Packers' situation behind starting OLBs could be volatile

-- The Green Bay Packers better hope they're not calling upon their backups off of the edge this season, otherwise, they could be in a world of trouble.

Neither Clay Matthews or Nick Perry -- the two solidified starters at outside linebacker -- said much after Thursday's practice to help soothe any anxious nerves.

"We feel like we have a pretty good grasp of the season moving forward as far as how we want to see this thing playing out with playing time and reps and everything," Matthews said. He's expecting a rotation, especially so early in the season with both him and Perry coming off of surgery over the offseason. 

Matthews had a "minor" clean-up procedure done on his knee shortly after last season ended and Perry underwent ankle surgery sometime after the season ended as well.

"We want to be smart coming into the first game with myself and Nick, and obviously with what Reggie [Gilbert]'s been able to do and Kyler [Fackrell] knowing the system as well. We’ll be smart. But at the same time, you gotta go out there and produce."

Gilbert spent the first two years of his career on the Packers' practice squad after going undrafted out of Arizona in 2016. He fell victim to final roster cut-downs each of his first two years, however, was one of 22 players held out of the Packers' preseason finale this year for the sake of keeping him preserved for when the games really count: a telling sign for how far he's come.

Fackrell, meanwhile, has proven to be incapable of rushing the opposing quarterback on a consistent basis. He does help gives the Packers another sufficient body on special teams, which is detrimental in maintaining a roster spot.

"I’m sure there’ll be a rotation. The coaches and ourselves will put us in the best position possible to make plays."

Matthews hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2015 and Perry hasn't played a full season in his entire career. There's a good chance the Packers will need to bank on that two-deep depth at some point during the season.

"Just knowing the kinds of guys that we have," Perry said. "Obviously, you have me and Clay, Gilbert’s stepped up, and Kyler’s there, so we have the guys that we need to make this thing work.

"We’re going to continue to roll with what we have. That depth thing is nothing else, we can handle the load. That's what we’re here for. Just moving forward, we have what it takes to continue to push the envelope into the season."

Regardless of who the Packers have rushing off of the edge, they'll be playing in a new defense under coordinator Mike Pettine, whose success in generating pressure -- not just with his edge rushers -- has been well-documented.

The Packers are also going to rely heavily on disguised pressures, whether it be a cornerback blitzing from the slot or a safety shooting through the gaps. There's no shortage of complex looks that Pettine could unveil, regardless of the personnel.

"We're comfortable with where we are with it," Pettine said on Thursday, according to Michael Cohen of The Athletic. "A lot of faith not just in Clay and Nick, but Fackrell and Reggie. And Crawford is a guy, too, that we've cross-trained. He's rushed the passer before in his history."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (50)

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KenEllis's picture

September 06, 2018 at 06:23 pm

I hope it is "volatile" and that Fackrell follows Biegel and Odom out the door and a more competent guy comes in to replace him.

Ted really screwed the pooch the last few years at outside linebacker.

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Chuck Farley's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:19 pm

Really. How about his 9 db picks in three years. How are they doing?

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 06, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Casey Hayward is doing great. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams looked good in preseason. King showed a lot of potential.

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BoCallahan's picture

September 06, 2018 at 11:37 pm

Williams and Shields were not draft picks.

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BoCallahan's picture

September 06, 2018 at 11:54 pm

Don’t forget about Hyde!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:39 am

Shields has been suspended for the first two games. IIRC, he opened the door for the police with a dooby in his hand.

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Turophile's picture

September 07, 2018 at 07:35 pm

When Clay or Perry come off the field it doesn't have to be Gilbert or even Fackrell to replace them.

Pettine is perfectly capable of switching in DL Lowry or Adams instead, for a 4 man look (no they won't be having coverage responsibility). Looked at like that, the depth is not so thin.

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Rustyweezee's picture

September 06, 2018 at 06:34 pm

"...and Kyler's there..."

