Packers: 4th Edge Rusher Role Likely Determined By Special Teams

May 25, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Tipa Galeai (50) during the second day of organized team activities. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK
May 25, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Tipa Galeai (50) during the second day of organized team activities. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK /
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For the Green Bay Packers, one of the more intriguing training camp battles taking place this summer is for that fourth edge rusher role. Last season that job belonged to Randy Ramsey after beating out then rookies Jonathan Garvin and Tipa Galeai, but once again, this trio was back to competing for that roster spot.

Ramsey was on the field for only 75 total defensive snaps in 2020, logging two pressures and a tackle. But with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary taking a majority of those edge rusher snaps, it’s not as if there was a lot of playing up for grabs–and the same holds true this season as well.

However, where Ramsey did leave his mark was on special teams. His 237 snaps were the fourth-most on the team, and his overall special teams grade from PFF ($$) was the third-highest mark for Green Bay last season.

Unfortunately, Ramsey left practice earlier in the week with an ankle injury, and from the sounds of it, he is going to miss a significant amount of time–meaning that the fourth roster spot at edge will likely go to either Garvin or Galeai, but it’s going to be special teams play that will likely determine this outcome.

As I’ve already mentioned, with little playing time to be had at edge rusher this season, Garvin and Galeai’s best opportunity to contribute to this year’s team will be through the special teams unit. And this isn’t only true for the edge rusher position, but many back-end of the roster decisions will be determined by special teams play.

If you’re the fourth edge rusher, or a sixth receiver, or a sixth cornerback, and you’re not seeing many snaps on offense or defense and not contributing on special teams, then perhaps that’s a roster spot that could be better used elsewhere.

When speaking with reporters on Sunday, OLB coach Mike Smith echoed similar sentiments, alluding to special teams contributions being the deciding factor in the battle between Garvin and Galeai.

"“To get that fourth spot, you better be damned good on special teams,” said OLB coach Mike Smith. “That’s big shoes to fill. They know that. You’re not going to get that 4th spot at linebacker, you’re going to get it on special teams.”"

Last season Garvin was on the field for only 22 special teams snaps with his PFF grade ranking 21st out of 65 eligible Green Bay Packers players–although keep in mind that’s a very small sample size. Galeai didn’t see any special teams snaps in 2020, and both had similar snap counts in college, with Garvin taking 174 snaps during his career with Miami and Galeai taking 216.

So from an experience standpoint, both are in a similar situation. Based on what we know from the outside looking in, it’s difficult to say if one has the advantage over the other right now, which means this training camp could provide both with a clean slate and whoever performs better over the next month will get the job.

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As we continue to see more practices and as the preseason games begin, when it comes to Garvin and Galeai for this fourth edge rusher spot, don’t be too locked in on their defensive performances. Yes, that matters too, but it’s not everything. Rather, keep a close eye on who is taking more special teams snaps and who is consistently working with the first-team.