With how free agency has played out so far for the Green Bay Packers and top personnel man Brian Gutekunst it would be easy to believe that the Packers would focus on the cornerback position with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft. Except for bringing in 35 year old Tramon Williams, Gutekunst and the Packers have failed to upgrade the cornerback position. In fact, it could be argued that they have actually weakened it when they shipped last year’s top playmaking cornerback Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer.
But even with Gutekunst and company not providing help in the secondary, there is another position that needs to be addressed. So far, it seems as though they will address this position with their top draft pick. That being the EDGE pass rusher position. Improving the pass rush is something that will be necessary with what appears to be a questionable secondary. There is one player in this draft that would help do just that. Harold Landry can take the Green Bay Packers pass rush to the next level.
The Green Bay Packers Pass Rush Needs Harold Landry
The Packers questionable secondary isn’t the only reason the Packers should be looking to upgrade their pass rush. The Packers top two outside pass rushers, Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, have been hampered by injuries in recent history. Matthews, who will be 32 years old when next season kicks off, hasn’t played a full regular season since 2015. Besides the injuries, it also appears that going up against massive tackles throughout his career is starting to take a toll on his body. Matthews hasn’t registered double digit sacks since 2014.
Perry has played six seasons in the NFL and he has yet to play a full 16-game regular season. After posting 11 sacks in 2016 and signing a big money deal with the Packers, his sack total dropped to seven this past season, while playing in only 12 games. Perry has shown ability when healthy, he just hasn’t stayed healthy.
With Perry and Matthews battling injuries, the Packers will have to establish some depth behind both of them. Their current depth consists of Kyler Fackrell, a former third round pick, Vince Biegel, a former fourth round pick, Reggie Gilbert, a former undrafted free agent, and Chris Odom, who was picked up on waivers last season from the Atlanta Falcons. Out of that group, only Gilbert has shown any type of upside as a pass rusher, and that only came late last season after being promoted from the Packers practice squad.
Landry Knows How to get to the Quarterback
In 2016, while playing for Boston College, Landry posted an eye popping 16 ½ sacks. That isn’t a misprint, he did that in just one season while playing in the ACC. That total not only led the ACC, but was top in all of the NCAA. That wasn’t the only statistic that he led the NCAA in. He also registered seven forced fumbles, showing not only that he can get to the quarterback, but that he also can force a turnover when he gets there, something the Packers defense has lacked in current seasons.
Packers new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine talked about Matthews versatility in his first press conference with the Packers. Pettine’s search for versatility won’t end with Matthews. While in charge of the defenses for the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, as well as when he was the head coach of the Browns, Pettine loved players who could do different things in his multi-faceted defense. Landry seems to be that type of player with being able to line up as a hand in the dirt defensive end in a 4-3 alignment but also as a stand up outside linebacker in a 3-4. What jumps out in Landry’s highlight video from 2016, Landry showed not only the ability to rush the passer, but a player who isn’t afraid to set the edge against the run.
Selecting Landry has Some Risks
Landry put up career numbers in 2016, but didn’t come close to matching those numbers this past season. This past season, Landry saw his sacks number drop to five and his tackles for loss go from 22 to just eight and half in 2017. One of the biggest reasons is due to the fact that Landry battled an ankle injury.
The injury forced Landry to only play in eight games this past season. Landry tried to play through the injury, but it was just too much and he was shut down. This could cause general managers and scouts to believe that he might be just a one year wonder. However, it should be pointed out that Landry was on pace to register double digit sacks before injury his ankle.
Landry is Worth the 14th Overall Pick
The experts who follow the NFL draft have projected Landry to be a bottom of the first round draft pick. But there is no getting around the fact that Landry has top of the first round capability. Landry was on pace to register double digit sacks this past season before suffering the ankle injury. Several mock drafts have University of Texas-San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport slated for the Packers at 14. Although Davenport has all the size and ability to be a solid pass rusher in the NFL, he doesn’t have the track record Landry has, and Landry did it against ACC talent.
If Gutekunst truly wants to improve the Green Bay Packers pass rush, it would be wise to select Landry. The Packers pass rush needs to improve if they stand pat the rest of free agency at cornerback. The prospect in this draft who seems to have the skill to help the Packers do just that is Landry.
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