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Where Will Packers find Pass Rush in 2017?

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Where Will Packers find Pass Rush in 2017?

1,135 snaps.  Those are the pass rushing snaps that Green Bay is losing from a season ago.  Julius Peppers has elected to retire as a member of the Carolina Panthers.  It did not appear as though the Packers were interested in bringing the aging Hall of Famer back for another run.  Datone Jones also joined a long list of former Packers who decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings to kick inside and rush the passer in a "40" front defense.  According to, the Packers are now missing 26 hurries and 8.5 sacks from a season ago.  

In a defense that has augmented their secondary with Davon House and Kevin King, and their Hybrid spot with Josh Jones, the pass rush will be paramount.  If Green Bay's pass rush takes a major step back, it's not going to matter that the pass coverage (should be) improved.  

I'm going to identify and discuss Green Bay's four biggest candidates to provide pass rush now that there are 1100+ snaps up for grabs in which to rush the passer.  I actually agree with Coach Capers when he indicated at OTAs that the Packers have indeed been "thinner "at the position.

Keep in mind also that Green Bay would often use four edge rushers in these situations in their NASCAR package (we'll get to that a little bit later).  

an example of Green bay's NASCAR package being deployed against Carson Wentz and the Eagles.

Jayrone Elliot- 2014: 53 snaps, 1 hurry, 4% pass rush success, 2015: 174 snaps, 3 hurries, 3 sacks, 3% pass rush success, 2016: 136 snaps, 1 hurry, 1 sack, 1% pass rush success per SportingCharts

Elliot may not have eye popping rush numbers, but he is a playmaker when given the chance.  His 2015 numbers are fine.  Triple his snaps to around 522 (Datone Jones had 548) and you have a nine hurry, nine sack season.  There isn't a Packers fan alive that wouldn't be alright with that.  

Elliot also certainly seems to be capable of being involved in turnover plays.  Even in his extremely limited role in Green Bay's defense since he joined the squad, Elliot has been involved in a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.  He's also not awful for a 240 pound EDGE against the run.  Elliot was credited with four stuffs in the run game, despite being a part time player and a pass rush specialist at that.

I've been advocating for Elliot to see more defensive snaps since his breakout game against the Seahawks in 2015.  With that said, I understand that there are legitimate reasons he didn't.  Julius Peppers played a lot of snaps.  Elliot is also one of Green Bay's best two or three players on special teams, and is extremely valuable to that unit.

Kyler Fackrell: 2016: 10% pass rush success per Pro Football Focus

Fackrell's raw numbers aren't available, but it's not hard to figure out that his 10% pass rush success is impressive, and with 107 pass rush defensive snaps and two sacks, there are some combination of 8 hits and hurries that Fackrell recorded.  His pass rush productivity was actually better, on a per snap basis, than notable pass rushers JaDaveon Clowney and Clay Matthews.  

Fackrell's length is occasionally an issue, as he didn't have the girth to avoid being occasionally embarrassed.  While the good with Fackrell was good, the bad was often very bad.  Fackrell has reportedly added weight and strength this offseason, focusing on heavy weight at low repetitions to add size, hopefully without the loss of his speed and flexibility.  

Fackrell is a very skilled player.  If his strength and athleticism can catch up to that skill, he'll be an effective player.  With that said, there is a concern that he may never get there.  Why?  Because Fackrell will be entering his second season in the league at the relatively advanced age of 25, and he will turn 26 during the season.  As a comparison, Randall Cobb, who is in the middle of his second contract, and has been with the Packers since 2011, is just 15 months older than the Utah State pass rusher.

If you're a pessimist you'll see the struggles on film and the advanced age and see a whiff by GM Ted Thompson.  If you're an optimist you can certainly harken back to the days that Clay Matthews was flanked by whatever undrafted free agent Thompson had unearthed and realize that Fackrell is a top 100 pick coming into his second year at an age that should be closer to his physical prime than your average second year player.

Vince Biegel: 2016 (college): 232 pass rush snaps, 4 sacks, 7 hits, 35 hurries, Pass Rush Production= 15.6

Biegel is very similar to a young Clay Matthews, and that's the reason Packers fans are both elated and concerned by Thompson's 2017 selection.  Biegel, like Matthews, came from a football family, tested extremely well at the combine, and had an ultimately misleading stat line in college, leading to one of his biggest issues as a prospect being "production".  Perhaps Biegel's biggest red flag, again like Matthews, is his inability to stay healthy.  Both players have a question about their availability from Sunday to Sunday.

