Green Bay Packers are Running Low on Edge Rushers vs. Stout Rams OL

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 28: Tipa Galeai #50 of the Green Bay Packers against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 28: Tipa Galeai #50 of the Green Bay Packers against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

Unfortunately, injuries and stints on the reserve/COVID list have been a constant this season for the Green Bay Packers, with the latest rash of absences coming at the edge rusher position.

The team is, of course, still without Za’Darius Smith, and we do not know when — or possibly if — he will return this season–although the team does sound hopeful. Then just over a week ago, Green Bay would lose Whitney Mercilus for the season with a biceps injury, while Rashan Gary missed this past Sunday’s matchup with Minnesota.

The good news in regards to Gary is that this isn’t a long-term injury, and he was a limited participant once again at practice on Wednesday. There is the possibility that he could return as soon as this coming Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams–however, it is worth keeping in mind that the Packers’ medical staff is quite conservative.

So as we look ahead to Sunday’s game, we know that Green Bay will be without Mercilus, they may once again be without Gary, and now there is the possibility that they will also be without Jonathan Garvin, who was placed on the reserve/COVID list on Wednesday.

In Year 2 and with Za’Darius sidelined, Garvin has taken on a larger role, primarily as the team’s third edge rusher this season. According to PFF ($$), he has recorded 18 pressures and two sacks in 173 pass-rush snaps. Out of 119 eligible edge rushers, Garvin ranks 69th in pass-rush productivity, an efficiency metric.

"“Garvin’s a damn good football player,” OLB coach Mike Smith said in August via SI. “The one thing I love about him is he knows who he is. He’s not going to go out there and try to be flashy and do all this finesse stuff. It’s his strength. You can ask any of those offensive linemen, they struggle with him. There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to clean up with him, and he’s still learning – a lot like Rashan was his first year – but he’s going to be a damn good football player. One of the smartest, if not the smartest, in the room. Picks up things very, very fast. He’s going to have a great career. Just love his demeanor. I want to see his birth certificate. I think he’s 35. He’s got an old soul. But he’s going to be a good player. He’s still got a lot of growing to do, but he’s going to be a special player in this league.”"

If Garvin and Gary are both out on Sunday — which we don’t know for certain at this time — that will leave the Green Bay Packers with Smith, Tipa Galeai, La’Darius Hamilton, and Oren Burks–yeah, that’s right, Oren Burks.

After spending all of 2021 on the practice squad, Galeai saw 35 snaps against Minnesota and fared well. He did not log any pressures, but he was stout against the run, making a few plays at the line of scrimmage. A 2020 UDFA, the 6’5″ – 230-pound Galeai comes with plenty of potential.

"“If that joker can put on 10 more pounds, he’s a demon now,” OLB coach Mike Smith said via Packers Wire. “He plays hard. Very smooth, quick. Great chop and spin, great counter, great get off to beat you on the edge. Gotta get better with his power. He’s learning that’s all they’ll do. They’ll set you soft and wait for you. You have to threaten. A guy with a great get off, he should have great power, because they are going to open up on you early. You have to threaten them with that. If he puts some weight on, he’ll be a damn good player.”"

Hamilton was signed off the Tampa Bay practice squad and to the active roster earlier this season when Za’Darius Smith was placed on IR. He saw action in three games (Weeks 5, 6, and 7), totaling two pressures in 25 pass-rush snaps. Hamilton was then cut prior to the Seattle game but was re-signed to the practice squad following the injuries to Mercilus and Gary.

When it comes to Burks, of his 151 total snaps this season, 55 have come as an edge rusher. For the year, he has logged four pressures and a sack. If the Green Bay Packers are in fact without Gary and Garvin, you can bet that you will see Burk taking more pass-rush snaps this Sunday.

Pressuring the quarterback is the name of the game in football, and for the most part, the Green Bay Packers have been successful at doing so this season–largely in part due to the play of Gary, Smith, and Kenny Clark.

But this week, they will face a very good Rams’ offensive line. The Rams have the highest graded pass-blocking unit by PFF’s grading system, they rank second in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric, and they’ve allowed the fewest quarterback pressures.

If Green Bay is unable to get consistent pressure on Matthew Stafford, it is going to make things all the more difficult for this Packers secondary that will be up against Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr, and others.

Fingers crossed that Gary, who is sixth in total pressures and fifth in quarterback hits, will be back in the mix on Sunday–he will certainly be needed. But if not, the Green Bay Packers will be leaning heavily on the inexperienced Galiea, Hamilton, and Burks to make some noise against the Rams’ passing game alongside of Smith and Clark.

Expecting those three to be productive against a stout Rams offensive line may be asking a lot, but it will be required—as they say, next man up. Joe Barry may decide to blitz more as well, just as he did during the second half against Minnesota, in an effort to pressure Stafford.

Also, don’t be surprised if we see Green Bay add another edge rusher to the practice squad if they are without Garvin and Gary. It won’t be a big name, and that player likely won’t even see the field on Sunday, but he will provide some added depth.