Why Edge Rusher is the Packers’ biggest weakness on defense

The Packers defense improved in the offseason and added long-term stability.

That makes Jaire Alexander the highest-paid defensive back in game history and possibly the biggest star on the Packers defense after he missed most of last season. They also re-signed Rasul Douglas, who replaced Alexander for a year after being drafted by Arizona’s practice team. Invest a year in development for Eric Stokes, who have the best cornerback trio in the NFL.

When it’s safe to do so, they’ve taken Darnell Savage’s 5th-year option and still have Adrian Amos (who’s had more free agency since arriving in Green Bay and outranked former teammate Eddie Jackson) .

Overall, the Packers probably have the best second-tier players in the NFL.

As an inside linebacker, the Packers aren’t content to team up with All Pro De’Vondre Campbell.They selected physical talent Quay Walker with the No. 1 pick in the draft to the Packers A pair of inside linebackers like never before. This will allow Joe Barry to deploy plans that he could only dream of in the past. Krys Barnes, a former starter, is an extremely capable third inside linebacker who can provide depth and rounded subs.

The line of defense, which had been the weak point of this team, changed dramatically almost overnight. After signing Jalan Reed, the Packers selected Devonte Wyatt in the first round of the draft, making Green Bay their most talented 3-man forward in a long time. With the development of TJ Slaton and the steady presence of Dean Lowry, as well as one of the most dominant nose tackles of the game by Kenny Clark, this line of defense looks like the kind of group that sabotages opposing game plans on its own.

This brings us to the edge rushers.

First, we have Rashan Gary, who’s on the verge of superstardom and looks like there’s no ceiling. There’s no denying that he’s the key to this defense.

Preston Smith, on the other hand, is a very good rusher, but his edge-handling ability is underrated. However, his career has been markedly inconsistent from season to season. He never had fewer than 8 sacks in odd-numbered seasons (like 2021, when he had 9) and never had more than 4.5 sacks in even-numbered seasons. This is incredible. We’re heading towards an even-numbered season. Maybe it’s just randomness, but as he enters his eighth season, there’s definitely a ingrained precedent here.

After that, the Packers had… er… question marks?

Whitney Mersillas is retiring after a brief but promising stint with the Packers ended with an injury. He’s back in the playoffs, but honestly, it’s more tragic than his regular season.

Za’Darius Smith, once the biggest dog on the team, missed most of the season with a back injury before heading to Minnesota.

The Packers are seriously lacking edge depth right now, with just one true stud.

By contrast, the back line, inside linebacker, and second linebacker are all stronger units.

Depth at this position is important because – as good as Gary and Smith are, their Packers rotate a lot in this area because they have subpacks. Last season, we saw an intentional shift in this area — last year even 64% of defensive fast breaks didn’t feature edge rushers. That’s a big difference from 2020, when the Packers relied heavily on Za’Darius and Preston Smith, who made up 84% and 79% of our defensive offense, respectively.

This type of load exhausted both players by the end of the season and was unsustainable. Joe Barry shrugged off that workload, keeping edge-rushers fresh, productive and healthy.

After losing several major contributors in the fringe sprint group – and not making any notable additions (yet) – fringe sprinters are currently the weak point of this defense.

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