What to Expect From the Green Bay Packers Pass Rush in 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack against the Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Last season, the Green Bay Packers pass defense was abysmal, giving up an average of 237 yards a game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks had a 102.0 passer rating against the Packers, second worst only to the winless Browns, and a large part of that had to do with the lack of a consistent pass rush. With the addition of former All-Pro defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and a changing of the guard at defensive coordinator, the Green Bay Packers pass rush looks to be revamped in 2018.

What to Expect From the Green Bay Packers Pass Rush in 2018

The Packers, while not dreadful rushing the passer last year (their 37.0 sacks ranked 17th), found it difficult to consistently put pressure on the opposing quarterback, which in turn put even more pressure on a secondary that was already struggling to begin with. Talented players who have had great seasons in the past such as Clay Matthews (seven and a half sacks) and Nick Perry (seven sacks) seemed to under-perform all year, and countless times the pass rush wasn’t there in crucial points of certain games. It’s safe to say that while Green Bay wasn’t awful rushing the passer last season, things could definitely improve in 2018.

Wilkerson and Pettine Additions Will Bring Life To Lifeless Packers Defense

With the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson, a former Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All Pro, the Packers will look to do just that in 2018. Wilkerson hasn’t seen the same kind of production that he used to in recent years, as he bottomed out with just three and a half sacks last season. Regardless, he remains a very talented player, and now he’ll get a chance to start anew in Green Bay playing for the Packers. Not only will Wilkerson have a clean slate in 2018, he’ll also get a chance to play under former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who he worked with as a Jet in 2011 and 2012. Pettine was hired back in January to replace the ousted Dom Capers, and will look to instill life into a once lifeless Packers defense in 2018.

Current Talent Will Flourish Under Pettine

Green Bay has never been short of talent on the defensive line, and last year boasted one of the NFL’s best one-two defensive tackle tandems in Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. Clark and Daniels combined for nine sacks last season and Daniels was even recognized by being named to his first Pro Bowl. Clay Matthews, though he hasn’t been the Clay Matthews we all know and love the past few years, is still a very talented player who can be an elite pass rusher when he’s at the top of his game. Finally, we have Nick Perry, who regressed a little in 2017 after posting a career-high 11 sacks in 2016, but still has the potential to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Under a fresh face in Mike Pettine, this plethora of talent will have a new chance to flourish.

Pettine was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2009-2012, and during that time his defenses finished in the top ten in three out of four seasons. His teams always had a strong pass rush to back a strong secondary, and that was where Muhammad Wilkerson got his first chance in the NFL, playing under Pettine for the first two years of his career. Under Pettine, Wilkerson will have a chance to rejuvenate his career in the NFL and become one of the league’s most formidable pass rushers once again, as will players like Matthews.

Last Word

In what has been no secret to Packers fans for the past few years, the pass defense has always been the weakest link to every Packers team and ultimately costs them dearly year in and year out. The key to having a great pass defense starts at the defensive line with the pass rush, and with a new defensive coordinator, a new defensive lineman, and the return of Daniels, Clark, Perry and Matthews, expect a pass rush that finishes top ten next season when all is said and done.

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