If Biegel can stay healthy, though a pass rush productivity score of 15.6 in addition to his impressive testing numbers would lead you to believe that he's potentially a very good player at the next level.  The other thing that Biegel has going for him is that Wisconsin's 3-4 (and 2-4-5 nickel) possess similarities to Caper's scheme in Green Bay, and he will not have the same lengthy adjustment that college defensive ends like Nick Perry and even Jayrone Elliot had.  

Biegel was overshadowed in college by super stars TJ Watt and Joe Schobert and may not have much expected of him early in his Packers career, either.  Even though that is all true, Biegel certainly can be a very good starter, if not a star.  

for more cogent analysis on Biegel, here is a Twitter thread from perhaps Biegel's biggest fan (as a prospect) @JuMosq

Mike Daniels: 2016: 482 pass rush snaps, 20 hurries, 4 sacks- Pass Rush Success of 5.9% per SportingCharts

Daniels is an odd but necessary addition to this conversation.  He is so good against the run that he's by far Green Bay's top player on the defensive interior from a snaps perspective.  Daniel's early down success and Green Bay's use of the NASCAR package has led to a lack of snaps in passing situations.  According to my internet friend Ben Fennel, Daniels played just 49% of Green Bay's 3rd down snaps, despite clearly being Green Bay's finest interior pass rusher, especially on the bull rush.

Yes.  It is possible that the Packers could utilize Matthews, Biegel, Fackrell and Perry in a NASCAR style package, but why.  Also, with Fackrell, Matthews and Biegel all having durability issues what is the likelihood that they'll all four be available, specifically in the later parts of the season and playoffs?

I would certainly suggest that Daniels be used in the 1 and 3 techniques in pass rush situations and the Packers utilize two or three edge players to rush the passer as opposed to four.  After all, there is something to be said about depositing a left guard in a QB's lap on a passing play.  Speficially Daniels and Perry rushing from the inside with Matthews and Elliot/Biegel/Fackrell coming off the edge seems like a workable option.

Final thoughts:  Without Julius Peppers and Datone Jones that true 4-3 defensive end body type that has been used in the past to rush from inside or play with a hand on the ground in Capers' defense the past few seasons may be gone.  It will be interesting to see if GB re-works their defense without one or tries to use a player like Dean Lowry or (less likely) the freakish athlete Kenny Clark or 260+ pound Reggie Gilbert in that capacity.  The Packers cannot allow the pass rush to falter after improving the coverage unit or no progress will be made on defense and the season will end in January yet again.

please note that pass rush success is a % of total snaps and not Pro Football Focus' Pass Rush Productivity stat.  In situations where I had actual numbers from PFF I used them.  When I did not, I didn't.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

We will find several, I loved Peppers but it was time. The fact he retired shows it was time to move on.

Ross Uglem's picture

he has not technically retired, but has indicated Carolina will be his last stop. He will play this season.

Colin_C's picture

If our secondary can take a big step forward, that alone will improve the pass rush significantly. Second, I think our D- line will be a dominant force this year, but centered more around Clark, not Daniels. I could see 97 with 5+ sacks. Third, I'm really hoping someone steps up in the OLB corps. My gut says it'll be Fackrell. We'll see though.

al bundy's picture

Expect nothing and if that's what you get you won't be disappointed. There are no pass rushers of note on this team including Mathews.
Eliot didn't play because Ted had others drafted ahead of him that Mike had to play to Jake Ted happy.

lambeau66's picture


zeke's picture

Well said. Jake Ted will be the downfall of this team.

ShanghaiKid's picture

I bet they go with more 3 down lineman looks in Nickel. In fact I'd be surprised if they stayed in the 2-4-5 look as much without having those "Elephant" body types. Given Burnett and Jones versatility, Capers can get creative again with moving Matthews around and confuse defenses more. Where with the personnel they had before they essentially ran a 4-2-5.

Handsback's picture

Shanghaikid, I agree 100%. Using hybrid LBs/SS in the middle and having those wide bodies keep them clean .....and many sacks will come from scheme.

dobber's picture

Let's see if Jones can handle the speed of the NFL game and the complexity of an NFL defensive playbook before we give him too much responsibility.

I was a big fan of Jones prior to the draft and I love what he potentially brings to this defense, but he's not even put on pads, yet. As a rookie, he may not be a significant contributor until midseason or later...

