Pennel-less Defensive Front gets the job done in Jacksonville

A highly-critiqued unit on the roster over the offseason, the Packers' front seven silenced those critics with a strong performance against the Jaguars.

I apologize in advance for the redundant amount of references to the Florida heat you're going to read in this article. 

But, there's no sugar-coating it — it was hot. One of the hottest road games in Packers' history with a kickoff temperature of 93 degrees. Factoring in the humidity and you have yourself a blazing season-opener. Much like the temperature, the Packers' front seven came out on fire. 

Last week and beyond, the notion was that Green Bay's defensive line would face insurmountable struggles this season, especially in the first few weeks of the 2016 campaign. It's a perfectly well-justified narrative considering Kenny Clark is a rookie who, coming into today's game, didn't have a single snap under his belt. It's worth noting Clark was also fighting off a back injury prior to being cleared to playing in Jacksonville. 

Without Mike Pennel aiding the opposite end of the line due to his four-game suspension, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry paired up with Letroy Guion amidst the rotation. It was a recipe that once gave concerned fans a reason to be pessimistic. However, it was a different song and dance on Sunday. If anything, this unit may have impressed the most of any other.

Right out of the gate, Jaguars' running back T.J. Yeldon — who got the start over an ill Chris Ivory, was bottled to 10 yards on his first six carries. His next 15 carries only accumulated a grand total of 29 yards along with 1.9 yards per carry, as the Packers' front seven looked to have honed in on their hidden ability to fly to the ball. This group accounted for 28 of the defense's 56 total tackles, including two of the three sacks on Jaguars' quarterback Blake Bortles, who was pressured out of his comfort zone more times than one could bother counting.

A quiet contributor was Joe Thomas, who just made the fringes of the Packers' 53-man roster and presumably beat out former inside linebacker Carl Bradford in order to do so. Thomas, the second-year player responsible for carrying the dime linebacker duties in 2015, nabbed a tipped interception on the Jaguars' first possession of the game and also forced a fumble. His performance was a clear indicator as to why he earned his gig with the team with his strides for improvement.

It was another linebacker, however, who made some noise in the place of another. On the edge, Nick Perry saw a majority of the work that would originally be reserved for 15-year veteran Julius Peppers. Peppers is primed to be on a pitch count in 2016, even more so in week one likely as a result of the heat. Bolting his way into the backfield twice for two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, Perry can add those totals and a crucial sack that forced a 50-yard Jaguars' field goal to his stat sheet. That field goal would be the final points of the game for either team, in case you needed a picture of the circumstances painted for you.

As if you couldn't praise the defensive front enough, the Jaguars converting four of their 15 third-down attempts is a result of the tension put on Bortles in the right moments. Tension that the front seven applied mightily through the course of the four quarters that dehydrated players on both sides. 

Signs of promise amongst the young defensive line is a plus moving forward, especially without Pennel in the lineup, who is slated to return for the week six duel against the visiting Dallas Cowboys. 

Next week poses the biggest obstacle for this defensive front. They'll face 2015's rushing leader in Adrian Peterson, whose 1,760 career rushing yards against the Packers are his personal best against any team.

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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 (16)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 11, 2016 at 07:45 pm

I thought the defense played well, secondary and young ILBs included. Bortles threw 35 TDs last season. The Jags offense has some serious talent.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 11, 2016 at 07:46 pm

double post for some reason.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 11, 2016 at 07:53 pm

Yeah agreed Jeremy. The only thing I wasn't happy with was the coverage by the ILBs. The Jags had nothing going for them until the 4th quarter except the TEs in the middle of the field.

They just gave up on the run. I didn't know the YPC. That's why. Nice!

