After they signed big free agent deals last spring, it was easy to pencil both Za’Darius and Preston Smith in for big roles on the Green Bay Packers’ defense in 2019. Even with 12th overall pick Rashan Gary on the roster, the Smiths seemed destined to soak up most of the edge rushing snaps during their first season in Green Bay.
And that’s exactly what happened. Za’Darius and Preston played 872 and 870 snaps on defense, respectively, far outpacing the rest of the edge rushers on the roster. Kyler Fackrell was next in line, but he played just 415 snaps, while Gary managed just 286.
It’s hard to imagine a similar situation playing out in 2020. Exposing the Smiths to a similar level of wear-and-tear seems like asking for trouble, and with Fackrell off to greener (or maybe just different?) pastures, Gary will need to step up.
He can’t be the only one, though. The Packers need more help on the edge, and they’ll likely be turning to one or more of five first- and second-year players to soak up some snaps.
2019 holdovers may have a leg up on the competition
Given the unusual circumstances in which NFL teams find themselves, Randy Ramsey and Greg Roberts, a couple of holdovers from last year, could have a bit of an inside track on the competition.
Ramsey and Roberts are a bit of an odd couple. The more productive of the two in college, the 6-foot-3, 238-pound Ramsey, certainly falls toward the undersized end of the edge rusher spectrum and he didn’t test quite as well as Roberts. However, he also presents intriguing positional versatility. His coaches lined him up all over the defense at Arkansas, and he might have a little more situational appeal than Roberts for that reason.
Roberts, on the other hand, has all the physical tools you could want from an edge prospect. At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, he’s more than big enough to get the job done whether he lines up with his hand on the ground or as a stand-up rusher. But for all his gifts, Roberts hasn’t really put it together on the field yet. Despite his outstanding athletic profile, he managed just three sacks over 33 games at Baylor. Part of that could be leadership turnover; Baylor went through three different head coaches during Roberts’ time there. But even so, you’d typically expect someone with Ramsey’s physical tools to find his way into opposing backfields more frequently.
2020 additions offer athleticism and production
This year’s prospects won’t go down without a fight, though. There are three worthwhile contenders among Brian Gutekunst’s edge additions this spring, starting with seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin.
A bit of an inconsistent producer, Garvin still managed to rack up 12.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss during his three years at Miami. Inconsistent effort pushed him to the seventh round, but he’s an elite athlete and has enough length to at least be in the mix on the edge.
While he lacks some of Garvin’s size, Tipa Galeia can match his production. A very light 229 pounds at 6-foot-5, Galeai still managed to knife into opposing backfields with regularity at Utah State. He tailed off a bit as a senior, but still finished his two years as Jordan Love’s teammate with 15 sacks, giving him a career total of 19.5 dating back to his time at TCU.
Incidentally, we don’t have testing data on Galeai thanks in part to his departure from the school where he began his college career. He was found guilty of assault in 2017 and was barred from participating in the testing portion of the NFL Combine, then his pro day was wiped out by the coronavirus epidemic.
Delontae Scott might offer the best of both worlds, combining Garvin’s athletic upside with Galeai’s collegiate productivity. At 6-5 and 246 pounds, Scott was the most consistent performer among the three new edge prospects we’ve profiled here, totaling 17 sacks and 35 tackles for a loss over his five years at SMU, increasing his output in both statistical categories every season.
It’s noteworthy that Scott was one of six 2020 UDFAs to whom the Packers gave a signing bonus, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. He also had $15,000 of his (admittedly small) 2020 salary guaranteed, as sure a sign as any that the Packers think highly of his chances to make the roster. Need evidence? Both Randy Ramsey and Greg Roberts received signing bonuses last year, and Roberts had a portion of his salary guaranteed as well. Both are now getting a second chance to fight for their NFL lives, and they’ll have to fend off some new money for another crack at the 53-man roster.