The Green Bay Packers began the offseason with an aggressive free agency period, vastly improving their defense by signing Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith. With the pass rush and secondary upgraded, Green Bay must find a way to rebuild their linebacker group, as Clay Matthews, Jake Ryan, and Nick Perry have all moved on.
It’s unlikely that LSU’s Devin White will be on the board when the Packers pick at 12th overall, but Devin Bush from Michigan should be available, and would be an excellent addition to a young and improving defense.
Let’s take a look at three reasons Bush would be a perfect addition for the Packers.
There are plenty of good run-stopping linebackers in the league, but many are not good against the pass, which greatly reduces their effectiveness and often causes defenses to have to replace them with an extra defensive back on third downs. Bush doesn’t have this issue. He isn’t stellar in man, but in zone he displays excellent awareness and has the athleticism to keep up with running backs.
Speaking of athleticism, that’s why Devin White is a likely top-10 pick. He has All-Pro potential if coached correctly. But is there really that much of a difference between him an Bush? Here are how their Combine numbers compare.
40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds
Bench press: 22 reps
Vertical jump: 39.5″
Broad jump: 118″
Three-cone: 7.07 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.17 seconds
40-yard dash: 4.43 seconds
Bench press: 21 reps
Vertical jump: 40.5 inches
Broad jump: 124″
Three-cone: 6.93 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.23 seconds
If anything, Bush is a better athlete. Bush is also a much better tackler at this point than White, as White has been playing linebacker for just three years. When White is talked about as having a very high ceiling, it’s unfair to not include Bush in the same conversation.
2. Pass rushing
Getting pressure on the quarterback should be the priority for defenses, and the Packers realized that they needed to improve in that area. If your linebackers can apply pressure well, you’re in good shape.
Kyler Fackrell had 10.5 sacks from the OLB spot in 2018 and adding Bush would make the position group that much stronger. Bush finished with 10 sacks in his two years of starting, and utilizes both a bull rush and great bend around the edge. He excels at knifing through the line and quickly disrupting the timing of a play. His closing speed is excellent, and not many NFL quarterbacks will be able to get away from him.
1. Run support
Bush’s vision and speed also make him very effective against the run. His size does allow him to get bullied by physical linemen, but he possesses good strength to shed blocks and can improve in this area by playing with better hand technique and keeping blockers from getting their hands on him. He can diagnose plays and get into the backfield in a hurry, and has the range to make stops from sideline to sideline.
Green Bay has run a 3-4 defense for many years, but it may be time to switch schemes to a 4-3. Bush can play inside in a 3-4, but he would be best served to use his speed and athleticism as a Will in a 4-3. Blake Martinez can handle the Mike duties, and Fackrell could play Sam. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith would make good pass-rushing ends, and Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels would combine to form one of the best interior defensive lines in the league. That’s a very good front-seven, which would help out the secondary immensely. Signing a free agent like Zach Brown for linebacker depth would also be a good idea, and the Packers could use the rest of the draft (which includes a total of six picks in the top 120) to improve their secondary and receiving corps.
Aaron Rodgers may be nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, but Green Bay is correctly doing everything they can to make the most of his final years at the top of his game. Taking Devin Bush would greatly improve the defense, and would still give the Packers plenty of picks to make their offense better.
One year after a disappointing 6-9-1 season, a strong draft could make Green Bay a legitimate Super Bowl contender once again.