Last season, the Green Bay Packers’ defense did a decent job of bringing quarterbacks to the ground. The team finished eighth in the NFL in quarterback sacks, recording 44 over the course of the season, and ranked tenth in adjusted sack rate according to Football Outsiders.
However, getting consistent pressure on the quarterback was a challenge for the team. Despite that eighth-place ranking in sacks, the Packers finished an abysmal 30th (!!!) in quarterback hits with just 74. By contrast, the Philadelphia Eagles led the league with 133 hits on opposing QBs, about 3.6 more hits per game than the Packers recorded.
The 2019 season is off to a much better start, however. The additions of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith made a huge difference in week one as the Packers beat the Bears 10-3, and the unit as a whole was in Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s face all game long.
Now we have evidence to show just how impressive that was:
Team pressures after W1 and how that looks pro-rated over the season.— Tom Kislingbury (@TomDegenerate) September 10, 2019
Last year the Raiders were 32nd in pressures with about 150.
The Lions were 31st with about 215.
SO pressure rates in W1 were very low.#FFIDP pic.twitter.com/z07TE2FThw
From that chart, one can see that the Packers led all NFL teams in pressures on the quarterback in week one, recording an impressive 31 on 47 called pass plays (45 pass attempts and two scrambles). That equates to a ridiculous 66% pressure rate. That consistent pressure generated five sacks and 11 quarterback hits, great numbers compared to any single game in 2018.
In fact, the 2018 team recorded 273 total pressures over the course of the season, according to Pro Football Focus, an average of about 17 per game. The team nearly doubled that on Thursday, and two players practically hit last year’s average all on their own. PFF credited Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith with a combined 16 pressures in the game. According to the official box score, each Smith landed three hits on the quarterback, while Preston notched 1.5 sacks and Za’Darius had one.
However, it was not just the front that did this work in harrying Trubisky. Two of the sacks and three of the QB hits came from players other than the defensive line or edge rushers; Blake Martinez and Kevin King recorded solo sacks, while rookie safety Darnell Savage landed the third hit. And an impressive 11 different players were credited with at least one pressure in the game.
This is a great sign for the Packers moving forward, particularly when the team is defending quarterbacks who are less mobile than Trubisky. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine appears to have the right personnel to generate the pressure on the quarterbacks that he needs, and it was a primary reason for the team’s tremendous all-around defensive performance in the 10-3 victory.