The Packers’ pass rush was elite last season before Rashan Gary got hurt, only the Eagles brought more pressure on opposing QBs, despite the Packers’ D-line being meh in general. Unfortunately, the pass rush was bad after Gary got hurt and the run defense was terrible before and after. Let’s go over the moves the Packers have made this offseason and what strategy changes they may make to correct this issue as Gary works his way back into a full-time role.

New Faces

Veteran players who were just OK for most of their career (Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed) were replaced by younger and quicker players (Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks). Wooden and Brooks signal a change from trying to play a 2-gap or gap-and-a-half style toward a more aggressive style built around the speed and skill of the d-line. Which brings us to

Strategy changes

Before and after Gary’s injury, the pass rush looks were vanilla last season. Most of the time, they either rushed four with two down linemen or rushed five with three down linemen. They had the lowest rate of second-level blitzing in the league and basically never used stunts, games, or slanting to free up pass rushers.

This preseason has looked far different. The team used stunts and games on both pass and run downs to get linemen into the backfield – when you’re not going to blitz, you’ve got to do something else to get pressure.

That said, they also brought more second level blitzes and often used Quay Walker as a pass rusher. The more creative they are the better. We’ve seen how they look when they try to make it simple and just execute. They aren’t the type of defense with the type of players that can just count on execution. Gotta be creative, that way when someone inevitably doesn’t execute, maybe Kenny Clark shoved a guard 5 yard into the backfield, and it doesn’t matter.


Speaking of Kenny Clark, his play has slowly gotten worse over the past couple of years because he’s playing so many snaps and has so little help. This year the team kept 6 defensive linemen and 6 stand up edge rushers (a few of whom can play inside, as we’ll discuss later).

Including Clark, they have 3 nose tackles who can defend the run. They have 4 guys who can play 3-technique on pass downs and generate pressure. They might have 6 or 7 guys who can play 5-technique or 4i and stop the run.

It all means, they can shuffle guys through a lot more. Get them in, pin their ears back to rush, and then take them out to rest.

Movement around the line

Lukas Van Ness and Rashan Gary played inside in college. Both can play the 4i in a mint look or drop down to 3-technique in a NASCAR like package. Preston Smith is probably too long to play inside well, but he has done a little bit of the Za’Darius Smith inside rushing in the pass.   

Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.