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The Green Bay Packers, in need of help at edge rusher due to injuries, will be signing veteran Whitney Mercilus, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
What can Mercilius provide the Packers?
The tape from 2021 shows a veteran player that still has some juice as a pass-rusher but probably isn’t a full-time player and might benefit from a strictly rotational role on a winning team like the Packers.
Over 110 pass-rushing snaps this season, Mercilus has produced three sacks but only five total pressures. The efficiency as a rusher hasn’t been there, but it’s worth noting that he’s played in a three-point stance as a defensive end this season after playing most of his career as a stand-up rusher in a 3-4 defense.
Both of Mercilus’ sacks this season came on third down. He took down Trevor Lawrence in Week 1 and then sacked Sam Darnold in Week 3. On the first, he worked around Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson and chased down Lawrence who was attempting to escape to his right. On the second, he beat Panthers right tackle Taylor Moton with a speed move and got to Darnold in the pocket quickly.
Mercilus can still get off the ball and threaten the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle occasionally, but he’s no longer a dominant down-to-down rusher. At his peak, Mercilus could beat tackles with speed or any number of devastatingly effective counter moves. He’s no longer that kind of player. His best snaps in 2021 have come in obvious passing situations when he can time up the snap and get up the field.
Also, Mercilus could benefit from playing alongside better players. His best seasons came when playing opposite of J.J. Watt. Without Watt, the Texans relied on him to provide most of the defense’s pressure, but at this point in his career, Mercilus is much more of a complementary player than a disruptive focal point. Lining up next to Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary could help free him of extra attention and up his efficiency as a rusher.
The Packers are hurting at outside linebacker and could use a veteran to play snaps immediately, especially if Preston Smith misses time. Za’Darius Smith is on injured reserve and isn’t guaranteed to return this season after having back surgery.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Mercilus in a pass-rushing role could be a “big plus for our squad” on Wednesday.
Think of a future situation in which the Packers are facing a top quarterback and need a big stop. Would you prefer to have Mercilus or someone like LaDarius Hamilton on the field for 3rd-and-9 in the fourth quarter against Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady?
Provided an opportunity to add a veteran rusher by the Texans, the Packers pounced, and now the depth at outside linebacker looks considerably more stable entering a tough stretch of games.