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Bearmeat's picture

September 06, 2018 at 06:40 pm

It is a fact that our OLBs suck. Perry is the only red-chip player left, and he's only red-chip when he's 100%, which is for about 4 games a year. Clay is a yellow-chip player when healthy, which is generally about 8 games a year. Fackrell sucks. Gilbert is the next great hope. But let's be honest here, the odds of an UDFA becoming an All-Pro are very, very slim. Even of him becoming a decent starter.

We basically have a bag of suck at OLB. It's not going to be pretty. We best just all accept that. However, that doesn't mean the defense can't be pretty good without OLB helping out. We can still have a top half defense this year if a few other things go well - rookie development and a stout DL. And if the D is top half, and ARod stays healthy, that will give us a shot to win it all. Not likely, but possible.

But there are holes on this roster that are pretty substantial. Gute knows it and so do the coaches.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:09 pm

IAMGUTE had to make some very tough choices very quickly thanks to the lack of training camp time. Overall, we won't know till four games in what this years Packers team is. Rest of the NFL has the same problem too. We all know that makes pro football flat out bad this early in the season. Trying to rebuild and remain in the hunt will be the defining test for this GM and his front office. And make no mistake, this is GUTES team. No matter what the head coach or the soon to be former president of the packers says. ( old Mark has kind of disappeared hasn't he. Mmmm...)

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Rak47's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:31 pm

Two players I don't worry about taking the next step are Allison and Gilbert. They've both shown consistently what they're capable of and both have outstanding work ethic as well as regular season game experience..

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Bearmeat's picture

September 07, 2018 at 11:01 am

Agreed. But the next step to what? What we really need is a legit OLB1. Can Gilbert be that guy that demands attention and takes it away from Perry and CM3? I don't think so.

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Bure9620's picture

September 06, 2018 at 06:41 pm

Thankfully Kyler Fackrell is present. I hope rather than pulling out the stopwatch for JK Scotts hang time on punts and seeing 12 tweets of the time, Wes Hod clocks how long before Kyler Fackrell is on his ass. He was engaged with a tackle for 1.7 seconds!!!

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Minniman's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:00 pm

The thing with Kyler Fackrell is his age. He will be 27 during this season, which means he should already have the strength, power and speed attributes nailed - leaving adaption to the speed of the NFL.

I'm consciously reserving judgement on any part of the team till at least the 4 week mark.

........ however, I was hoping to see Kyler Fackrell make the ReggieGilbert type jump this year to restore my nervousness about his realization of potential.

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Chuck Farley's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:17 pm

This d could be a dumpster fire. First patunia was hired because he runs a d just like capers. A d without expensive de's using lbs and what safeti3s to pass rush?
The packets have avoided de's because they cost money.
The 3 4 is the poor man's defense. Works only I'd the four have speed and talent.

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Bure9620's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:45 pm

Go get another beer

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Oppy's picture

September 06, 2018 at 08:26 pm

Yeah, you have it nailed down- the 3-4 defense was conceptualized because Defensive Ends make too much money.

Just remember us little guys when you're a big-shot analyst for NFL Network.

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4thand10's picture

September 06, 2018 at 09:44 pm

Either way you need 2 edge rushers in a defense. Weather you have a 4-3( you need 2 ends that can rush) or a 3-4 you need 2 OLBs that can rush off the edge. Both high end OLBs and high end DEs (edge) are expensive. Rushing the QB from the outside is pricy. So I’ve never bought into the expense argument. Personally, I like bigger defensive ends in a 4-3. Then just trust your will, mike and Sam linebackers , safety’s and corners.

The 3-4, the decision to cover or rush for the OLB delays action. If it’s not run well ( like a 2-4-5) you get the mess like we had with Capers in later years. Pettine will have this defense up to par. The Jets always had a tough stout defense when he was there. Don’t get me wrong, The 3-4 is fine, but in order for it to function properly.... you need a base 3 Down Lineman who can truely eat up all 5 OLs blocks. In other words, more base 3-4 beef. Instead of just 2 and 2 OLBs getting washed out. Players not plays is true, but scheme is also true.

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Oppy's picture

September 07, 2018 at 01:42 am

You mean there's other people besides Chuck Farley who think the 3-4 defense is about being cheap? Holy smokes, I can't even begin to imagine.

