The Green Bay Packers know who their top three outside linebackers are going to be. This is a year where depth matters more. Could they get a fourth or fifth guy?
2020 is a strange year. We know this by this point. The Green Bay Packers are going to need depth at key positions to survive this season.
Injury attrition is normal. Throwing in a contagious virus adds even more complications and variables to a sport that has a lot of those by its very nature.
The pass rushing group is arguably the second most important position on the team aside from quarterback. You can certainly make an argument for offensive tackle, but it’s no lower than third in terms of importance.
We know who the team’s top three rushers are going to be at that position. Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary are all set to be a big part of the Packers’ defense.
That’s not surprising anyone. The Smith brothers were two of the best players on the team last season. Gary was the 12th overall pick. He’s going to be put in position to make plays.
Last season, the Packers kept four outside linebackers. The three aforementioned plus the recently departed Kyler Fackrell.
The team kept Randy Ramsey and Tim Williams as roster holdovers.
Johnathan Garvin was a 7th round pick. Tipa Galeai is the most intriguing of the group of undrafted free agents.
Earlier this week, Mike Pettine said that Rashan Gary was going to be a big part of what they do this season. That wasn’t surprising, but what he said afterwards has raised some eyebrows.
Pettine mentioned Garvin as someone that could make a big impact as a rookie.
That’s a golden nugget that Pettine will give you every so often. At this point, Garvin has to have the inside track to be the team’s fourth edge rusher. While that player isn’t a starter, they have a great opportunity to get on the field.
The Packers play three edge rushers at a time. Last season, Rashan Gary was the team’s fourth player at the position. He didn’t get on the field a ton, but that was largely due to the health of the team’s starters. Za’Darius and Preston Smith didn’t miss a game. Fackrell was healthy for the duration of the season as well.
That’s not normal. Players get injured. It’s unlikely the Green Bay Packers will be as fortunate as they were with injuries a season ago.
That makes the team’s fourth edge rusher important because he’s essentially one snap away from becoming a de-facto starter.
If Garvin is going to be a big part of what the defense is doing, that makes sense. He fits the thresholds of what Pettine typically likes in his edge players.
The question that emerges after that is whether the Packers feel like they could go lighter at another position to potentially keep someone like Ramsey, Galaei, or Williams.
Williams has drawn praise from Preston Smith in this camp. He’s a former third round pick that gives the Packers a different skill set than what they currently have in their room. He was claimed by the team last year before finishing the year on the practice squad.
He has shown up in camp and made a few plays to help get him noticed.
Randy Ramsey is another player that can win with speed. He flashed last season as an undrafted free agent causing some to wonder if the Packers might keep him instead of Kyler Fackrell. He has also flashed in camp.
Tipa Galaei is the darling of camp. He seems like a good practice squad candidate since he is a little bit lighter at less than 230 pounds. He might need a year on the practice squad to get his NFL body underneath him.
He is a good player that has flashed some potential in camp. That could get him claimed instead of sneaking through to the practice squad.
What can be gleaned from this is the Packers have a potentially good group of rushers behind Smith, Smith, and Gary.
What could end up happening is the numbers game gets the Packers to the point where they’re letting go of good players that can help teams elsewhere.
It’s a good problem to have, but another fascinating example of roster building in 2020.