From a structural standpoint, the Green Bay Packers’ defense is built to get one-on-one matchups upfront. By covering five offensive linemen with three interior defensive linemen and two edge rushers in their base and Penny fronts, Green Bay forces the issue.
The problem, once outside linebacker Rashan Gary went down with a torn ACL, was that the Packers didn’t seem to have the horses to continue to play this way. On the interior, defensive ends Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry have played well below the league average in penetration plays all season. At outside linebacker, Green Bay was left with edge-setter Preston Smith and fifth-round rookie Kingsley Enagbare as their starters.
Since joining the starting lineup, though, Enagbare has well surpassed the expectations for a rookie drafted in the range that he was taken in. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Enagbare was the third-ranked defender on the team per Pro Football Focus’ grading and jumped up to second against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday. He also led the team in pressures against the Titans.
There's no Packers football this Sunday so here's a cutup of Kingsley Enagbare looking way better than a fifth-round rookie should pic.twitter.com/uqU0vjh0kl— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) November 20, 2022
As you can see in the video above, Enagbare has made a good amount of splash plays as a rookie, which tracks with his production that is comparable to his peers drafted in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft. As a reminder, Enagbare was projected to be a Day 2 selection in April but seemed to have slipped down draft boards due to less-than-stellar testing numbers during the pre-draft process. For reference, Pro Football Focus had the South Carolina product as their third-highest-graded pass-rusher in major college football for 2021.
This is a hell of an effort play from Enagbare.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 14, 2022
Wrong-arms the pulling lineman to fit the run, then sheds across the block and turns on the jets in pursuit to make a tackle.
He might have prevented a TD here. pic.twitter.com/XBs5kwyetl
At sub-260 pounds, Enagbare doesn’t have the size that Gary or Smith have on the edge just yet. Often, Enagbare is able to get into the backfield but his play strength is the difference between making or missing an opportunity to make a play. The good news is he should only be trending up from here and is getting better with every extended look that he’s received on the field this season.
With a full NFL offseason under his belt to add some more good weight on his 6’4” frame in 2023, Enagbare has a chance to be an absolute steal for general manager Brian Gutekunst. Inside linebacker Quay Walker and receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are stealing headlines for this rookie class, but Enagbare could very well wind up being the best return on investment pick that the Packers made in the 2022 draft.