By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If the NFL Draft was a window into the Packers’ soul, I realize why some have their doubts about the team’s future. The inside glimpse was revealing, to say the least, but I’ve got to say I’m still on board with GM Brian Gutekunst.
Green Bay’s GM ‘corners’ the market with Alexander, Jackson and a punter
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** No. 1 – The Packers had no choice but to pin their defensive, pass-rushing hopes on Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. They were obliged contractually to allow Matthews and Perry to earn their existing deals.
Good luck with that.
The best-case scenario is that Matthews and Perry find a way to stay healthy through the regular season and into the playoffs. Nobody questions either player’s ability. It’s their availability that is the source of disappointment.
If 2018 is going to be a success, Matthews and/or Perry MUST deliver.
It seems a foregone conclusion that the Packers will use their own first-round pick in 2019, plus the Saints’ first-rounder, to acquire help at outside linebacker and pass rusher.
** No. 2 – The team’s pass rush will come from players on the roster – rather than the draft – who are going to take big steps forward. OK, it’s the party line, but I’m willing to humor the Packers for the sake of this column.
Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers’ non-existent pass rush will improve because “the biggest gains have been through the guys that have been here, from our returning players, particularly our second- and third-year players.”
The Packers didn’t draft a pass rusher until the seventh round.
So that means Vince Biegel, Reggie Gilbert and Kyler Fackrell is going to be the answer to the team’s pass-rush deficiencies.
It’s a long-shot, I’ll admit, but here’s where the “develop” part of “draft-and-develop” comes in.
It’s the hand the Packers have been dealt.
If one of the three (Biegel, Gilbert or Fackrell) contributes significantly consider it a win.
** No. 3 – Two words: “Cover sack.”
Apparently, that is the Packers’ defensive plan.
The selection of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson gives Green Bay what appears to be great depth at cornerback.
The singular skill that jumped off the video on Alexander and Jackson, for me, was their tremendous ball awareness. They made a ton of plays because they recognized what the offense was trying to accomplish.
Alexander’s speed allowed him to be something of a “baiter.” He’d trail a play while hoping the quarterback would try to stick a tight throw through the window. Then he would pounce.
Jackson merely out-battled receivers for jump balls, didn’t allow receivers to cross his face in the slot, and showed a great understanding of his role in the defensive scheme.
Jackson is Micah Hyde, only better.
The Packers’ cornerback position currently includes Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Davon House, Quinten Rollins, Lenzy Pipkins, Josh Hawkins, Demetri Goodson, Donatello Brown and Herb Waters.
With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice at safety, the Packers’ secondary appears to be much-improved over the 2017 version.
** No. 4 – Frankly, this draft revealed that the Packers are putting a lot of resources into new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. The Packers signed Muhammad Wilkerson, the defensive end, to bolster the front seven.
If Montravius Adams, last year’s third-round pick, develops the front seven will have added two key components. That may be a big “if” but the Packers have little choice.
Pettine is the key to success.
It’s interesting that the Packers traded up to select Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks, a safety/nickel linebacker who posted the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.58) among linebackers at the combine.
Burks will be an inside linebacker for Pettine. That suggests Pettine’s scheme is going to be reliant on speed and play-makers. Clearly, he’d love to have two big-time edge pass rushers. What he has is Matthews and Perry, coupled with the hope that one or both can turn back the clock.
Odds and ends:
** The Packers drafted three receivers, leading off with J’Mon Moore of Missouri. Moore (6-2, 207) ran a 4.49 at his pro day after an abysmal 4.6 at the combine.
The Packers bought into the pro day time.
We’ll know soon enough if they were right.
** The selection of a punter and a long snapper drew some fans’ ire, but the fact is this: It’s a way to guarantee getting a particular “need” pick without having to out-bid another team for the undrafted free agent’s services.
In other words, if you like the player, draft him.
Why wait and potentially lose a punter or long snapper to another team merely because “they” felt they had a better chance of making another team’s roster?
** Cole Madison, the guard from Washington State, could become a “plug-and-play” pick at right guard. There was a reason the Packers held off re-signing Jahre Evans.
Madison may have been it.