Welcome back to the next part of my roster breakdown of the Packers; The Edge defenders. Somewhat similar to the defensive line, the depth chart this season should be pretty cut and dry (outside of the bottom of the group). As always, you can view the previous parts here: https://borderfuelsports.com/author/brianmaafi/ On to the evaluations:
Signed as a free agent in the Brian Gutekunst spending spree in 2019, Smith was still a relatively unknown player heading into free agency. He was a four-year vet coming off a career year, but it was still only 8.5 sacks. This also coincided with the most snaps(690) in a season he had ever received in Baltimore. With the big contract Green Bay gave him, it was kind of a projection, but Z proved his worth in 2019 and in 2020.
Part of that was due to a large uptick in snaps where he had over 850 both seasons. He has proved himself to be one of the better edge defenders in the NFL, which didn’t look likely coming out of Kentucky. He played with Bud Dupree, and his RAS was only a 3.73.
Looking at his film in his first few seasons in Baltimore versus his last three, you can see he has remade his body. He is a lot slimmer and probably is more athletic than he was coming out. We all know what he did the last two seasons. There is no reason not to expect similar production in 2021. With Gary stepping up we might see a slight decrease in his snap count. I wouldn’t expect it to be much, though. He is still the #1 edge guy in Green Bay.
Preston was in a similar boat to Z, although Preston seemed to be hot and cold in Washington. He had 8 sacks in his first and third seasons. In his second and fourth seasons, though, he had 4 and 4.5 sacks. He was still a little bit of a question mark, but he still had upside and talent. He had a RAS of 9.8 coming out of Mississippi State. While he lacks the elite speed or bend, he has long arms and decent agility.
In his first season in Green Bay, he looked like a steal with 12 sacks, 4 passes defended, and 23 quarterback hits. Then came the 2020 season. He just seemed off all season. A lot of the speculation was that he was playing overweight most of the season. He looked a bit overweight too. He had only 4 sacks and 11 quarterback hits.
A lower snap count is probably better for him. With Gary’s late-season emergence last season and the cap crunch coming next season, this will probably be Preston’s last season in Green Bay. 814 snaps last season was way too many. He should be getting around 700 and by the end of next season should essentially be the #3 edge behind Z and Gary. Hopefully, he can regain some of his 2019 form.
Gary had a quiet rookie season, which caused a number of fans to write him off as a bust. However, while he only had two sacks, he only received 244 snaps. Both because of him being new to 3-4 outside linebacker and because both of the Smith brothers played so well in 2019. The Packers didn’t want to take them off the field.
Gary did show some flashes in his limited playing time though. Gary attacked the offseason. He worked on his speed, agility, and hands. He also noticeably trimmed down. Still listed at 277 he looks closer to 265-270. He also almost doubled his snap count in 2020 to 456. The former Michigan Wolverine really came on late in the season too. He had 1.5 sacks in two playoff games.
Trimming down gave him some extra agility and helped with explosiveness. His work with his hand speed and working on converting speed to power also made a big difference. Look for Gary’s snap count to go up even more in 2021. His 456 snaps accounted for about 44% of the defensive snaps last season. I would look for him to be around 50% this next season.
Garvin was drafted in the 7th round in 2020. He played at Miami(Fla.) for three seasons. He came out early because he would have been stuck behind Rousseau, Phillips, and would have had to share time with Roche. He fits the mold of the type of edge players the Packers like. Garvin is big and long. He only played in 8 games as a rookie and only put up 5 tackles. He was basically the #5 edge player on the roster. Ramsey was ahead of him due to his superior play on special teams. Garvin has upside, probably more than Ramsey, as a pass rusher. He just needs to develop it.
Garvin only played a measly 85 snaps as a rookie. Mostly due to him just not being ready, and having four guys ahead of him on the depth chart. He is a good athlete scoring an 8.98 RAS. This will be an important training camp/pre-season for him. If he can show some development and that he could play some special teams(he only had 22 snaps last season) he could jump to #4 on the chart and get some playing time. It is all up to him.
After going undrafted out of Arkansas, Ramsey spent the entire 2019 season on the practice squad. He made the roster in 2020 even though for an edge defender he is undersized at 238. The former Razorback played in 12 games; he missed the first three weeks with a groin injury. He actually had fewer snaps on defense than Garvin did(75) but did produce more. Ramsey had a total of 11 tackles, but Ramsey had a lot more snaps on special teams. The special teamer had 204 snaps on special teams, so he was a core special teamer last season. He is fairly athletic. He also saw time at linebacker in Arkansas. The undersized edge defender is probably the 2nd behind Preston Smith in cover skills among the edge guys.
Because of his special teams prowess and the fact that he brings a different skill set than any other edge defenders, I would say he is a good bet to make the roster. You hope he can come into camp a little bigger without losing any athleticism and having worked on his pass rush. Maybe he can get some more snaps on defense?
Scott a former SMU Mustang that went undrafted in the 2020 draft. He had 9 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss his senior year. He spent the whole 2020 season on the Packers’ practice squad. Oddly enough the Packers signed him, listed him, and practiced him on the defensive line. Even though he only weighs 246 pounds, he is reported to have 35-inch arms. This offseason though they moved him to his more natural position as an edge defender. He is an unknown because there was no pre-season last year.
This will be an important camp and preseason for him. Like Ramsey, he could stand to add some weight. He has a shot at making the roster. It’s up to him. If he can show he can play special teams, that will go a long way to helping him make the roster.
Galeai is another undrafted free agent from the 2020 draft, similar to Scott, although, he started out on the edge. Tipa started out playing his first two seasons at TCU. After his Sophomore year, he transferred to Utah State (he played with Jordan Love). He sat out the 2017 season due to transfer rules. He then had 10 sacks in 2018 and looked to be on the rise. The former horned frog then only had 5 sacks as a senior.
He is small at 229 and 6’5. His fit on the team and at the position is questionable. At his size, he probably needs another 20-25 pounds to be able to compete at the NFL level as an edge defender. The former Aggie Spent all of 2020 on the practice squad. he was activated for one game but did not play outside of 9 snaps on special teams.
He almost seems like he would be better playing as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 who rushes the passer on occasion on passing downs. Even then, he is still a bit undersized. If he can show up to camp weighing 240+ while not losing any athleticism, showing well on special teams, and showing some pass-rush potential then he will have a shot. He is already 24 though, so time is of the essence for him.
Kemp is like Scott, but the opposite end. They have him as an outside linebacker, but he is 280 and is by far the biggest edge player on the roster. Kemp played four seasons at Michigan. He was highly rated coming out of high school. He just never reached the hype. The former Wolverine had only 5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss in his career at Michigan. He almost would be better off add 10 pounds and playing defensive line. Kemp was a big-time underachiever. He also didn’t test out all that well at Michigan’s pro day scoring a 2.52 RAS which is really bad. His 40 was a 5.07.
He is pretty much just a camp body. I don’t see how he makes the Packers roster. Maybe if they move him to the defensive line and ask him to add some weight, he has a chance. His RAS goes up to a 6.31 when you change his position to defensive tackle. Maybe he could get put on the practice squad and see if they can develop him that way, but I doubt it.
Final Thoughts –
With the Smith Brothers and Gary already on the roster, they will account for probably 95% of the snaps on the outside. They are all good and they all will see snaps and get moved around. The question is who will be the #4 and probably #5 guys? Those two need to show some special teams prowess since neither the Smith brothers nor Gary plays special teams, which is ok. You don’t want those guys getting hurt on special teams. The two final spots will probably come down to Garvin, Ramsey, and Scott.
I don’t see Tipa or Kemp having much of a shot at making it. Neither fit what the Packers ask of their edge defenders. Both could do with a position change. I think realistically it’s Garvin versus Scott. Who shows the most potential as an edge rusher and special teams player? Ramsey is already known as a solid special teams player. So I feel he makes it. Garvin is a draft pick which gives him a leg up on Scott, and I think that is what will keep him on the roster for 2021.
So to sum up it will be Z Smith, P Smith, Gary, Ramsey, and Garvin, the same guys from last season.