The former Houston Texans edge rusher delivered four pressures over 31 snaps in his debut with the Packers on Sunday against Washington.
Mercilus signed with the Packers on Thursday, practiced on Thursday and Friday and was active on Sunday. And he played a big role. Without Preston Smith available, the Packers had Mercilus on the field for 23 pass-rushing snaps. Per Pro Football Focus, all four of the pressures from Mercilus were hurries.
“I’m a big fan of the Mercilus signing, for a number of different reasons,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Bringing in a stud like Whitney, who is motivated, can still play at a high level, I really like that signing.”
On one play, Mercilus won against left tackle Charles Leno with an inside move and hurried Taylor Heinicke into an incompletion.
Ben Fennell of CBS and NFL Network had the end zone view of one of the other pressures:
Alright there, Whitney Mercilus! Nice spin vs Leno… Making his GB debut with 31 snaps yesterday vs WFT
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 25, 2021
“He’s a dog. His knowledge of the game, what he sees. He’s a smooth guy, man,” outside linebacker Rashan Gary said.
Mercilus arrived in Green Bay with only five total pressures during his first six games in Houston. Playing opposite Gary and alongside Kenny Clark opened up one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities for the veteran, who is clearly energized by the chance to play for a contender and stand up and rush again, especially after transitioning to defensive end to start 2021 with the one-win Texans.
Thanks mostly to Mercilus, Gary and Kenny Clark, Heinicke was under pressure on 19 of 47 dropbacks on Sunday, per PFF. The Packers didn’t have either starting edge rusher – Za’Darius Smith is on injured reserve, and Preston Smith missed a game for the first time in his NFL career – but the ascension of Gary as an elite player and the addition of Mercilus helped keep the pass-rush disruptive.
The Packers could get Preston Smith back on Thursday night, but the defense now has the necessary depth at edge rusher to survive an injury or two. As so many recent Super Bowl champions have proved, a team can never have enough quality pass-rusher, and it appears the Packers added another one in Mercilus.