The Green Bay Packers are set to open training camp later this week. This is the next in a series of articles previewing the Packers position by position, analyzing the talent on the roster and discussing key questions that are facing the Packers as they begin preparation for the 2022 season.
Today we look at the defensive line. For our look at the quarterbacks, click here and for running backs, click here. The wide receivers can be found here and the tight ends here while the offensive line can be found here and the defensive line here. We will examine another position each day until the start of training camp.
- Preston Smith
Smith bounced back from a disappointing 2020 season to record nine sacks in 2021. In addition to rushing the passer better last season, he also improved his run defense largely because he was in better shape. He signed a contract extension to stay with the team this offseason.
Historically, the former Mississippi State star has played well in odd-numbered years and struggled in even-numbered years. The Packers are hoping he can break that trend and have another productive season.
- Rashan Gary
Gary has improved his play in each of his first three NFL seasons and led the Packers with 9.5 sacks last year. He also a career-high 47 quarterback pressures according to pro-football-reference.com.
The Packers believe the former first-round pick out of Michigan is ready to become a Pro Bowler this year. His outstanding work ethic and football intelligence combine with his athleticism to make him a dangerous weapon as a pass rusher.
- Jonathan Garvin
When Za’Darius Smith was injured last year, Garvin got the most playing time in his absence. He played 39 percent of the defensive snaps in 16 games but registered just 1.5 sacks and 11 pressures all season.
Garvin is entering his third NFL season after the Packers drafted him in the seventh round in 2020. The Miami (Florida) alum needs to step up this season if he wants to secure a roster spot.
- Tipa Galeai
The undrafted free agent out of Utah State played in seven games last season, recording one sack and three quarterback pressures in 152 defensive snaps.
Galeai is also entering his third NFL season. He needs to provide more push as a pass rusher or excel on special teams to return to the team in 2022.
- Kingsley Enagbare
The Packers selected Enagbare in the fifth round of this year’s draft. He’s a power rusher who will need to show he’s ready for NFL reps in his rookie season. He had 15 sacks in his college career but it will take a lot more to match that production in the NFL.
- Randy Ramsey
Randy Ramsey missed the entire 2021 season due to a broken ankle. Ramsey is starting training camp on the PUP list which cannot be considered a good sign.
The Packers are hoping the former Arkansas star can be ready for the start of the season and provide depth at edge while contributing on special teams.
- La’Darius Hamilton
Hamilton played six games for the Packers last year and three quarterback pressures on 64 defensive plays.
The undrafted free agent out of North Texas was signed by the Packers off the Bucs practice squad early in the 2021 season after Za’Darius Smith was placed on the injured reserve.
- Kobe Jones
Jones has already spent time with the Falcons, Dolphins and Titans before the Packers signed him this offseason but the former Mississippi State star has yet to take a snap in a regular season game.
He earned an invitation to training camp after a strong showing at rookie camp. He will need an even stronger performance at training camp to earn a spot on the roster or the practice squad.
- Chauncey Manac
Manac had 10.5 sacks last season at Louisiana last seasonon and was a consistent pass rusher at the college level. The 6’3” 246-pounder is already 24 years old and will need to contribute on special teams if he hopes to be here when the regular season starts in September.
Three Key Questions
- Can Rashan Gary Become a Pro Bowl Player?
Gary was second in the NFL with 81 pressures and a 26 percent pressure rate. If he can turn a few more of those pressures into sacks, a Pro Bowl berth would almost certainly follow.
The Michigan alum has improved in each of his first three NFL seasons and appears poised to have a real breakout season in 2022. If he does, the Packers pass rush will go to another level.
- Can Preston Smith Put Together Two Strong Seasons In a Row?
In four odd-numbered years, Preston Smith has accumulated 37 sacks or an average of 9.25 per season. In three even-numbered years, he has only 12.5 or a little more than four per season.
Since 2022 is an even-numbered year, the Packers are hoping Smith breaks this cycle. Now that Za’Darius Smith has signed with the Vikings, the Packers need Preston to provide consistent play on the edge.
- Who Will Be the Third Edge Rusher?
This is the biggest question facing the Packers at this position. There is nobody who is a proven NFL pass rusher on the roster except for the two starters.
Because pass rushers tend to rotate in and out of the game, the need for depth here is essential. Last year, both Preston Smith and Rashan Gary played 68 percent of defensive snaps. Even if that number goes up to 75 or 80 percent, you’re still talking about roughly one play per series that one or both starters would not be on the field.
If none of the players currently on the roster prove they are ready, don’t be surprised if Gutekunst signs another veteran like Whitney Mercilus would was brought in last year to help get to the quarterback.
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