Justin Hollins playing key role amongst Packers edge rushers early on

At least at this stage of the offseason, I would not consider Green Bay Packers edge rusher Justin Hollins a full roster lock, but between his play last season and how he has been utilized during OTAs, I imagine he’s close to being that.

From a salary standpoint, the Packers can move on from Hollins quite easily if they don’t want to keep him on the 53-man roster, with only a $155,000 dead cap hit, according to Over the Cap. But through OTAs, Hollins appears to be having a fairly significant role at the edge rusher position, oftentimes lining up with the first-team defense, in addition to spending time with the twos.

Hollins joined the Packers at a little bit over the halfway point last season after being released by the LA Rams and claimed by Green Bay. During those final six games, Hollins was effective in a rotational role against both the run and the pass, ranking 26th out of 104 edge rushers in PFF’s pass rush win rate and 27th in run-stop rate. Pass rush coordinator Jason Rebrovich also discussed this offseason the almost immediate leadership role that Hollins took on in that edge rusher room.

Depending on whether or not Rashan Gary is available for Week 1 will dictate how many roster spots at the position are available. If Gary begins on the PUP list, then there are probably two roster spots up for grabs, assuming the Packers keep five which they often have in the past, with Preston Smith, JJ Enagbare, and Lukas Van Ness being the locks. If this is the scenario that plays out, then you can bet that Hollins will be on the team.

On the flip side, if Gary is available for the first game and only one roster spot is open, Green Bay could consider keeping the high-upside undrafted rookie Brenton Cox, someone who Matt LaFleur specifically mentioned after Tuesday’s practice as one of the young players who has stood out so far through OTAs. But, again, based on where Hollins is playing currently, he is ahead of Cox on the depth chart, which shouldn’t come as a surprise at this time of the year, given that Hollins has played in and is familiar with Joe Barry’s defense while Cox is still learning it.

I would guess that Hollins’ role in 2023 will look similar to what it did in 2022, with him being a rotational player, seeing 20 to 25 snaps per game, against both the run and the pass. As a group, improved play from the Packers’ collective edge rusher position will help the defense bounce back this season. Once Gary was injured, Green Bay didn’t pressure the quarterback consistently, and the run game continues to be an area where they can improve.

Of course, having said all of this, I feel the need to add the caveat that it is still very early, the pads aren’t even on yet, and we are a long ways off from final roster decisions having to be made. Ultimately what takes place during training camp and the preseason will be the deciding factor, and for an edge rusher room that already has a fair amount of experience at the position, along with the Packers being in a transition year as they move to Jordan Love, them choosing Cox’s potential over Hollins’ reliability this season shouldn’t surprise anyone.

However, at least through OTAs, Hollins is playing a key role in this Green Bay Packers defense.