Bearmeat's picture

Getting pass rush from any combination of Biegel, Elliot and/or Fackrell would go a LONG way towards the (on paper) Achilles heel on this team. I think optimists think they can make that jump. With the history of the Packers D under Capers, I am not one of them. I also do not believe that Perry and CM3 will stay healthy. Our track record has told me not to. And now the biggest remaining name (Dumerville) is gone. 9ers grabbed him today.

Ted, you really should have gotten another pass rusher in free agency.

Dzehren's picture

Dumerville signed with the 49's today. Look for TT to strike after the 53 is settled and add 1 more practice squad OLB plus 1 OLB cut from another team

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I doubt that Bearmeat will be very impressed with the idea of TT striking or pouncing on some other team's PS candidates. Pretty sure he thinks TT should have gotten a real NFL caliber OLB for the 53.

egbertsouse's picture

You mean that Elvis has left the building? (Somebody had to say it.)

Handsback's picture

One issue I have is the health of CM3 and Perry. I think Biegel won't make as much impact as Fackrell at least this year.

lambeau66's picture

Bottom line we need to get a pass rusher or another wasted year!!!!!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"Triple his snaps to around 522 (Datone Jones had 548) and you have a nine hurry, nine sack season. There isn't a Packers fan alive that wouldn't be alright with that."

Elliott is not nearly as good against the run as Jones or Peppers and neither is Fackrell. I'm afraid it's going to be a big problem.

slit's picture

Peppers was ATROCIOUS against the run. Are you kidding me?!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

He was still better than Elliott and Fackrell, and he made a tremendous strip play against the Cowboys that got the Packers to the NFC Championship game.

dobber's picture

Elliott just needs to learn to play his responsibilities. The article above lists him at 240...he's 255 on, so really, he's somewhere in between. He can set the edge when he wants you've said before, he must not really want to.

As for Fackrell, another article out yesterday (and noted above) has him also up by about 10 lbs into the 255 range. The question is: will he be able to keep that weight on once the season starts? I feel better about his prospects against the run if that 255 is good weight and he can maintain speed/flexibility and keep it on.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Fackrell will never be a blazer, but I'm hoping the extra muscle combined with his length and skill will produce a Tim Harris-type OLB.

Of course, Harris had a killer instinct, so we'll see if Fackrell can duplicate it. If anyone needs to get into a couple camp fights, it's Fackrell.

Lphill's picture

Clay will blitz up the middle, Elliot and Fackeral will step up , If Biegel shows promise then we will be pretty good in the pass rush department . I also think we get more inside pressure with Daniels, Clark and Adams and Lowery . Let's see how things develop .

PatrickGB's picture

I expect that many of our sacks will come from Capers Zone Blitz. Not just the OLB's. We do have the players for that. But as of today I don't see much depth at OLB. Time will tell.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Good article. Strong points.

My two cents is that using more 3-Linemen sets instead of 2 would get us more girth against the run and better athletes in the pass rush, since our D-Line looks deep.

With all due respect to Fackrell, Biegel, and Elliott, I prefer seeing guys like Daniels, Lowry, and Clark on the field.

Jus' sayin'.

murf7777's picture

There has been a lot said about how bad our defense was last year. So, TT replaced veterans with draft picks and provided our young backups some opportunity to step up. Let's give them a chance to prove themselves before chastising them! I'm excited to see how the changes will work out.

dobber's picture

Lots of people have said, "It can't get any worse than 2016." Either this is TT making changes with future growth in mind, or TT saying, "hold my beer." Either way, I like your sentiment.

DThomas's picture

I wonder why there's such a difference between SportingCharts hurries and sacks total of 34.5 that need to be replaced and McGinn's total pressures attributed to Jones and Peppers of 64. I believe pressures include sacks, knockdowns, and hurries. As I've posted before, I'd really like to see Thompson acquire another vet OLB: Otherwise they are counting on not one but two OLBs not named Perry or Matthews to step up big time, because of the injury history of the starters. Actually, three would be better if Matthews is expected to take snaps at ILB.

PETER MAIZ's picture

Very good article by Russ and very true as a fierce pass rush may distract the opposing quarterback's intent for even 5 seconds. But, like Ross, I see a lot of unnecessary risk here either from injuries or delayed player development. Being at the bottom of the pack (no pun intended) can't go on for ever. Maybe we'll see an improvement this year that will help pessimists become more optimistic.

Jonathan Spader's picture

This is an article about where the pass rush is coming from so why aren't safeties listed as a pass rush threat? HaHa has had a couple of sacks, hits, and hurries.

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