Unfortunately, injuries and stoppages on the reserve / COVID list have been a constant for the Green Bay Packers this season, with the most recent absenteeism occurring at the edge rusher position.
The team is still without Za’Darius Smith, of course, and we don’t know when – or possibly – he will return this season – although the team sounds hopeful. Just over a week ago, Green Bay would lose Whitney Mercilus for the season to a bicep injury, while Rashan Gary missed last Sunday’s match against Minnesota.
The good news about Gary is that this is not a long-term injury, and he was again a limited participant in training on Wednesday. There’s a chance he could return as early as next Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams – however, it should be noted that the Packers’ medical staff are fairly conservative.
So if we look at Sunday’s game we know that Green Bay will do without Mercilus, possibly without Gary again, and now the chances are they will also do without Jonathan Garvin, who was put on the Reserve / COVID list on Wednesday.
In Year 2 and with Za’Darius on the sidelines, Garvin took on a bigger role, mostly as the team’s third rusher this season. According to PFF ($$), he recorded 18 pressure and two sacks in 173 pass rush snaps. Out of 119 eligible edge rushers, Garvin ranks 69th in pass rush productivity, an efficiency metric.
“Garvin is a damn good football player,” said OLB coach Mike Smith in August via SI. “The only thing I love about him is that he knows who he is. He’s not going to go out there and try to be conspicuous and do all these finesse. It is his strength. You can ask any of these offensive linemen, they’ll fight with them. There are a lot of things we need to sort out with him and he’s still learning – much like how Rashan was his first year – but he’s going to be a hell of a football player. One of the smartest, if not the smartest, in the room. Pick up things very, very quickly. He will have a great career. Just love his behavior. I want to see his birth certificate. I think he’s 35. He’s got an old soul. But he’ll be a good player. He still has a lot to grow, but he will be a special player in this league. “
If Garvin and Gary both drop out on Sunday – which we don’t know for sure at this point – the Green Bay Packers will be left with Smith, Tipa Galeai, La’Darius Hamilton and Oren Burks – yes, that’s right, Oren Burks.
After spending the full year 2021 on the training team, Galeai saw 35 snapshots against Minnesota and did well. He wasn’t logging any pressure, but he was strong against the run and played a few games on the line of scrimmage. A 2020 UDFA, the 6’5 “- 230 pound Galeai has a lot of potential.
“If this Joker can put on 10 pounds more, he’s a demon now,” said OLB trainer Mike Smith of Packers Wire. “He plays hard. Very smooth, quick. Great chop and spin, great counter, great exit to hit you on the edge. He has to get better with his strength. He learns that’s all they’re going to do. They will soften you up and wait for you. You have to threaten. A guy with a great living, he should have great power because they’ll open up to you early on. You have to threaten them with that. If he does something he’ll be a damn good player. “
Hamilton was added to the Tampa Bay training team and active list earlier this season when Za’Darius Smith was placed on IR. He saw action in three games (weeks 5, 6, and 7), which resulted in a total of two pressure points in 25 pass rush snaps. Hamilton was then cut ahead of the Seattle game, but returned to the training roster after Mercilus and Gary’s injuries.
When it comes to Burks, of his 151 snapshots this season, 55 have come as edge rushers. For the year he logged four prints and one sack. If the Green Bay Packers can actually do without Gary and Garvin, you can bet Burk will be taking more Pass Rush snaps this Sunday.
Putting pressure on the quarterback is the name of the game in football, and for the most part the Green Bay Packers have been successful with it this season – in large part due to the game played by Gary, Smith, and Kenny Clark.
But this week they will face a very good offensive line from the Rams. The Rams have the top-rated pass-blocking unit on the PFF scoring system, they rank second on ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric, and they have the least amount of quarterback pressures allowed.
Unless Green Bay can put constant pressure on Matthew Stafford, things will get even tougher for this Packers high school, which will face off against Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., and others.
Keep your fingers crossed that Gary, who is sixth on the overall pressure and fifth on the quarterback hits, will be back in the mix on Sunday – he will surely be needed. But if not, the Green Bay Packers will rely heavily on the inexperienced Galiea, Hamilton and Burks to make a racket alongside Smith and Clark against the Rams passing game.
Expecting these three to be productive against a strong Rams offensive line can ask a lot, but it will be required – as they say, the next man. Joe Barry could also choose to flash more, just like he did in the second half against Minnesota to put pressure on Stafford.
Also, don’t be surprised if Green Bay adds another edge rusher to the practice team when they’re without Garvin and Gary. It won’t be a big name, and this player probably won’t even see the field on Sunday, but it will offer a little more depth.