When the Green Bay Packers take the field in a few weeks, they will do so with an almost-entirely brand-new group of pass rushers. This is a franchise that has featured some of the most feared quarterback hunters in league history, and there’s a lot for players like Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary to live up to.
Reggie White is probably the first name that pops into a Packers’ fan’s head when thinking about the best pass-rushers to come through Green Bay, and deservedly so. But after that, the team had some great players in their own right — Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Aaron Kampman, and Clay Matthews were all terrific at getting to the quarterback in their heydays.
Looking back even farther, though, and you see just how impressive the pass rush was in Vince Lombardi’s day. While Ray Nitschke is perhaps the best-known player from the Lombardi-era defenses, players like Willie Davis and Henry Jordan terrorized opposing backfields for a decade. Davis was the biggest star — he made five straight Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro five out of six years.
Davis was the original legendary Packers pass-rusher, and there’s a lot to live up to there for the team’s new group of players who will be coming off the edge.
It’s too bad that sacks were not kept as a statistic back in Davis’ day, because he and Jordan would have racked up a whole bunch of them. Davis was perhaps the team’s best pass-rushing defensive end until Reggie White arrived in the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, Smith is one of those players who might have been better off in a league that didn’t keep sacks as an official stat. Despite his sack numbers varying -- he had just four last season after eight the year before -- he consistently pressures and hits quarterbacks. In fact, he led the league in pressure rate in 2017 and ranked fourth last year.
We at APC have been saying for months that the Packers’ offensive weapons will surprise people who aren’t in the know about them. Why should today be any different? We bet that Barnwell’s 19th-place ranking here will look pretty silly by the end of the 2019 season.
The former Wisconsin Badger has threatened to hold out in the hopes of getting a new deal. He’s currently working on the fifth-year option, which is scheduled to pay him $5.6 million. Given his emergence as one of the best running backs in the league and how poor the market is for his position, one can understand his reasoning, but the odds are stacked against him.
Don’t go anywhere without the Oklahoma trifecta: a venomous animal, a dangerous radioactive substance, and bottom-shelf whiskey.*
*Note: APC does not actually advise this. It’s a terrible idea.