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Lphill's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:17 pm

Packers will bring it from the D line so everyone please RELAX !

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Chuck Farley's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:24 pm

4 of 5 d linemen are 34 or older

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Bure9620's picture

September 06, 2018 at 07:31 pm

No they're not
Daniels and Wilkerson are not even 30, Clark can barely drink same with Montravius, Lowry young too.

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Oppy's picture

September 06, 2018 at 08:28 pm

more stunning insight from Mr. Farley

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 06, 2018 at 10:27 pm

Bure, Oppy: As the sage named Dobber once advised me "Don't feed the troll". I pass this advice on to you.

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Bure9620's picture

September 07, 2018 at 02:19 am

I once fed a troll under a bridge, he then stood up, cursed at me and urinated on himself. You had to be there.

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Nick Perry's picture

September 07, 2018 at 04:31 am

Jesus Christ where do you get your information? I mean your not even remotely close! Just real quick off the top of my head I think the Packers have ONE player who's 34 or older and he's the QB!!!

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Since '61's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:57 am

Nick - we're not even one game into the season and Farley has already earned at least 2 of the stupidest comments of year awards on this post alone. He is a Vikings troll and he will disappear once he realizes that his team is still on track to go at least 0 for 60 for the Super Bowl. Thanks, Since '61

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:58 am

Lest you be ruled a fool, refrain from making stupid comments and removing all doubt.

The Packer DL room is full of young men. Adams, Lowery, and Clark are all kids, Mike D is in his prime...as is Wilkerson.

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dobber's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:25 am

They're also recommending Trident.

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4thand10's picture

September 06, 2018 at 09:49 pm

They have enough DL to play more base which could help whomever is rushing. Hell, Danials an Clark even get sacks from the inside. I’d love to see Danials, Clark and Mo all on the line in base. Take a lot of heat off the OLBs. I guess we’ll see what happens.

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DenePhillips's picture

September 06, 2018 at 10:17 pm

Who needs K. Mack when we have K. Fack !!!!!!! LoL

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 06, 2018 at 10:29 pm

What happened to the optimism of Pettine not having a decent OLB in his time with the Jets? How did we go from CM3 and Perry are better than what he's had in the past to the sky is falling? Let's see what Gute does once CM3/Perry/or both get injured. We all know it's not an if but a when. Hopefully it's one or the other so Gilbert can cover.

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4thand10's picture

September 06, 2018 at 11:04 pm

I’m still optimistic, I think what was shown in preseason isn’t going to be anything remotely close to what the defense is actually going to be.

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4thand10's picture

September 06, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Who came in and edited comments on this? There were like 4-5 comments removed. I had one specifically talking x’s and o’s removed.

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Oppy's picture

September 07, 2018 at 01:45 am

You sure you aren't referring to your reply under my post about Chuck Farley breaking into the big-time football analyst ranks? You left a post under my comment that is sort of x's an o's.

I've never known CHTV to take down comments on their site unless things get extremely foul-mouthed or blatantly ugly.

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4thand10's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:51 am

My huge mistake. Well Oppy, they say the mind is the first to go. I thought for sure I put it over here Lol. My apologies to all.

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Lphill's picture

September 07, 2018 at 05:57 am

Really Chuck Farley ? The D line are over 34 years old? Lowery , Adams , Daniels you should stick to your Viking sites.

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Spock's picture

September 07, 2018 at 06:14 am

Zachary, I enjoy your articles but sometimes you put in some head scratching stuff. Maybe you just left out the NOT in your sentence? My wife has a form of dyslexia where she sometimes says the exact opposite of what she means. I'm used to it but it confuses other people, lol. "He does help gives the Packers another sufficient body on special teams, which is (NOT) detrimental in maintaining a roster spot." You're putting out a lot of (good) articles, so I'm guessing you don't have much time to proof read them. Please keep up the good work! Thanks.

