In our continued journey exploring the 2018 Green Bay Packers roster, we have moved to the defensive side of the ball. Last week I wrote about the importance of the defensive line, and this week we’ll see how the other defenders will try to put pressure on opposing Quarterbacks.
Much of the talk this offseason had centered around the new acquisitions at Cornerback. However, without the ability to pressure the opposing Quarterback, all the coverage talent in the world won’t help the Packers make a deep playoff run.
The days of CM3 being a feared pass rusher offensive lines scheme around are probably over, but Matthews can be serviceable and productive. Green Bay will need Clay to be more gap sound, as he’s been responsible for over-pursuing and giving up chunk plays the last several seasons. New DC Mike Pettine will not permit those kind of mistakes, but Matthews is one of the few players who can win one-on-one matchups consistently.
Fans don’t always appreciate the value Perry brings to the defense. He has a major impact on opposing run games because he is able to press and move the Offensive Tackle and allow other players to make the stop. Perry’s pass rush is too dependant on power moves and he needs to add some finesse to his game to get to the QB more. Pettine has had success turning players who had far less talent than Perry into sack machines, so I’m excited to see what kind of season #53 can have if he stays healthy.
Gilbert flashed last preseason, but spent most of the regular season on the Practice Squad and inactive. I was massively disappointed he wasn’t given more of an opportunity to play late in the 2017 season. Fortunately, he has looked really good in the minicamps and other offseason work, and I fully expect Gilbert to be in the pass rush rotation. The production of the #3 and #4 edge rushers will have a major impact on the ability of the defense to be a productive unit.
Biegel has been the star of the offseason so far. He’s got polished pass rush moves, athleticism, and a mean streak. However, the reason he slid in the draft was questions about his ability to stay healthy, and his rookie season did nothing to alleviate that concern. Biegel could be a future starter for Green Bay if he can keep his name off the injury report.
It’s hard to know what to expect out of small school 7th round pick, but Donnerson has elite athleticism. He ran a 4.48 40 yard dash at 250 pounds at the combine (4.44 at his pro day). For comparison’s sake, that’s basically what Von Miller ran at the same size. However, Donnerson’s tape and productivity in college didn’t reflect that freak athleticism. He’s going to need time to turn into a football player, and likely will take a redshirt season on the Practice Squad. However, if Pettine can get Donnerson up to speed this year, he could be an impactful Special Teams player and someone who can beat OTs with speed.
Odom is solid depth. He doesn’t do anything spectacularly, and my hope is the Packers can improve on him at the backup positions. Kyler Fackrell was one of the worst players in the league last year. He lacks explosiveness, strength, and pass rush moves. They may consider moving him to Inside Linebacker where he could have a chance at making the roster, but he certainly seems like a draft bust at this point in his career. Hughes is an undrafted player out of Texas. He has ideal size and athleticism for a NFL edge rusher. I’m intrigued by his tape, and he could follow Reggie Gilbert’s path to the team by spending a year on the Practice Squad. I think Hughes is a name we will hear a lot during the preseason.
Edge rusher is a position group that has some talent, and could surprise fans with the depth potential. Mike Pettine’s ability to get pressure on the QB from this group will go a long ways in the Packers’ pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig