Packers 2019 prediction: Defense will finish in top five for sacks

Green Bay Packers, Kyler Fackrell (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Kyler Fackrell (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers’ defense can finish inside the top five in the NFL for sacks this season.

Rewind to the start of the offseason. Edge rusher was considered the Green Bay Packers’ number one need. For the defense to reach the next level under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, they’d need more production from their edge rushers.

In just one season, could this defense finish inside the top five for sacks? Absolutely. In reality, they weren’t that far off last season.

For all of the Packers’ struggles to consistently rush the passer last year, they still finished the season in the top 10 for sacks with 44. A total of 16 Packers players finished the year with at least 0.5 sacks. This highlights how Pettine was able to scheme pressure.

Kyler Fackrell was the only Packers defender to post double-digit sacks last season. He was the only edge rusher to finish with more than 3.5, the number of sacks Clay Matthews finished on.

But after signing Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, and drafting Rashan Gary, the expectation will be for the Packers to get more sacks from their edge rushers this year.

Last season, Za’Darius Smith had 8.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits. He can consistently make a difference in the Packers defense, and even when he’s not the one getting a sack, he’ll be making an impact.

Over the past two seasons, Preston Smith has 12 sacks and 37 quarterback hits.

Green Bay’s defense now features edge rushers who can win one-on-one and consistently put quarterbacks under pressure. That’s something this defense lacked last season.

Interior pressure will still be key for this defense — Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels are difference-makers along the defensive line. But with better play on the edge, the Packers defense should be able to get a lot of sacks this season.

In 2018, the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints were tied for fifth in the NFL with 49 sacks. The Packers weren’t far behind.

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After addressing their top defensive need this spring, Green Bay’s defense has the talent to finish inside the top five in sacks in 2019.