Sacking a Myth on Defense

LB Brad Jones (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Who says the Packers need another pass rusher to complement Pro Bowler Clay Matthews? The numbers show the Packers might be just fine. Packer Report whips out its calculator to tackle what some fans believe is the team's Achilles heel.

You have questions about the Green Bay Packers' pass rush. Specifically, who will provide the rush opposite of Clay Matthews III?

Brad Jones has ignored your concerns.

"No offense, I don't really pay attention to too much stuff you guys have to say," Jones told the last few remaining reporters after answering question after question after Wednesday's practice. "Not you guys, personally, but a lot of the stuff that's out there, I don't get too much into it. You fall too much into what people are saying, you get lost and you don't know what kind of player you are anymore. I don't really pay too much attention. So, I'm not really trying to prove anybody wrong because I don't take anything to heart."

Matthews finished with a team-high 10 sacks en route to playing in the Pro Bowl following a standout rookie season. Cullen Jenkins was a distant second with 4.5 sacks, and Jones and the departed Aaron Kampman were next with four sacks apiece.

Considering the bulk of the pass rush in the 3-4 defense is designed to come from the outside linebackers, the concerns seem to be well-founded. Funny thing, though, is that a little math should put those concerns to rest — and probably go a long way toward explaining why general manager Ted Thompson saw no reason to burn an early draft pick on a challenger to Jones.

Jones had his four sacks in seven starts. Extrapolate that over a full season, and that would equate to nine sacks. That would give Jones and Matthews a combined 19 sacks, a figure that would have — surprise! — tied for second in the NFL among 3-4 outside linebacker duos last year.

Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison led the way with 24 sacks last season, Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer had 19, Denver's Elvis Dumervil and Mario Haggan had 18 (even with Dumervil's NFL-high 17), Miami's Joey Porter and Jason Taylor had 17, Cleveland's Kamerion Wimbley and David Bowens had 14, New England's Tully Banta-Cain and Adalius Thomas and San Francisco's Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson had 13, and San Diego's Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman, Arizona's Clark Haggans and Bertrand Berry, and Kansas City's Tamba Hali and Mike Vrabel had 11.

"Yeah," Jones told Packer Report with a laugh when asked if he found questions about his pass-rushing ability humorous. "Yeah, you guys ask a lot of crazy questions and I just try to answer them all. There's no doubt in my mind that I can rush the passer, play football and play very, very well."

Jones was a big surprise last season — and a savior after Kampman's season-ending injury. The seventh-rounder went from battling a back injury and potentially not even making the team to a vital cog on a highly ranked, playoff-worthy defense. He was listed at 239 pounds, but position coach Kevin Greene said Jones weighed about 230 by season's end.

"Yeah, I was about 230," Jones confirmed. "Can't lie about it. Check the weigh-in sheets, yep, I was about 230."

Jones, who is noticeably bigger (and presumably stronger) than a year ago, won't say how much he weighs now, saying only that he'll settle on a weight during training camp.

Even after a solid rookie season, Jones is the big question mark among the defensive front seven. There's no doubt that opposing defenses will steal a page from Arizona's playoff playbook by throwing a steady diet of double teams and chip blocks at Matthews. It will be up to Jones to beat single blocking and make defenses pay.

Jones knows it and he's ready.

"It's a whole different ballgame," he said. "It's about tweaking yourself. You know you can play now. You always knew you could play but you really know you can play now. It's about being that best player that you can be."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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