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MarkinMadison's picture

September 11, 2016 at 09:34 pm

Honestly, I still thought it was a better ILB group in terms of coverage than we've had. I think you let these guys get some more experience and they will be o.k. I thought that at least they had some speed.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 11, 2016 at 10:49 pm

I thought the ILBs for the most part were good in coverage. The TEs seemed to gain the most yards against the CBs.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 12, 2016 at 01:47 pm

If Capers was playing "Pick your Poison" I think I understand. Against the Jags, stop the vertical passing game because of the skill of Blake and the WRs, and stop the run because it's 200 degrees and you have 2 defense linemen you can trust. That leaves the TEs open. If Julius Thomas has a good day he's gonna get 5 catches 64 yards and a touchdown. If Allen Robinson does he's gonna have 5 catches for 150 yards and 2 tds.

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EddieLee's picture

September 11, 2016 at 09:26 pm

How many snaps did Peppers get?

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Patrick White's picture

September 12, 2016 at 02:23 pm

I'd like to know that as well as how many did Kenny C get

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stockholder's picture

September 11, 2016 at 10:54 pm

I still like Mathews moving around. You can praise everyone for a good play here or there, But Mathews is still the star on this unit.

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al bundy's picture

September 11, 2016 at 11:12 pm

My concern is teams are passing not runing for third down conversions. Dbacks are stilll playing way off making it easy to convert. Rollins was horrible.
This d will be spent by mid season not being able to get off the field. Way to many long drives on them.
Today thw offense carried them but for how long?

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stockholder's picture

September 11, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Rollins did have a tough start. Missed a open field tackle and needed help during the game. You know Shields had some tackling issues too. He'll improve. The TD catch against him was a perfect pass. But what would you do if you were Capers?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 12, 2016 at 01:02 am

Front six really stopped the run. Of course, we had 7 or 8 in the box the whole game. Daniels and Guion came to play, along with CM3 and the elephant ends Perry and Jones. I am high on Lowry but I don't think he did much. I'll have to watch again. ILBs looked pretty good, certainly better than competent; Ryan and Martinez covered their run fits and tackled well.

We were able keep 8 in the box because we were able to contain, if not stop, their WRs. I have to point out that at least 2 more and possibly 4 more pass interference penalties could have been called on Shields, Randall and Rollins. 2 of the PIs not called were pretty noticeable. They did battle. Gunter had a minus play. Hyde had a plus play. Their TEs had a line of 7 targets, 7 receptions, 112 yards, 16.0 yard average. Burnett has wonderful stats: 9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL: he was very good near the line, but not so good in coverage. We got 3 sacks, but just 4 QB hits on a not particularly agile QB. The line had some push even if they didn't get home. Daniels had several bull rushes where he backed the OL right up to the QB spot. I thought the CBs were a bit shaky, but that is a very talented receiving corps.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 12, 2016 at 11:11 am

I had a feeling Dom would put a lot of trust and responsibilities on these DBs and play a lot of Single High this season. In return, it seems to really help the Run Defense. It should only get better, with more experience the ILBs/young DLs get and the less-talented WRs we face.

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Icebowler's picture

September 12, 2016 at 02:37 pm

My big wish for the year for the defense is for the 3 young ILB's to stay healthy, so we can keep CMIII on the outside. If one of them does go down, I hope they bring up Bradford from the practice squad first. It's just great to see Clay back to doing what he does best "full time".

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Turophile's picture

September 12, 2016 at 03:57 pm

When you look at the on-paper deficiencies of the Packers run defense, you have to love how they managed that part of the game.

Great run D, frequently in a 2 man front with the linebackers filling the gaps, against the Jags who are now a real good quality team (watch how they do the rest of this year). Glad the Packers met them in week one, and very happy with that part of the game.

Next up is AP and the Vikes. You would think it will be back to 3 or 4 man fronts for him, but we will see.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 13, 2016 at 12:47 am

It is really a stretch to suggest that Lowry was paired up with Daniels. Lowry played 7 snaps, Kenny Clark played 9 out of 74 defensive snaps. Looks like Datone and Peppers played quite a bit on the DL between them.

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