Thomas lb. Gute traded a 3 and 4 to move up to get him. Bust? IMO he is. Ty Summers is behind Martinez on the depth chart. Putting Summers and Gary in there at the same time, is a problem. Moving Martinez would expose Gary. Putting Summers next to Smith works. But Burks and Gary are the reason,Summers isn't playing.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

October 23, 2019 at 08:26 pm

That's one of the most convoluted posts I've seen. Since Gary doesn't play the majority of snaps, why dont they play Summers when Gary isn't in? (I'll hell you with the answer) Because Summers' lack of playing time has nothing to do with Gary.

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Coldworld's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:41 am

Linking Gary and Summers like this makes no sense to me from any angle I can come up with.

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stanthemanwiththeplan's picture

October 23, 2019 at 04:07 pm

Yeah a squat leverage ninja to disrupt the inside while the taller Smiths work the edges.. someone like.. *cough Mike Daniels *cough

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dblbogey's picture

October 23, 2019 at 05:09 pm

The Mike Daniels who is currently hurt and hasn't played particularly well when not hurt for Detroit? The $11 million man? That Mike Daniels?

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stanthemanwiththeplan's picture

October 28, 2019 at 06:35 pm

The 2017 pro-bowler Mike Daniels. Also, please explain how Mike Daniels hurt in a Detroit game against Philly has anything to do with what his physical condition would be like if he had stayed with the Pack...

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scullyitsme's picture

October 23, 2019 at 04:15 pm

I think ty summers might of been the only person to miss more tackles than Redmond in pre season. I’ll stick with Martinez if those are my choices. He did look fast missing tackles though, and tackling can be taught, speed can’t.

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Coldworld's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:44 am

Summers is a project. Redmond is a converted corner forced into starting. These things take time. Overreaction is everywhere here and the grass is not always greener.

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4thand1's picture

October 23, 2019 at 04:25 pm

New players everywhere. New offense, very young secondary, K Clark has back issues. Coaches fix mistakes that players make. The communication in the secondary looks like days of old, that has to be cleaned up. Oakland has a very good massive o-line, not worried about the pass rush. At least this defense gets stops and gets off the field. They have 2 goal line stands the last 2 games, the lolions didn't score.

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scullyitsme's picture

October 23, 2019 at 04:40 pm

I am surprised no one has mentioned kicking the tires Mo Wilkerson. Maybe there’s reason for that I’m unaware of, not healed yet or he’s just out of shape. Think he was facing a minor suspension for a dui. But I doubt that’s it. They could stash him on the inactives for a week or two till it’s served.

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Guam's picture

October 23, 2019 at 10:24 pm

ColdWorld and I had a thread about Wilkerson a month ago and CW pointed out that no team had even given him a try out this year, so something seems to be amiss. Don't know what it is, but if Wilkerson was still a viable player, he would be on some team by now. However there has to be someone better than Lancaster/Adams/Lowery out there.

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scullyitsme's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:34 am

Guessing he can’t passs a physical or some type yet with the Achilles. That you’d think would be the only reason not to bring him in, because your right, he was a good player still before he went down.

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TheKanataThrilla's picture

October 23, 2019 at 06:14 pm

We have been weak over the middle for years (Nick Collins injury I am guessing). Savage improved it, but we have not had anyone other than a steady tackler after the catch (Hawk/Martinez) at MLB. I wanted so bad one of the Devins this draft. I was pissed when we drafted Nick Perry instead of Harrison Smith and Randall instead of Kendricks. Making it worse was a division rival picked them both up.

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Our defense was on a short week to prepare for an uncommon opponent who was coming off a bye week to prepare to play the Packers. Oakland has a good OL to start with and even with that they used their TEs and RBs to help with their pass protection. While our defense did give up too many yards they only allowed 17 points before garbage time and they made stops with a goal line stand and an end zone pick during the second half.

We can use more pressure up the middle but we are also 6 - 1 with the players we have so we must be doing something right.

This week we 're on the road in KC and the concern there is that the Chiefs have a ton of speed on their offense with or without Mahomes. The other concern is that we won't have too much tape on Matt Moore so it may be difficult to prepare for how he plays but I don't think that he is a very mobile QB so that may help the Packers pass rush. This is also the 3rd consecutive week in which the Packers are playing a team coming off a bye. Granted it is a mini-bye but once again we will playing a team with extra time to prepare.