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Razer's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:00 am

Love the changes that we made this past off season - from Pettine through Wilkerson. To expect this to be a top ten defense is very optimistic. We still don't have enough talent or depth to move the needle that far. We don't have enough good depth on the DLine, ILB or OLB. You know that injuries are going to happen and subs like Fackrell and Montavious Adams are going to be our go-to replacements.

Capers didn't have enough talent and Pettine is still a good year away from getting the horsepower to dominate the opposing OLine.

The good news is that we will be better and Gutekunst will make the changes sooner rather than later.

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Demon's picture

September 08, 2018 at 01:42 pm

Casey Heyward and Micah Hyde might disagree with you that Capers didn't have enough talent. I dont know whats worse, watching Ted flop in the draft, or watching former Packers earn Allpro on other teams.

The disaster that has been the Packers D over the last 5 years was a perfect storm of failure that I dont see being replicated again soon.

Incompetent GM drafting slow injury prone players, a outdated overmatched Defensive coordinator and a head coach that stuck his head in the sand pretending nothing was wrong.

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DD's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:56 am

Oh you nay say fans. You sound like me now. Let's wait until after Sunday night night to pass judgment; then we'll be able to evaluate better.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:56 am

Thanks gang for totally depressing me this morning. Now I find out we’re playing the wrong D alignment with a Capers clone for a coordinator. Our line is probably incontinent from old age while our OLBs are brittle and infirm. Our CBs on the other hand are too young and TT never drafted anyone worthwhile.

I’m betting we’ll be just fine and slightly improved on D. I think we’ll do a bit better getting off the field on 3rd down, and may not get gashed over the middle per usual due to increased team speed. I’m thinking 12-14 in the league with the arrow pointing up (which will be good enough). Another prediction: we will hold the bears (who still suck) under 20 and win by at least 7.

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DD's picture

September 07, 2018 at 08:59 am

We've had very tough games with the bears. Their defense is solid, unlike our unproven bunch yet. The first two game are must wins and will show us a great deal about our new MM playbook schemes, and Pettines defense.

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dobber's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:28 am

I would argue that there are no 'must-wins' in September. But losses in September turn later games into 'must-wins' earlier than they should.

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4thand10's picture

September 08, 2018 at 01:37 am

The Bears defense used to be good. Key phrase...used to be. When they ran a 4-3 cover 2...pretty stout. Now that they have a 3-4 which started either last year or the year before...same problems we have....

“ we need OLBs who can rush and cover, we need OLBs who can rush and cover”..

I always said good luck with that, cause quality OLBs are hard to find and get paid just like 4-3 defensive ends...only they get injured more often.

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:05 am

It starts up front with good starting lines on D and O...check and check.

You win consistently with outstanding QB play....BIG CHECK.

Then play a supporting cast of excellent skill players: Adams, Graham, Cobb, Lewis, Allison, Davis (PR), 5/50 Scott flipping the field, and a DB corps that can be very good and the base of the team is very solid.

Sure the LBs have some questions, but Martinez is a rising star, Burks will make him even better...and if the OLBs can stay on the field....well, I like the Pack's chances.

And the brain power. The Pack is probably one of, or the only NFL team with former head coaches leading their O, D, and STs.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 07, 2018 at 09:57 am

I read that GoodKiss put in claims on the waiver wire but was too far down the order to acquire some guys. I think he is trying.
https://packerswire.usatoday.com/2018/09/07/packers-put-in-unsuccessful-...

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Nononsense's picture

September 07, 2018 at 01:03 pm

Sure be nice if Gute would add a couple reinforcements. Not sure why he didnt bring in a few guys for workouts that are on the street.

The phucking Browns have stole a couple of guys already off waivers that I know we put claims on. DEs Ifeadi Odenigbo and Anthony Zettel for sure and who knows how many others players we tried claiming that others got.

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Qoojo's picture

September 07, 2018 at 01:59 pm

The way I look at it, they usually have no one behind Matthews and Perry. This year it looks like Gilbert might be a player, and Fackrell might be a little bit improved.

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4thand10's picture

September 08, 2018 at 01:40 am

I was soooo much hoping we could stash a WR on the practice squad and land an extra DL to at least play base or give more 4-3 looks.

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