As we move toward free agency and the draft, most people would agree that one of, if not the biggest need for the Green Bay Packers is pass rush. If you are just to look at the sacks, Green Bay ranks in the middle of the pack. However, for those people who actually watched the pass rush this past season, those numbers can be deceiving.
A few weeks back, Matt Harmon of NFL.com released the top 10 teams in quarterback pressures in 2017. To no one’s surprise, Green Bay was nowhere to be found. As a matter of fact, the Packers ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in pressures, ranking 23rd. Amazingly, that actually seems high.
In sacks, Green Bay finished tied for 17th with 37 quarterback sacks. The two teams Green Bay tied with in that department were the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings. Now, if you were to ask people if the Packers had as good of a pass rush as those other teams, the answer would be an emphatic no.
Both Arizona (eighth) and Minnesota (10th) finished in the top 10 in quarterback pressures, and it is obvious that those teams have a much better pass rush than Green Bay’s, as it ranked 23rd, as I mentioned above. Only six of the teams that finished in the top 10 in sacks were also top 10 in pressures.
For the biggest reason sacks don’t matter as much as pressures, just look at the Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia ranked first in quarterback pressures in 2017, and by a wide margin. Their 291 pressures were 22 more than second place Washington. The Eagles had several players who could bring the heat on opposing quarterbacks as well. Five players had at least 37 pressures on the season. In comparison, the Green Bay player with the most pressures this past season was Clay Matthews, who finished with just 36. So, yes, five players for Philadelphia had more than the top player for Green Bay. Not ideal.
That pass rush is one of the major reasons why Philadelphia won the Super Bowl, even without star quarterback Carson Wentz. Whenever the Eagles needed a big play in the playoffs, the pass rush provided it. With Philadelphia trailing Minnesota 7-0 in the first quarter of the NFC Championship, Chris Long hit the arm of Case Keenum, and the ball went to cornerback Patrick Robinson, who returned it for a pick six. That wasn’t a sack, but it sure had a positive impact for Philadelphia. Then, in the Super Bowl, Brandon Graham hit Tom Brady, forcing a fumble, which the Eagles recovered. Even without Wentz, the pass rush stepped up and helped bring their first Lombardi Trophy back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Whether it be during the draft or free agency, it is no secret that Green Bay needs to add pass rushing help. While sacks are a nice stat and fun to watch, pressures are what Green Bay really needs more of. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the outside linebackers, but that would be nice. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks throw picks on 1.8 percent of clean pockets, and that percentage doubles when under pressure.
If Green Bay wants a nose tackle who can provide a bit of pressure, former Wisconsin Badger Beau Allen would not be a bad signing. He had 21 pressures last year for the Super Bowl champs, good for seventh on the team. Also from the Eagles, linebacker Vinny Curry could be a cap casualty, and he had 47 pressures, which was fourth on the team. Another possible depth move at outside linebacker would be Junior Galette, who was a key reserve for a Redskins team that finished second in quarterback pressures. After missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons, the 29-year-old Galette came back and tallied three sacks, and was in the top 12 in pressure rate. In 2014, he had 10 sacks for the New Orleans Saints.
Green Bay does not need a player who has to register double digit sacks in 2018, but desperately needs multiple players who can consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That has been lacking lately, and that would make the secondary look that much better.——————
Jonathon Zenk is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42