Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Defensive line is bringing the heat

- Jim Owczarski

GREEN BAY - Through five weeks, the listed defensive linemen on the Green Bay Packers have a total of 11⁄2 sacks — all by Kenny Clark. And Clark collected a half sack in Week 1 and a full sack in Week 2.

As a team, the Packers are tied for ninth in the NFL with 15. And while outside linebacker­s Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary can be — and are — included in some of the defensive line accounting of pressures, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery says his group has no ego when it comes to sacks specifically.

“At the end of the day we affected (Dak Prescott) 34 times as a front,” Montgomery said of Sunday's victory at Dallas.

“Thirty-four times. Twenty-four of those were quarterbac­k hits. In our room alone we had seven quarterbac­k hits and two additional pressures. We affected the quarterbac­k nine times and most of that was pushing the pocket so when the outside guys get there, there's nowhere to go.”

Preston Smith leads the team with 51⁄2 quarterbac­k takedowns, followed by Za'Darius Smith with five. Clark is next, followed by linebacker Blake Martinez, cornerback Kevin King and Gary with one each.

“If you've got good pocket push on the inside, that means the quarterbac­k can't step up in the pocket and the outside guys can really get after him,” defensive lineman Dean Lowry said. “That works hand in hand. You can't have four guys working all spin moves. You've got to have some guys inside with power moves to push that pocket.”

Montgomery allowed that when his defensive linemen get a one-on-one block they need to win it, and that hasn't happened as consistent­ly as he'd like. But he does like the consistent pressure they're putting on quarterbac­ks through five games.

“We don't really worry about sacks,” defensive lineman Kingsley Keke said. “Of course you'd like to get sacks. It looks good of course. But it's all about getting the quarterbac­k off the spot, being disruptive out there and making him uncomforta­ble. It's putting the guard back in his face, or getting the quarterbac­k to move.”

Patrick overcomes wayward snaps

Corey Linsley had not missed a snap since the 2016 season, but when the Packers' starting center suffered a concussion Sunday against Dallas, thirdyear man Lucas Patrick was the one tasked with taking over in a loud, hostile environmen­t.

“Those two are elite, just with their football IQ and awareness,” Patrick said of Linsley and quarterbac­k Aaron Rodgers. “There's a lot of times where Corey will put us in a better play that nobody really notices just because he really understand­s what's going on from a whole 11-on-11, schematic view.”

The Packers didn't seem to skip a beat with their inside run game, but Patrick did have some wayward shotgun snaps. Running back Aaron Jones ended up taking a couple and Rodgers had to reach to get one.

“Luckily Jonesy, he was balling out,” Patrick said with a smile. “They definitely covered up for me big time.”

And while Rodgers had to firmly remind Patrick to get him the ball and then finish out his assignment on the field, off it the quarterbac­k was pleased with how Patrick filled in for Linsley.

“I'm proud of Lucas,” Rodgers said Sunday night.

“He had a couple wayward snaps but for him to step in like that and play well and be effective was great. I was just telling him how proud I am of him. We had a great conversati­on over the lunch table kind of midcamp. I felt like he was struggling a little bit mentally. Since the end of training camp, he's really gained a lot of confidence in the scheme, where he can step in in a tough environmen­t with a really good front and be effective.”

Like most starters Linsley takes nearly all of the practice reps, so Patrick has to make the most of his running scout team count. He also takes a few reps at guard each day.

“It's pretty well-diversed (snaps distributi­on) including the scout team, but I guess with the actual offense it's limited to a few snaps in each (practice),” the 26-year-old said. “When we're scout, playing as a scout team and I get to go against Kenny (Clark) and Mon (Adams), Tyler (Lancaster) and Dean (Lowry), those reps are just as important because those guys are playing well, too. So I've got to focus in a little more on those moving forward.”

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Za’Darius Smith, in the face of the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott on Sunday, is second on the Packers with five quarterbac­k takedowns.
GETTY IMAGES Za’Darius Smith, in the face of the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott on Sunday, is second on the Packers with five quarterbac­k takedowns.

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