Pressuring the Quarterback is a thing of Beauty

The Green Bay Packers haven't pressured the quarterback with the same consistency that they did in 2019, but as we saw against San Francisco, pressure can lead to a dominating performance. 

As the title suggests, pressuring the quarterback is truly a beautiful thing. It disrupts the timing of the play, stresses the quarterback, and leads to bad decisions. Unfortunately, after being one of the best teams in the NFL last season in quarterback pressures - which is a sack, a hit, or a hurry - in terms of production, the Green Bay Packers have fallen off a cliff in that category.
 
In 2019, the Packers were top-5 in quarterback pressure rate, and a big reason for that was the additions of Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith. Along with Kenny Clark, they were a three-man wrecking crew, wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, totaling 236 combined pressures along with 31 sacks.
 
Unfortunately, in 2020, we just have not seen the same consistency. Although Za'Darius' six sacks heading into Week 9 were the fourth most in football, he hasn't gotten after the quarterback with the same regularity. Meanwhile, Clark missed a good chunk of the season, and Preston has been MIA for the most part.
 
Through seven games, heading into their matchup with San Francisco, The Smiths and Clark combined for 31 pressures and seven sacks. If we extrapolate that out over the course of a season, that's 71 pressures and 16 sacks—certainly a far cry from their 2019 production. 
 
The Green Bay pass rushers are just not winning their one-on-one battles at anywhere near the same rate that they did a year ago. This has led to Mike Pettine sending more blitzes and stunts in recent weeks to try to drum up some sort of regular pressure, but for the most part, the results still haven't been there. 
 
This lack of a pass rush then has a negative trickle-down effect to the rest of the defense. When the quarterback has time and isn't under duress, it's easier to make plays. It's not a coincidence that the Packers turnover numbers have dropped considerably or that their red-zone defense has been mostly ineffective. 
 
However, Thursday night in Santa Clara, California, we saw a version of the 2019 Packer defense that got after the quarterback and made life difficult for him. According to ESPN, Green Bay only recorded one sack, but they hit Niners' quarterback Nick Mullens on five occasions, and they also generated 10 additional hurries. For reference, that's the most quarterback hits that the Packers have recorded in a single game this season.
 
As a result, Mullens was rattled in the pocket, and you know what? Green Bay came away with two turnovers because of the pressure. On the Raven Greene interception, Preston Smith hit Mullens as he was throwing the ball. Then, later on, Za'Darius Smith came off the edge and forced a fumble. 
Several times now, we've heard OLB Coach Mike Smith talk about why pressures are more important than sacks. And last night was a prime example of why (via Packers Wire): 
 
“I care about pressure, affecting the quarterback, that’s the No. 1 thing. I’ll take a guy that does his job play after play after play after play, being consistent and have zero sacks, but does his job and affects the quarterback,” Smith said. “If you got a room that believes the only way to get a pressure is to get a sack, you’re going to have a very disappointing room in the NFL. These (blockers) are good. I could care less about the sack stuff.”
 
In this same interview, Smith would also add, "you find a great pass rusher by consistency." And that's what we saw from this Packer defense against the Niners; consistency. 
 
Now, sure, considering that Green Bay was up against San Francisco's JV squad, was this the best measuring stick for how good this Packer team really is? No. But as Davante Adams says, you can only eat what's in front of you. And last night, the Green Bay defensive front ate. They did exactly what they should have done against an inferior opponent, which is dominate. Let's hope that they can build upon this momentum moving forward. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

4 points

Comments (21)

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

November 06, 2020 at 01:18 pm

Yes, that’s what this D is premised on. That said, I don’t believe we should forget that their left tackle was a guard who struggled mightily.

More positively, the play and usage in the D line changed markedly: the result seemed to be a revitalized OLB corps. Perhaps not having to carry those duties removed the obstacle to playing like last year.

If true, it’s possible this D should start to be more effective against both run and pass. The question posed will be why did it take 7 games of poor play to adjust D line personnel usage?

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Leatherhead's picture

November 07, 2020 at 10:26 pm

I think it’s called mid season form, and it always takes a team some time to get there, and injuries are a factor. Good teams are separating from the not good.

We went 5-2 without the extra snaps for Keke and Adams. This was just one team that was missing a lot of guys. But we’re 6-2 with three of our next four at home. We should be 9-3 at least when we start the stretch run.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 07, 2020 at 10:26 pm

I think it’s called mid season form, and it always takes a team some time to get there, and injuries are a factor. Good teams are separating from the not good.

We went 5-2 without the extra snaps for Keke and Adams. This was just one team that was missing a lot of guys. But we’re 6-2 with three of our next four at home. We should be 9-3 at least when we start the stretch run.

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Lphill's picture

November 06, 2020 at 02:28 pm

The Smiths both have trouble shedding blocks by tight ends , this should not be they had no problem last season , if you research film you will see them being occupied by lighter tight ends , Gary if you go back and review actually sheds blocks better , is it a change in coaching , or is no crowd to show off in front of ?

