There are certain fans out there that love pointing out what former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson did wrong. The most popular mistake by Thompson that those so called fans love to point out is the drafting of Justin Harrell in the first round of the 2007 draft. Thompson made a huge error selecting the defensive tackle out of the University of Tennessee. Harrell played just three seasons and he never registered a sack. After his time with Green Bay, Harrell never played again in the NFL. Another former Thompson draft pick is starting to enter the conversation of Thompson’s mistakes. Outside linebacker and former third round pick Kyler Fackrell is starting to show signs that he also might be lumped in with the Harrell pick. The clock is ticking on Kyler Fackrell’s Green Bay Packers career.
Clock is Ticking on Kyler Fackrell’s Green Bay Packers Career
Harrell will always be Thompson’s worst draft pick. Not only was his play poor on the field, but Thompson wasted a first round pick on him. But the Packers did spend a third-round pick on Fackrell. Unfortunately, for him and the Packers, he has yet to show he is worth that high of a pick.
Last season, his second in the league, Fackrell played in all 16 regular season games. In those 16 games, he registered three sacks, 22 total tackles, and one fumble recovery. His sack total did increase from the previous year going from two to three.
Although three sacks might be looked at as a positive, there is more to the story. Fackrell had a lot of opportunities last season in the Packers 3-4 defense alignment to make some plays. Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (14 games) and Nick Perry (12 games) missed time and were forced to sit out several games. Fackrell was one of the top reserves and was a mainstay in the Packers outside linebacker rotation. But even with the opportunity at hand, Fackrell didn’t take advantage.
Matthews and Perry weren’t the only outside linebackers to miss time. Free agent pick up Ahmad Brooks struggled to stay on the field. He played in just five games and registered a sack and a half. Vince Biegel, a fourth round draft choice, also missed time. He had foot surgery on both feet and started the season on the PUP list. With so many outside linebackers missing, it was up to Fackrell to pick up the slack.
Opportunities were given, and opportunities were missed by Fackrell. He struggled getting off blocks and didn’t make many plays for the Packers. It wasn’t just opposing offensive tackles that were easily blocking him, it was tight ends as well. Here is a great clip by Andy Herman of Pack-A-Day Podcast showing a tight end blocking Fackrell one on one. Not only does it show the lack of burst by Fackrell, it also shows his lack of strength in his failure to take on a tight end.
More Opportunities Ahead
The Packers will be giving Fackrell more opportunities again this coming season. The Packers will enter 2018 with not much proven depth behind Matthews and Perry. The upcoming season is already off to a bad start for the Packers and the outside linebacker position. Perry is starting camp on the PUP list, dealing with an issue with his ankle. Although Matthews isn’t on the PUP list, he did have off-season knee surgery and is recovering from surgery on his nose, after taking a line drive to the face in a charity soft ball game.
That will leave Kyler Fackrell, Biegel, Chris Odom, Reggie Gilbert, and recent seventh round draft pick Kendall Donnerson trying to show they are capable backups to Perry and Matthews. Out of that group, Fackrell has the most experience, which should play in his favor.
But Fackrell is going to have to show more than he has so far in his career. Some believed he could be a contributor for the Packers pass rush. Standing 6’5” tall and having a great wingspan to fight off the arms of opposing pass protectors, some thought Fackrell would translate well at the next level. Also, another positive for Fackrell joining the Packers is that he played in a 3-4 system at Utah State. In his last season at Utah State, he posted five sacks and 15 tackles for losses.
The first two seasons as a professional, Fackrell played in former defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive scheme. This past off-season, Capers was dismissed, which now will give Fackrell the opportunity to play in a new scheme which could possibly give him a new lease on his career.
New Scheme and a New Opportunity
With Mike Pettine now in charge of running the Packers defense, many are hoping he can get something out of the former third round draft choice. Pettine is known for his different looks on defense which could help Fackrell get into better pass rushing opportunities. But it will be up to Fackrell to once again seize any opportunities he is given.
It is early in training camp, but Fackrell is already off to a good start. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweeted recently that Fackrell beat starting left tackle David Bakhtiari in one on one passing drills. As Demovsky pointed out it was an important moment for Fackrell because he entered this season with an overall record of 1-30 in that drill from the previous two seasons. It makes you wonder which is more unbelievable, the fact that he actually beat Bakhtiari who is one of the best tackles in the game or that Fackrell has been so bad at such an important drill for a pass rusher.
Fackrell has been solid on special teams, but the Packers need for him to develop as a pass rusher. As Clay Matthews pointed out, this year’s outside linebacker depth is “not that great”. So that means somebody from that unproven group is going to need to produce.
For Kyler Fackrell, this season might be his last chance to not only show he was worth a third round pick, but that he can play at the NFL level. If he can’t, Fackrell might join Harrell in being one of Thompson’s missed draft picks.