Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Defensive line is bringing the heat
GREEN BAY - Through five 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 specifically.
“At the end of the day we affected (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 affected 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 five. 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 five 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 suffered 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 definitely covered up for me big time.”
And while Rodgers had to firmly remind Patrick to get him the ball and then finish out his assignment on the field, off it the quarterback was pleased with how Patrick filled 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 effective 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 confidence in the scheme, where he can step in in a tough environment with a really good front and be effective.”
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 offense 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.”