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Lare's picture

November 06, 2020 at 02:59 pm

I think it will be telling to see what the Packers do in the coming offseason. They've got a huge amount of salary and cap space tied up in players who are generally injured and are employed to create QB pressures, sacks, and turnovers. There's nothing wrong in spending a lot of money if you're getting return on that investment, but if you're not it's time to cut bait.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 07, 2020 at 11:59 pm

Not likely to see PSmith being paid in 2012

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MITM's picture

November 06, 2020 at 04:56 pm

This game is NOT a reflection of our pass rush this season. It means nothing against a JV team. The pass rush has been awful and in the Smiths case - I think what Rodgers said earlier on this year makes sense as to part of the reason why. Pass rushers often times feed off crowd noise in high pressure situations. The Smiths are having a hard time motivating themselves this season. They lack that juice we saw last year.

Sometimes I wonder if our best DLINE would be swapping Lancaster and Clark at NG and DE. I think that could help the pass rush. Isnt the better athlete supposed to be playing DE in our scheme? Lancaster played well at NG and does his best at DE - but still should be a NG

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Thegravedigger's picture

November 07, 2020 at 11:40 am

They tried this in the 2nd half against the vikings. It worked until they just went away from clark and towards lowry.

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imafubared's picture

November 06, 2020 at 06:51 pm

1. Defense had three and outs and was rested. Not like being on field all day against the Vikes.
2. A typical Gary game, shows up for Rutgers like teams goes missing agast osu.
3. Petine was cute rushing more guys knowing qb sucked. We defended pass with 3 man rush and they threw the ball 14 times.
Ya a win against the injured but nothing special.

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PatrickGB's picture

November 06, 2020 at 08:48 pm

Part of the problem is that teams are running on us more, Z has a nagging foot injury, Preston is asked to cover more, Clark has been out and his backups have been lagging and we have no continuity at MLB.

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marpag1's picture

November 07, 2020 at 01:59 am

And as long as we're on the subject of "no continuity at MLB," let me drop this little tidbit, just to stir up the hornets' nest. The much-maligned Blake Martinez is somehow STILL leading the league in total tackles. After 8 games, Martinez is the fourth-ranked linebacker in terms of rush defense, and the 11th in terms of overall defense, according to PFF. He also has 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Just sayin'.

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Since'61's picture

November 07, 2020 at 09:06 am

And yet his team has one win for the season. Beyond that is he worth what the Giants are paying him? I doubt it.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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marpag1's picture

November 07, 2020 at 10:10 am

All valid points, '61, and I'm not arguing for or against the player. But if you had to choose between Martinez - who NEVER misses a game, and who leads the league in tackles year in and year out - at 10 million per year, or Christian Kirksey - Remember him? - at 6.5 million per year.... which one do you want?

I know, I know.... I don't really want either of them. But at the very least, I think we need to admit that Kirksey wasn't an improvement. Even at the cheaper price, he is probably a big downgrade from Martinez.

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Thegravedigger's picture

November 07, 2020 at 11:30 am

Yeah. But blake has dexter lawrence dalvin tomlinson and leonard williams in front. All stout run defenders. Swallowing blocks. And the giants play from behind alot. Making the run easyier to predict. Blakes tackling always looks good on paper. Ill take barnes and martin wit their uupside. Id also love dexter lawrence. But that aint happenin. Go watch his highlights if u wanna see run defense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 07, 2020 at 09:33 am

Just sayin' it's Pettine

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Since'61's picture

November 07, 2020 at 09:13 am

Teams are slowing down our pass rush because they are running the ball effectively against our defense. Even the decimated 49ers had some effective play action passes against us.

It’s a matter of winning on first and second downs. If we can keep teams in second or third and long our pass rush will improve, especially when we are playing with a lead.

It’s the long drives where the opponent picks up 5,6 or 7 yards with 1st down running plays that kills this defense. We need to be better at stopping the run on 1st and 2nd down. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 07, 2020 at 09:34 am

They had the queens in third and long , Cook took a screen pass to the House. This team cannot stay square.

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Thegravedigger's picture

November 07, 2020 at 11:38 am

That was the perfect call. Both lbs were amped up after making plays. The d was showing life signs. And zimmer dialed up that screen. Suckered everybody.

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Thegravedigger's picture

November 07, 2020 at 11:36 am

This is the truth. For the most part. The other huge problem is when we do get 3rd and longs teams just dump it to the backs and we miss tackles. Dalvin cooks screen pass was 3rd and nine. Having raven greene might of changed that outcome. Because vernon scotf was the one guy who had a chance on that play. But as long as we cant make open field tackles, coaches will continue to dump balls off on 3rd and long.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 07, 2020 at 05:18 pm

This guy was killing them all game long. Double him or triple the stack and contain him. No excuses.

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Thegravedigger's picture

November 07, 2020 at 06:10 pm

Same shit with kamara. Both those passes to kamara n cook will be top 10 maybe top 5 plays of the season.

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