The NFL Draft is officially over, anyone missing the endless mock drafts? Me neither. It’s time to get to actual football and I couldn’t be more excited. The Packers added a tremendous amount of talent to the roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. During free agency, the Packers made three big defensive signings and capped it off by using five of their eight draft picks on defense as well. Here is a full list of defensive signings and draft selections.
- SS Adrian Amos
- LB Zadarius Smith
- LB Preston Smith
- LB Rashan Gary
- FS Darnell Savage Jr.
- DE Kingsley Keke
- CB Kadar Hollman
- LB Ty Summers
I absolutely love the talent they brought in. It was clear early on in the Brian Gutekunst era that versatility was going to be key, that’s showing now more than ever. Just about every player listed above can play multiple positions and have excelled in doing so. There really are endless possibilities on how this defense can line up on any given down. They have the DL depth to go heavy on the run while also having the ability to run a “NASCAR” set and wreak havoc using five LB’s.
What makes this defense even scarier, is the fact that they now have a capable secondary that will allow DC Mike Pettine the freedom to call all kinds of aggressive and exotic blitzes. I don’t think I have ever been this excited about a Packers defense, they truly can be great. I think the keys are of course the new additions, but just as important, how Pettine is going to use them.
As I mentioned earlier, versatility has been a huge factor in all of Gutekunst’s acquisitions. From the DL to the secondary, this defense is loaded with fast and athletic players who can play in just about any scheme. For that reason, I don’t see the Packers as a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. I think Pettine is just going to focus on putting eleven playmakers on the field on every down.
Another common thread among the rookie class, high RAS scores. RAS stands for Relative Athletic Scores, the way it works is, it measures each player against his own position and is graded on a 1-10 scale. The average for each position is 5, so being below 5 would obviously be bad while anything above 5 is a plus. All eight of the Packers draft picks have RAS scores above 5. Not only that, seven of the eight have scores above 8, with only TE Jace Sternberger posting a sub 8 score (5.25). Either way, this is an elite group of athletes that can be called upon to contribute in a number of different ways.
Now getting back to the defense, I want to turn my attention to the front seven and try to figure out, schematically, what to expect in 2019.
I think most people would agree that the Packers front seven is probably their best and deepest position on the roster. They have a ton of experience with Mike Daniels, Preston Smith and Zadarius Smith as well as a good influx of young talent in Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Montravius Adams.
I don’t even know where to start on all the different ways this front seven can line up. On run downs, we could see a heavier formation with Clark, Daniels and Lowry all plugging up the middle. While on clear passing downs, Pettine will be able to unleash hell on opposing offenses with both Zadarius and Preston Smith, Rashan Gary and even Kyler Fackrell mixed in there as well. I wish offensives lines everywhere the best of luck because no matter who lines up where you are not blocking the Packers new front seven.
Now focusing on the back end of the defense, I see a similar theme. Versatility. The entire secondary is full of young, fast and athletic guys who can cover multiple positions. Even Tramon Williams who is 36, can play at multiple spots and do it well I might add. With that being said, I could see Pettine rotating guys in and out seamlessly exploiting any matchup he’d like.
I think the additions of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are really going to be the game changers for this secondary. Ever since Nick Collins career was cut short by injury, the Packers have been severely lacking a center field like safety who can cover sideline to sideline. Well, not anymore. Darnell Savage is a spitting image of what Nick Collins once was, a huge hitter with blazing speed. Go ahead and put Adrian Amos across from him, and you’ve got an elite safety duo for years to come.
Did you think I forgot about Jaire and the rest of the CB’s? Not a chance. The Packers CB room is also packed with young and energetic guys led by 2018’s 1st round pick, Jaire Alexander. The trio of Alexander, Kevin King and Josh Jackson has the potential to be an unparalleled grouping. All three of them are top 45 picks with a ton of upside. If King can manage to stay healthy, he’s proven he can be a high-quality corner in the NFL. For Jackson, the talent is obviously there, he just needs to bring his game up to the NFL speed. He had his struggles in year one but also showed real improvement over the final quarter of the season and is one of my favorite breakout candidates heading into 2019.
Looking at the secondary as a whole, I think it legitimately has top ten potential. Between the veteran leadership of Williams and Amos and the speed and energy of guys like Alexander, Jackson and Savage it’s going to be really fun to watch.
The craziest part about this defense is the fact that I haven’t even gotten to about half the guys that could make big impacts this year. On the DL there is great depth with Fadol Brown, Tyler Lancaster and rookie Kingsley Keke. At LB, behind Blake Martinez, they’ve got Oren Burks, Josh Jones and Ty Summers.
Then, looking at secondary depth, there is speedster Tony Brown and S Raven Greene. Both guys showed some potential last year and could see bigger roles depending on their training camp and Preseason performances. Like I said earlier, this Packers defense is DEEP. I cannot stress how important this kind of quality depth is, teams with the freshest bodies in December are usually the teams playing in February.
How all these new pieces will be used is yet to be seen, but I think any defense with this much talent, led by “mad scientist” Mike Pettine has elite potential.
Hope you enjoyed, please let me know how you think this defense is going to shake. Just drop your answer in the comments box and I’ll make sure to get back to you. Thanks!