Packers: What the Whitney Mercilus signing means for the defense

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers - Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers - Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

As made official today, the Green Bay Packers have signed LB Whitney Mercilus to the 53-man roster. The singing was officially announced by the team today.

Going into the midpoint of the season, what is Mercilus’ value to Joe Barry and the defensive side of the Green Bay Packers?

Over a 10-year career with the Houston Texans, Mercilus has mustered up 57 total sacks and 115 QB hits. His sack total ranks second all-time with the Texans, but that stat is tainted since the franchise has only been around since 1999.

Anytime that Mercilus has started at least 15 games in a season, he has recorded at least seven sacks. Although this is a very positive stat, Mercilus’ numbers could be due to the fact he was playing alongside multiple time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

Let’s stay completely neutral on this situation and shift to a negative. Since 2017, Mercilus has only started 44 out of 70 total games. Injuries that he has dealt with include a pectoral tear, hamstring issues, and lower back issues. The hamstring issues are the most recent, as he dealt with them in the last Texans preseason game.

So far in the 2021 season, Mercilus has only started two out of six games. In playing only 52% of the team’s defensive snaps, Mercilus has still recorded three sacks, 12 tackles and three QB hits. The numbers aren’t spectacular by any means, but they’re serviceable given that he won’t be a starter.

Both Rashan Gary and Preston Smith will benefit if Mercilus sees meaningful snaps. Mercilus isn’t a pushover by any means and will take some eyes off of Gary, who has 25 pressures but only 1.5 sacks. If Gary is able to get “home” more and score more sacks, the defense would benefit tremendously.

Or if teams begin to figure out a way to slow down Gary (maybe a double-team or two?) Mercilus or Smith could take advantage of that and get “home” more often as well.

Either way, this is yet another low-risk, high-reward free agency pickup by the Packers. I like the move overall and don’t see it hurting the team in the long run.