Green Bay Packers

Edge Depth Is the Biggest Concern For Green Bay This Season

Photo Credit: Wm. Glasheen (Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK)

The Green Bay Packers have one of the best rosters in the NFL. They have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, good offensive line depth (despite David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins being injured), a decent number of weapons, and stellar defensive personnel. But the defensive depth is questionable at best, especially at the edge defender position.

The cornerback and safety depth is not great either, but backups only need to play in subpackages or if there is an injury. Rotation is a must for edge defenders, though. For instance, both starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith played only 63% of the snaps last season. Smith played 689 snaps and Gary played 681. That means rotational players will play almost 800 snaps throughout the season.

First-round pick Quay Walker might get some sparse edge snaps. However, the majority of these plays will go to Jonathan Garvin, La’Darius Hamilton, Tipa Galeai, Randy Ramsey, or Kingsley Enagbare. It’s fair to say that Ramsey and Enagbare have the higher ceilings, but the former didn’t play last season because of an injury, and the latter is a fifth-round rookie. Therefore, it’s smart to temper expectations. The production has been underwhelming among the other three.

Stats in 2021 Jonathan Garvin Tipa Galeai La’Darius Hamilton
Defensive snaps 395 152 64
Sacks 1.5 1 0
Tackles 19 12 3
QB hits 5 1 2
PFF grade 59.6 77.1 62.9

General manager Brian Gutekunst has a history of giving chances to young players in training camp. If they don’t work, then Gutekunst is open to reinforcing the roster during the regular season. And this might be the case again.

“I kind of like that group as it is,” said the general manager right after the draft, when he didn’t pick an edge defender until the fifth round.

Gary and Smith should be dominant forces who could play an even higher percentage of snaps this season. However, the Packers will let the developmental edge rushers battle through camp for the final roster spots and for playing time.

“Right now, it’s pretty clear cut who the 1 and 2 are, but as far as 3 through 5, I think it’s anyone’s guess,” LaFleur said on Saturday.

If new players are necessary after the evaluation period, there might be some decent options. Gutekunst likes to claim players off waivers, but there are still some available edges on the free agent market, such as Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Barr, and Takk McKinley.

However, the Packers have lost some opportunities to add depth during the offseason. They brought in Whitney Mercilus last season, but he decided to retire. Carlos Dunlap signed with the Kansas City Chiefs for a better chance to be a starter.

Right now, Green Bay’s best hope is that any of the young defenders step up to be capable rotational pieces. Additionally, the expectation is that the talent in the secondary allows the front to have more time to get to opposing quarterbacks.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry may use the versatility of players from other positions to help fill the void. Nose tackle Kenny Clark, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, defensive end Dean Lowry, and linebacker Quay Walker all can have some outside snaps.

Even with all caveats, it’s fair to question Green Bay’s approach to such an important position. The lack of investment can result in an overuse of Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. It can also lead to a higher chance of injury in a position without good replacement options. Both could be catastrophic for the Packers season.

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