Brian Gutekunst Showing the Midas Touch With the Green Bay Packers Defense

Brian Gutekunst
Spread the love

The Green Bay Packers 3-0 record might have caught some people by surprise. But it is highly doubtful that it caught Brian Gutekunst by surprise. This past off-season, the second-year general manager utilized every possible tool he could to revitalize the Packers defensive roster. Through free agency and the NFL draft, Gutekunst brought in players he believed would bolster the Packers defense. So far, it appears he was right. Gutekunst has the Green Bay Packers headed in the right direction.

Brian Gutekunst is Revitalizing the Packers Defense

Ted Thompson was a very successful general manager for the Packers. However, Thompson didn’t do many favors for Brian Gutekunst when he departed as general manager.

Because Thompson rarely utilized free agency to bolster the Packers roster, he relied on the NFL draft. That process worked at one time for the Packers and Thompson. But when Thompson’s health started to falter and Russ Ball gained more personnel power, the Packers roster talent took a dip. By the time Thompson was pushed out as general manager after the 2017-2018 season, the roster was in dire need of a talent upgrade.

That is why Brian Gutekunst and his staff chose to make a big splash this off-season. Gutekunst learned under Thompson, so there was no doubt that he would utilize the draft. But Gutekunst also illustrated that he is his own man. He made some big splashes in free agency as well and it appears they are paying off in a big way.

Without the moves by Brian Gutekunst, it is highly doubtful that the Packers would be undefeated going into week four of the NFL season.

Signings of Smiths Paying Off Early

Brian Gutekunst and the Packers signed three key defensive free agents this past off-season. Out of those three, the two biggest were Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. While they came with big price tags, so far they have been the most valuable for the Packers.

Za’Darius Smith has brought much-needed leadership to the Packers defensive line and linebacker group. While his leadership was much needed, his production has been just as valuable.

With his ability to line up at multiple positions, he has allowed defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to utilize different defensive alignments.  By doing so, Pettine has been able to take advantage of matchups that favor Smith. In the Packers first three games, Smith has posted eight solo tackles, seven quarterback hits, and three sacks. His play alone has caused havoc, but it has also helped with freeing up his teammates along the defensive line.

One player who has benefitted mightily from Smith’s play is fellow outside linebacker and free-agent signee Preston Smith. While the signing of Za’Darius grabbed a lot of media attention this off-season, the signing of Preston has proven to be just as valuable.

In three games, Preston has posted eight solo tackles, seven quarterback hits, and four and a half sacks. He also caused a very crucial fumble against Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco in the Packers 27-16 week three victory. Preston isn’t just riding the coattails of Za’Darius. He is proving to be just as lethal rushing the passer as his teammate.

While the season is still early, the production of the Smiths is helping the Packers defense be one of the best units in the NFL. Both will need to stay healthy. If they are able to stay on the field, these two signings might turn out to best duo signings in the NFL from this past off-season.

Amos Proving to be a Rock for the Packers Secondary

When Brian Gutekunst was looking for a veteran safety to shore up the back of Pettine’s defense he didn’t have to look far. Signing Adrian Amos helped in two ways. Amos provides leadership and a work ethic the Packers safety position has been missing for years. It also helped weaken the Chicago Bears, Amos’s former team.

In the Packers opening week victory over the Bears, Amos intercepted a Mitchell Trubisky pass that helped seal a victory. While the interception was huge for the Packers, Amos ability to do the little things has helped the Packers secondary get back on track so far this season.

Amos might not be a flashy player, but he is the type of player that makes Pettine’s defense go.

Savage Displaying Playmaking ability

In one of his riskier off-season moves, Brian Gutekunst traded two fourth-round picks and the Packers 30th overall pick to move up to 21st in the first round of this past NFL draft. He then used the 21st overall pick to select Maryland safety Darnell Savage.

Giving up two fourth-round picks might not seem like much to the average fan. But they are pretty important when you are rebuilding a roster. But Gutekunst and his scouting staff believed that Savage and his athletic ability could be a major upgrade to the Packers secondary.

While Savage has had some miscues, like bad angles in route to ball carries, overall his play has been steady. This season, he has made 13 solo tackles and forced one fumble. Last week, against the Broncos he also notched his first interception as well.

Savage skyrocketed up a lot of draft boards this spring when he ran a 4.36 forty yard dash. His speed is an asset, there is no arguing that, but Savage isn’t just a fast athlete playing safety. So far he has shown that is a willing and capable tackler. With the presence of the veteran Amos at the one safety, Savage is allowed to be a playmaker, something the Packers haven’t had since Nick Collins was playing safety for the Packers.

Gary Starting to Contribute

When Brian Gutekunst made outside linebacker Rashan Gary the 12th overall pick in this past NFL draft a lot of Packers fans weren’t pleased. Gary is an uber-talented athlete but lacked production while at the University of Michigan. While some Packers fans weren’t pleased, it appears that Gutekunst had a plan for the former Wolverine.

With the Smiths locked in at the two starting outside linebacker positions, the Packers are able to groom Gary along slowly. Like with Za’Darius Smith, Gary has the ability to lineup inside in certain pass-rush packages. He also has the benefit of working with outside linebackers coach Mike Smith. Smith did an impressive job when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs. His coaching ability will help Gary develop and hopefully achieve most from his athletic ability.

Gary didn’t do much in the Packer victories over the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. But last week against the Broncos, Gary showed up. He registered one solo tackle, recovered a fumble, and registered his first professional quarterback sack.

While the Packers were hoping to bring Gary along slowly, they might have to scrap that plan. Going into this week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, both Za’Darius Smith and Kyler Fackrell are listed as questionable. If one or both aren’t able to go, Gary will be forced into extensive playing time.

So Far So Good

There is still a lot of football to be played. But if the Packers defense continues to play as they have, Brian Gutekunst might be on his way to being the next great Packers general manager.

He might not have full control of the football operations like Thompson and Ron Wolf once did, but he is making the most of what he can control. His off-season moves have illustrated he has a plan. That plan, so far, has paved the Packers to be 3-0. If things continue like they have so far, the Packers might get back to the level Packers fans are accustomed to them being.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images