If Packers can slow Bears run game, pass-rush will have opportunity to make plays vs. Justin Fields

If the Green Bay Packers’ defense can put the Chicago Bears offense in passing situations, the defensive front should have the opportunity to really get after Justin Fields.

Getting after the quarterback is an area that the Packers must improve on this season after ranking 22nd in total pressures generated last season. A good start, of course, is getting Rashan Gary back, who according to Matt LaFleur will be on a pitch count, but this is also a much deeper edge rusher group than what we saw this time a year ago, along with the interior defensive line coming off a strong performance this summer.

We’ve seen JJ Enagbare take what could be a big jump forward in his second NFL season. Justin Hollins now has had a full offseason in the Joe Barry defense under his belt, while the Packers added rookies Lukas Van Ness and Brenton Cox to the mix as well. As Matt LaFleur said recently, this room is “loaded,” and it’s going to be very competitive when it comes to earning snaps this season.

The interior defensive line, meanwhile, is playing a lot faster this season and is shooting gaps rather than eating up space, which has resulted in a more consistent push this summer against both the run and the pass. Kenny Clark would say on Monday that this unit has a new plan of attack for 2023.

Although the Bears have a very strong run game that the Packers will have to contend with, their offensive line unit has uncertainty as well, in part due to injuries. Recently, Courtney Cronin, who covers the Bears for ESPN, named the uncertainty of the offensive line as the “biggest weakness” on this team.

“The Bears had their projected starting five ready to go by the end of the spring only for an injury to left guard Teven Jenkins to force a shuffle up front. All of their starters aside from left tackle Braxton Jones have missed time in training camp due to injury. The Bears are banking on better pass protection to help Fields and the passing offense take the next step, but these injury setbacks could prove detrimental for achieving that feat.”

Overall, the Bears offensive line ranked 16th in pass-blocking grade last season by PFF’s metrics, but Fields was still sacked 55 times, which was tied for the most in football. However, many of those sacks fell on Fields’ shoulders, and not the offensive line, with him holding on to the football for far too long. His average time to throw of 3.45 seconds was the longest in the NFL by nearly half a second.

With that said, the Packers have to earn the opportunity to get after the quarterback by stopping the run on early downs. This is a Chicago offense that had Fields rush for over 1,100 yards last season, while Khalil Herbert averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and the Bears also added Texas running back Roschon Johnson in the draft. The Packers are going to have their hands full in this regard, and priority number one for this defense needs to be slowing the Bears’ run game.

However, if they are able to put the Chicago offense behind the sticks and in obvious passing situations, this Green Bay pass rush — that is hopefully improved — should have the chance to wreak some havoc in the backfield as the Bears deal with uncertainty on the offensive line and a quarterback that tends to hold on to the football.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire