Rodgers elated over Packers' defensive acquisitions
- One could argue it's been a long time since the Green Bay Packers have had a formidable defense to accompany a surging offense.
If all goes well, 2019 could be a great year.
On top of the coaching staff adjustments on the offensive side of the ball with the hiring of new head coach Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy to aid Aaron Rodgers, the Packers spent big in free agency on acquisitions they hope get their defense over the hump.
Between outside linebackers Za'Darius and Preston Smith, as well as safety Adrian Amos, the Packers will spend just over $19.1 million dollars on those three contracts in year one. The cap hit for each player increases each season thereafter, signifying the acknowledgment of Rodgers' dwindling championship window entering his age 36 season.
On top of the defensive trio general manager Brian Gutekunst targeted in free agency, the Packers spent both of their first-round picks in April's draft on pass rusher Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage, who was already running with the first-team defense in minicamp.
While these new additions are finding their niche with Mike Pettine, returning players are hoping -- even expecting -- for a collective jump as a unit in their second season under the team's defensive coordinator.
"It's great," Rodgers told Chris Simms of NBC Sports this week. "Everything's new for those guys; they're going into their second year with Mike Pettine, but there's just a different feel.
"Blake [Martinez] is stepping into his role as a middle linebacker and owning it. We brought in some really good leadership with Adrian Amos at safety. We drafted a young kid who's really talented."
A hidden perk behind bringing aboard (Za'Darius) Smith is the flexibility he offers. While he'll be able to flip inside as opposed to standing up on the edge, doing so can open up a spot for either one of Gary or Kyler Fackrell, who is coming off of the first double-digit sack season of his career.
Pettine showcased his ability to not only disguise blitzes but send blitzers from various locations in his first season as the Packers' coordinator. Between the outside linebackers, interior defensive linemen -- Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark form one of the best duos in the league -- and a secondary who saw a multitude of free rushes at the opposing quarterback in 2018, the sky is the limit.
"I think the coolest thing is really the two outside linebackers. Just watching them just kind of fit in is really cool, Za'Darius and Preston -- and they're hungry. They're young kids who haven't won anything yet, so as an old guy, you love to see that.
"As much as you love the veterans, it's good to have some new energy and I like what our GM did bringing those guys in."
If he is excited, I am excited. I think he is one of the smartest guys in the building, and if he likes what he sees, great
Perhaps I am Pollyannsh but I can't remember the last time I felt like we had as good a chance as anyone to win it all. I am really looking forward to this year.