Now the Packers are coming off of a huge win over the Dallas Cowboys 31-28, so some may wonder why I have chosen this topic of all possibilities to write about. In all honesty I am simply trying to brace some fans for what will very likely be a problem for upcoming games. This problem is of course that in the game against the Detroit Lions, OLB Rashan Gary had suffered a torn ACL, so the Packers pass rush is going to look a lot different moving forward. That isn’t to say that it will be nonexistent, but the types of defensive looks and schemes Joe Barry is going to have to make to accommodate should be drastic.
The ache that the defensive unit will feel most has been and will be not being able to get to the quarterback. Previous to his injury, Rashan Gary was able to record 6 sacks through 9 games, as well as 32 tackles, 21 of them being solo. He held 2nd place in the league in run stop win rate with 36%, and 6th in pass rush win rate with 23% according to ESPN. Coming off of a strong 2021 performance where he recorded 9.5 sacks, this was assuredly a regrettable loss for Joe Barry and the rest of the Packers team as it seemed Gary was coming into his own. His production not only came in his written statistics however. Without Gary presenting a large threat to opposing offensive coordinators, it simplifies offensive game plans and opens up opposing offenses to run at him and call more development heavy plays. Even Preston Smith, who has recorded 3 sacks on the year thus far, has not presented enough of a threat to pull attention away from the defensive tackles and isn’t seeing as many double teams as Gary was. With that said, it is important to take a look at the other personnel on the defensive front that the Packers have to work with for the rest of the year, barring any further injuries.
The Depth Chart
There is still hope for this Packers pass rush, as Brian Gutekunst had made several favorable moves in the offseason that bolstered the depth at the defensive front. These moves include the signing of ex-Chief DT Jarran Reed, the drafting of LBs Kingsley Enagbare and Quay Walker, and the drafting of DT Devonta Wyatt. Jarran Reed has done at the least a standup job of providing run pressure, however he also ranks 9th in the league in pass rush win rate for defensive tackles, at 15%. Lining up alongside star DT Kenny Clark, the two have combined for 4.0 sacks on the year. Not entirely stellar production, but at this point we should take what we can get. As far as the linebackers go, the second place sack leader for the Packers Preston Smith has experienced a drop in production compared to years past, with only 3.5 sacks through 11 games. Kingsley Enagbare has 2.0 sacks, which is understandable considering his limited snap count up to this point, and Quay Walker has not been in enough pass rushing snaps to extrapolate meaningful data on his performance.
I am not going to harp on DC Joe Barry’s performance thus far even with Rashan Gary, because that is what this article is for. That being said, there are a good bit of adjustments Barry is going to have to make on both the front personnel and the pass rush schemes. Without Gary taking away so much attention, Barry is going to have to include more exotic and creative blitz packages if he wishes to see any sack production going ahead, especially against some very tough offensive lines in the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles in back to back weeks. Not that either of those teams should have the passing game as a primary concern, but it is something to note when heading into these games nonetheless for the sake of opportunism. Hopefully, these changes will be made sooner rather than later in order to preserve and perhaps even improve upon a recently stagnant pass rush.