One thing that the Green Bay Packers prioritized this offseason was getting bigger up front on defense. General manager Brian Gutekunst mentioned this when discussing the team’s draft class over the weekend, and it’s clear that between the free agent acquisitions and the team’s first draft pick in 2019, he accomplished that.
A quick look at the measurement differences between the three new arrivals and the two departed veterans shows this clearly
Za’Darius Smith: 6-foot-4, 272 pounds
Preston Smith: 6-foot-5, 265 pounds
Rashan Gary: 6-foot-5, 277 pounds
Clay Matthews: 6-foot-3, 255 pounds
Nick Perry: 6-foot-3, 265 pounds
The players coming in this offseason average nearly 6-foot-4 and just over 270 pounds, compared to 6-foot-3, 260 as the midpoint between Matthews and Perry. That’s a notable size difference alone, but arm length is an added factor as well. Both Preston Smith and Rashan Gary have arms at or just over 34 inches, while Perry (33) and Matthews (32-1/4) fell a fair amount short of that mark. (Za’Darius Smith falls in between the two departed veterans at 32-5/8.)
These additions will also likely help the Packers’ interior pass rush. All three can pitch in on occasion with their hands on the ground in obvious passing situations, hopefully causing some havoc among opposing offensive linemen both inside and outside.
Of course, the team still retains a handful of players. Kyler Fackrell (6-foot-5, 245), Reggie Gilbert (6-foot-3, 261), and Kendall Donnerson (6-foot-3, 249) will come back for another to in training camp at least. All of those players are either leaner — in Fackrell’s case) or shorter than the newcomers. However, the reasonable expectation is that all of these players, or at least whichever ones make the 53-man roster, will be reserves, playing only on a rotational basis or in case of injury to one of the three new arrivals.
Overall, though, Mike Pettine has larger athletes to work with on the edge in his second year as the Packers’ defensive coordinator, something he will surely be pleased about. Whether aligned inside or outside, these new additions should bring a new dynamic to the defense in 2019.