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Packers 2016 Outside Linebacker Grades: Nick Perry leads an underwhelming group

With a few highlight plays, the outside linebackers failed to live up to high expectations in 2016.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. We continue to break down a different position on the roster throughout the week with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.

Our review of the Green Bay Packers’ roster continues with the Outside Linebackers. The 3-4 defense relies heavily on the outside linebackers getting pass rush and holding the edge in the running game. The Packers did decently in sacks this year, but the steady play was lacking. We now begin the review one by one.

Starters: Clay Matthews III, Nick Perry

Nick Perry took the one year contract last year and made the most of his opportunity. Perry led the Packers in sacks and was instrumental in holding the edge against the run. Nick Perry was solid in every aspect. Perry’s 11.0 sacks were good enough for eighth in the NFL. It was notable that Perry was better when Matthews was on the field. Perry also created the now famous “club petting” sack celebration after breaking his hand late in the season. Matthews missed four games and played through injury often as well. Matthews had his worst season of his career statistically, recording just 5.0 sacks and 20 solo tackles. There was a boost in Perry’s numbers with Matthews across the field, but Clay’s own numbers failed to impress.

Backups: Julius Peppers, Datone Jones

Peppers had a respectable 7.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. The Packers clearly had a plan to keep him fresh so that he could play well down the stretch in his 15th NFL season. Peppers played well and did as much as could be expected. Peppers actually ended up with the second most snaps among all the Outside Linebackers due to Matthews’ injuries. Datone Jones started his new life as an Outside Linebacker this year after three seasons playing Defensive End. Jones came to it slowly with just one sack on the season. Jones showed some ability, but his numbers dipped. As a backup, Jones had decent value, but not much more than that.

Third String: Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell

Jayrone Elliott is the only one of this group with experience coming into the season. Elliott lost some of his snaps and he managed just a single sack this season after three sacks last year. Elliott had just 136 snaps this season, slightly fewer than Kyler Fackrell. Fackrell was something of the opposite of a fan favorite. Not despised, but misunderstood. Fackrell, the 25-year-old rookie, managed two sacks in his brief play this year, both early on in the season.

Position Grade: C+

It was a difficult year in many regards. Part of the grade has to do with the expectations. Clay Matthews is a Pro Bowl player and he did not have anything approaching that sort of year. Julius Peppers had a nice year, but it was not enough to save the group. Perry was really the lone shining light. He played a great season and earned his next contract, wherever and whatever it is. The depth on this group leaves something to be desired. Jones is still learning the new position, Fackrell is raw, and Elliott has had three years to make something stick. This group was above an average grade, but nothing spectacular.