This is the next in a series of articles providing an in-depth analysis of each position group on the Green Bay Packers. Today we will analyze the outside linebackers/edge rushers. For our look at the quarterbacks, click here, click here for running backs, here for the defensive line, here for inside linebackers and here for tight ends.
The grades will be for each unit as a whole but we will provide analysis of each player, their strengths and weaknesses and a quick analysis of where they stand heading into the offseason.
The Packers edge rushers dealt with a vital injury and provided inconsistent pass rush over the course of the season. At times, they got pressure on opposing quarterbacks but at other times, the Packers gave opponents too much time to sit in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry blitzed less often as the season progressed and that had an effect on the pass rush.
The team compiled 34 sacks in 17 games which ranked 27th in the NFL. A year ago, the team had 39 sacks and ranked 16th in the league.
Here are the grades for the Packers edge rushers/OLB in 2022. The marks are based on a combination of expectations and performance.
Rashan Gary was off to the best start of his career in 2022 before a knee injury ended his season in Week 9. He led the Packers with six sacks though nine games and provided consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Gary improved against the run and had seven tackles for loss among his 32 tackles and 12 quarterback hits. The former Michigan star forced one fumble and recovered another. He also broke up a pass.
The injury will likely delay Gary’s start for the 2023 season and it will probably take him longer than that to get back into form. Gary has a great work ethic and will likely be ready as soon as possible assuming he doesn’t have any setbacks during the offseason.
Preston Smith stepped up after Gary’s injury and became the team’s top pass rusher. He finally ended his career pattern of struggling in even years and playing at a higher level in odd years. Smith started all 17 games for the Packers and led the team with 8.5 sacks. He had a career-high 59 total tackles including nine tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits while forcing one fumble and breaking up a pass.
Preston Smith is more of a streaky pass rusher who plays very well at times and then can have minimal impact for a few games. He is under contract for 2023 but the Packers may look to restructure his deal to free up some cap space.
Rookie fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare made some rookie mistakes but showed flashes of pass rush ability which became more frequent as the season went on. He started the final seven games of the season after Gary’s injury. He was among the league leaders for rookies in pass rush win rate and recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits among his 31 total tackles. The South Carolina alum also knocked down three passes on the season.
As he learns the defense and gets more comfortable, Enagbare may develop into a quality third edge rusher or even, eventually, a starter. He provided good value for a day three pick in his rookie year and has a good work ethic and positive attitude.
The Packers signed Justin Hollins to provide depth at edge for the final six games of the season and he did just that, recording 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and three tackles for loss in those six contests.
Hollins is an unrestricted free agent who the Packers could seek to re-sign next season if the price tag is reasonable enough.
Jonathan Garvin played 14 games this season but did not record a sack while being credited with two quarterback hits and eight total tackles. He played 23 percent of the team’s defensive snaps while in the lineup but has yet to establish himself as a factor in the pass rush. He also contributed on special teams where he played 124 snaps on the season.
Garvin has one more year on his entry-level contract and will be at training camp again next year to fight for a roster spot.
Eric Wilson played only 35 snaps all season on defense in the 13 games that he played but he was one of the team’s biggest contributors on special teams. He was credited with 17 tackles on the season including one tackle for loss. He is an unrestricted free agent this offseason but the Packers may seek to bring him back especially if Rich Bisaccia stays on as special teams coordinator.
La’Darius Hamilton spent most of the season on the practice squad but was active for three games and was credited with one tackle. He played 24 defensive snaps and 26 snaps on special teams. The Packers signed him to a future’s contract after the season ended so he will compete for a roster spot again in 2023.
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