Packers Brenton Cox looks to carry recent momentum into big week v. Patriots

Green Bay Packers linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (57) runs through a pass rush drill during practice on Tuesday, August 1, 2023, at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Green Bay Packers linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (57) runs through a pass rush drill during practice on Tuesday, August 1, 2023, at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /

Green Bay Packers undrafted rookie edge rusher Brenton Cox has been making some noise as of late and will have the opportunity to build upon these recent performances with a big week ahead, that includes two joint practices and a preseason game with New England.

During OTAs and minicamp, Cox was one of the few players that Matt LaFleur specifically mentioned when highlighting which players had stood out during those practices. His start to training camp, however, was relatively quiet.

In what has become a deep edge rusher room that the Packers have built, Cox has spent most of his time playing with the third team defense, behind Preston Smith, Justin Hollins, JJ Enagbare, Lukas Van Ness, and eventually Rashan Gary when he begins participating in 11-on-11 drills.

But during the preseason game with Cincinnati, we saw those flashes that he’s capable of as Cox put together what was easily his best performance of the summer. In that game, Cox led the team in pressures with three, according to PFF. He also deflected the pass that ultimately ended up being intercepted by Dallin Leavitt.

"“He did a nice job,” said Matt LaFleur on Sunday. “There was a few moments where he got pressure on the quarterback. Obviously got his hand on Dallin Leavitt’s interception, which is a big time play.”"

During the practices held on Sunday and Monday following the first preseason game, Cox continued to make some noise, forcing his way into the backfield on a few occasions each day, and even seeing some snaps with the second defense as the Packers heavily rotated many of their players on defense.

Cox is a high-upside player who produced 74 pressures and 10 sacks during his final two college seasons while playing at Florida, and was one of PFF’s highest graded run defenders at the edge rusher position during that span as well. The potential he has is what teams look for as they construct the back end of their 53-man depth charts. However, the question that still remains is, where does he fit in this crowded edge rusher room?

Of the players listed above who are currently ahead of Cox on the depth chart, Justin Hollins is the only one I wouldn’t consider a roster lock, given he is a veteran here on a one-year deal with a contract that leaves very little dead cap hit for Green Bay. But with that said, Hollins was productive as both a pass rusher and run defender with the Packers in 2022, along with pass rush coordinator Jason Rebrovich also mentioning that Hollins quickly took on a leadership role in the edge rusher room upon his arrival.

Throughout offseason programs and training camp, Hollins has also routinely spent time with the first-team defense playing across from Smith, and has been with the starting special teams unit on a few different phases as well. Then during the game in Cincinnati, he played just seven snaps, which very well could tell us that he is locked into his spot on the roster.

Rostering six edge rushers is not completely unheard of, but that is going heavy at the position, and would force the Packers to have to go light elsewhere. We did, however, see the Packers take a somewhat similar approach with the offensive line last season. More often than not, Green Bay has kept nine offensive linemen on their initial 53-man, but at one point in 2022, they had 11 on the 53-man, in order to roster then undrafted rookie Caleb Jones. If the Packers feel that another team could sign Cox away if he’s on the practice squad, then perhaps they take a similar approach at edge rusher.

With all of that said, before those decisions have to be made, as LaFleur said on Monday, “it’s a big week,” that will come with plenty of opportunities for Cox – and a number of other fringe roster players – to continue building upon the momentum he’s been able to establish as of late.

"”Hopefully he (Cox) can continue to build upon that,” added LaFleur. “We have a lot of opportunities for that this week with four practices, four legitimate practices, and the game.”"