Packers roster construction part 8: The Outside Linebackers! You can check out the previous parts here.
So now we know who will be the defensive coordinator. Joe Barry is the guy. Regardless how you feel about it, we should all give him a chance. The talent he had on that Lions team and Washington team was bad, also he may have learned some new stuff since then. I am taking a wait and see approach. In regards to how he will run the defense we do not know 100%, but his history is in the 3-4 and in the Vic Fangio style.
Lets start with everyone’s favorite Za’Darius Smith. He finished with 12.5 sacks only down one from last season, but the biggest drop he had was in pressures. He went from 50 in ’19 to 39 this season. His QB hits went from 37 to 23. So he wasn’t as consistent this season versus last season and it showed on film. He is still an impact player and pro bowler. He just needs to get back to what made him successful in 2019. Z has two years left on his contract.
Next is Preston Smith. Smith had a huge drop in production from 2019. He went from 12 sacks to 4. QB hits went from 23 to 11. He went from 34 pressures to 16. Those are a massive drop off in production. He also did not play well against the run. The Packers may ask him to restructure his contract, but it is probably just better to move on. He has been hot and cold his whole career. With them being so much over the cap it also makes sense for that reason. They would clear about 8 million.
Now to Smiths replacement. Rashan Gary. He spent the offseason really working on his quickness with his feet and hands and slimmed down a bit. Listed at 277 but looks closer to the 265-270 range. He seemed to improve his quickness. Gary also improved his ability to convert speed to power. He also improved his sack numbers from 2 his rookie year up to 5. It was in the 2nd half of this season that he seemed to take off. His biggest improvement was in his QB pressures. Gary went from a miniscule 5 as a rookie up to 19. That also is with him only playing 44% of the snaps on defense. Also dropped his missed tackle percentage from 12.5 to 2.8. So he has the look of an ascending player and with increased playing time should see his numbers go up a decent amount.
The next two guys barely played. Which is to be expected with the Smith bros and Gary taking up the majority of the snaps at outside linebacker. Randy Ramsey was a undrafted free agent out of Arkansas. A bit undersized at just shy of 240. He is probably the most athletic of the bunch. He also was more productive than Garvin, but not by much. Garvin was a 7th round pick in the 2020 draft. He showed some flashes. His nickname is ‘spider’ because of his long arms and legs. Both played less than 10% of the defensive snaps. Ramsey did play almost half of the special teams snaps. Garvin only played 5%. Both might not make the roster in 2021.
On the practice squad they had Tipa Galeai, or as he is known by some of his fans #tipaSZN. He is long at 6’5, but very undersized at 230. He was activated for one game but produced no statistics. You just wonder if he will be able to put on the requisite weight to be able to play edge in the NFL. He will get a shot next training camp. hopefully for him he can bulk up without losing any athleticism.
There is also Delontae Scott, who for some reason is listed as a DL by the packers. He is 6’5 246 which is obviously too small to play DL in a 3-4, so it must be some error. He’s a outside linebacker.. He had 10 sacks as a senior at SMU with 18 tackles for a loss. So there is some potential there.
So both Z and Gary will be back. They will probably be your starters next season, unless Preston takes a huge cut, which I don’t think he will. Z has two more years on his contract. I could see the packers reworking his contract to open up cap space for next season and it essentially being a small 1-2 year extension. He has meant a lot to this team beyond the field. His impact on the locker room has been immense as well. Gary is under his rookie contract and has showed a lot of upside. The guys behind them are question marks. So the Packers will most definitely draft a edge player this year. There is no depth beyond the projected starters. Where Gutekunst takes one no one knows, but if I were to guess I would bet somewhere in the mid rounds. Probably even two pass rushers.
Some guys that would fit to keep an eye on would be Dayo Odeyingbo from Vanderbuilt, Daelin Hayes from Notre Dame, Micheal Clemons from Texas A&M, or Sam Williams from Ole Miss.
Thanks for reading and remember Go Pack Go!