Lack of pass rush killing defense

With a total of two sacks between Green Bay‚s three starting pass-rushing linemen, it was a severe blow to the Packers when cornerback Mike McKenzie was forced to leave the game Sunday with back spasms. Without McKenzie, Kansas City‚s Trent Green was in position to pick apart the Packers, and that‚s exactly what happened.<p>

Hopefully for the Packers‚ sake, McKenzie will recover and be ready to play this Sunday against the Rams in St. Louis. At this point McKenzie and cornerback Al Harris are Green Bay‚s most valuable players on defense because of the Packers‚ inability to generate any kind of pass rush between Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Joe Johnson and Cletidus Hunt. Those three were expected to dominate opposing offensive lines, but they have been dominated instead.

Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell found a way to get around Green Bay‚s lack of pressure from his front four by blitzing defensive backs and linebackers in victories over the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks. That worked because McKenzie and Harris are two of the best in the league when left one-on-one with opposing receivers.

When McKenzie left the game against the Chiefs, however, the Packers were forced to insert Bhawoh Jue at left cornerback. In turn, Green Bay was unable to blitz as much and, as has been the case all season, Green Bay‚s front four was unable to put any kind of pressure on Green, who responded with one of the best games of his career.

Todd Korth, Managing Editor

After passing for just 17 yards in the third quarter, Green burned the McKenzie- and pass-rush-less Packers for 173 yards in the fourth quarter. He delivered the dagger in overtime by tossing a 51-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Kennison, who torched Jue along the Packers‚ sideline. Green finished the day with 400 yards passing, three touchdowns and a sizzling 111.3 passer rating.

Gbaja-Biamila, despite getting double teamed, is getting some pressure on quarterbacks, but has not been able to rack up the sacks at the pace he has in recent seasons. It would seem logical that if Gbaja-Biamila is getting double-teamed that Hunt or Johnson would come through, but that hasn‚t happened, either. Gbaja-Biamila has two sacks. Hunt and Johnson have none.

The Packers lost Johnson late in the first quarter against the Chiefs. The veteran strained his right quadriceps and had to be carted off the field. It was uncertain how severe the injury was immediately after the game. Of course it has been uncertain since the beginning of this season if Johnson will ever come close to being the player he was in New Orleans. Since signing a $33 million contract with Green Bay last year, Johnson has been a major disappointment, and there haven‚t been many signs of hope.

Hunt hasn‚t been productive, either, when it comes to dropping the quarterback. The closest he came against Kansas City was grabbing Green‚s facemask on the first play of a drive that allowed the Chiefs to tie the game with 1 second left in regulation. The Packers were penalized 15 yards, allowing the Chiefs to move from their own 10 to the 29.

Green Bay doesn‚t exactly have a boatload of pass-rushers available on the bench. Rod Walker is more of a nose tackle than a defensive end. He filled in for Johnson against the Chiefs but was unable to get to Green. Jamal Reynolds was given yet another chance Sunday to prove he belongs in the NFL, playing on passing downs, but he continues to be invisible. With a lack of moves, Reynolds has struggled getting around offensive linemen since the day he was drafted by the Packers.

If the Packers are going to have any hope of doing better than .500 this season, they have to generate a pass rush from their front four. Unfortunately, Green Bay‚s hands are tied to their starters because of the enormous contracts that they received. Giving Chukie Nwokorie (shoulder) and Aaron Kampman (ankle) more playing time when they are ready to go might be an option. Both are expected to return soon.

In the meantime, all the Packers can hope for is that McKenzie and Harris stay healthy.

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report. Comments or story ideas are welcomed. E-mail him at

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