Hopefully our offense stays in sync and our defense tightens up against the run and the pass rush becomes effective again.
Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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flackcatcher's picture

October 24, 2019 at 02:54 am

I'm not worried about the Packers pass rush or line play. This defense is built around secondary play, allowing the ILB to crowd the line and taking the slot/TE routes away. Getting Tony Brown back last week helps, but getting Savage or Greene would solve a lot of the current ills the Packers have, and allow Pettine to return to his 3-3-5. We'll see on Sunday.

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Wilment's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:28 am

The Pass rush this year has, with the exception of two games, been pretty good. Great pressure on the edge. The middle line seems to be an area where we are getting no push. For everyone clamoring for Clay Mathews{broken jaw} or Mike Daniels{foot -again}, the team was wise to divest itself of them. The secondary issues seem to be more of a communication breakdown, quite a few busted coverage catches this year. All this being said,, I much prefer this defense to the ones we have fielded in the last three or four seasons. They can make a stop when we need it, which has taken the pressure off of Rodgers and the offense and allowed them to learn the new system. Tweak it...dont fix what aint broken. GOPACKGO!!

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Booner's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:41 am

Gary needs to prove he was worthy of the 12th overall pick! He needs to make some plays!

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Djanko's picture

October 24, 2019 at 07:50 am

Spot on ! Gary has been disappointing to say the least. #12 pick should be able to play and be a factor. The sad truth is he never did much at Michigan. Hopefully he won’t be another Justin Harrell. Time will tell, but looking OVERRATED for sure.

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Houndog's picture

October 24, 2019 at 08:20 am

Yeah, I know, I'm really late to this game but I got here.
I agree and disagree with a lot of you, but I believe we need some help defensively and it starts in the middle.
The Smith Bros are doing great on the outside, and I love Matinez, but where's our (real) run stopper or "inside" pressure guy? And then, who actually plays opposite Martinez, sure we know, but you never hear his name in any broadcast for making a play, and that ain't good,
I remember when (about this time of the year) the Packers pulled some guy named Howard Green (Big Howie) off a scrap heap somewhere and he had a huge play in winning our last SB. There's got to be someone out there that can be picked up or had at a reasonably priced trade, it might just be the path to the SB.
Take a look at what the two teams with the best record(s) in the NFL did the past few days, they made trades that made them even better. The Pats seem to do something like this every year, and the 49'ers seem to be following suit, the Packers need to do the same.

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Michael Hughes's picture

October 24, 2019 at 09:14 am

How about Pettine does what he is paid to and makes the most out the players he has got.

The receivers group resembles a practice squad. The tight ends are way beyond their use by date but Rodgers and the offence still got it done and more by making the most of what they had and being flexible.

Premium draft pick after premium draft pick has been thrown at defence. We have gone out and got two premium pash rushers at high cost in free agency as well as an expensive peak age safety.

And still they need more... Its embarrassing if that's the case.

It's scary to think what the defence would be like if they had to use the sort of resources that the offence have been left with.

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canadapacker's picture

October 24, 2019 at 05:10 pm

Yes the rush needs to get there. Gary is a rookie and it takes time to develop - maybe not in year 1 but he plays meaningful snaps and that allows the others to rest. Oakland exposed a lot of flaws - yes no pass rush - but the coverage was absolutely brutal. Guys cannot be 10 to 15 yards open. We have always had trouble covering the likes of Ertz, Kelce etc. That has to do with scheme. I also felt that last game besides our poor tackling - we had too many what Uhrlacher used to call LOAFERS. Even saw it with Martinez a couple of times. Cant have it. Dont Like it. But if Mahommes play we are in real trouble given our D play last week. And we cannot count on putting up 42 points to be in the game. I dont know what type of communication system is out there but it didnt work last week and we got kind of lucky to get the game to where we didnt really need to count on the Defense. Now not really complaining because we won a couple of games because the D was great - Bears, Queens. But as far as playing good - we stunk it out against the Raiders and I hope that we can get those blown coverages and bad tackling fixed because otherwise it might need to be a real shootout

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