In Midst of Quiet Season, Fackrell Calls Clinching Play ‘Huge’
Last season, Kyler Fackrell magically appeared on the Green Bay Packers’ defensive scene.
Just as quickly, Fackrell disappeared.
After posting 10.5 sacks last season, Fackrell has one-half sack this season. He’s gone from bright beacon in a woeful outside linebacker group to a forgotten member of a strong outside linebacker group. However, Fackrell made one of the plays of the season to help clinch the Packers’ 24-16 victory over Carolina. On the final play, he blew into the backfield and helped stop Christian McCaffrey just short of the goal line.
“It was a little hectic,” Fackrell said on Monday following the team’s bye week. “We had three outside linebackers and just one D-lineman, which is why I think they decided to run it. I had to flip over to the other side at the last second. Kenny (Clark) was calling out that it was going to be a run; he got some tip. I shot the gap inside and, thankfully, Preston (Smith) was on his legs and was able to keep him from getting that second surge.”
Clark said the tip was what wasn’t said by quarterback Kyle Allen before the final play of an 18-play drive in which 16 of the first 17 snaps were passes. Clark got out of his stance and alerted his teammates, inside linebacker Blake Martinez shifted Fackrell into position, and Fackrell knifed past left guard Greg Van Roten. Due to the late defensive shift, Fackrell agreed Van Roten might not have known he was there.
“He might not have. I literally got there right as they snapped the ball,” Fackrell said.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith was happy to get the win and happy for Fackrell.
Watch: The clinching play
“I just love Kyler as a person,” Smith said. “He’s one of the brightest kids in the room. You’re talking about a guy that started last year and had a lot of success, and with Z and Preston, he’s still getting 25-30 snaps. He grades out the highest every week. He’s just a solid, smart football player who is so valuable to this team. I did tell him the other day he’s missed his sacks. He’s missed five sacks this year. I told him, he’s a Mormon, he needs to go to the temple. He needs to go pray.
“I’m excited for him. That’s a big play for him. That’s just who he is. He can tell you before the snap whether it’s going to be a run or pass, and a damn good chance he’s going to tell you what run it’s going to be. When you get guys who do that and take our time and study an offense and its DNA, you’re going to be a damn good football player. You’re going to be a damn good football player in this league. Kyler is up there with the best I’ve ever coached.”
Quietly because of the near-goose egg in the sack column, Fackrell’s actually had a solid year rushing the passer. According to Pro Football Focus, Fackrell has 15 total pressures and ranks 39th of 110 edge defenders who have rushed the passer at least 100 times. In 16 games last season, Fackrell had 21 total pressures and finished 30th of 110 edge rushers who rushed the passer at least 125 times.
Still, it’s been a mentally challenging season for Fackrell following last year’s breakout. In 2018, he played 623 defensive snaps. In 2019, due to the additions of Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith and first-round pick Rashan Gary, he’s on pace to play 379 defensive snaps. In that regard, the big play against Carolina provided a lift.
“It was huge,” he said. “Obviously, it wasn’t just me but, yeah, I was glad to be in there, too, at the end of the game. It was a crazy ending.”
Making matters worse for Fackrell is he’s in the final season of his four-year rookie deal. As his splash production dwindles, so, too, does his chance of pocketing a lucrative long-term contract with the Packers or elsewhere. For what it’s worth, Mike Smith – in the middle of a question about Gary – said Fackrell could “start for 31 other teams.” Whether he’s viewed that way remains to be seen but it was a vote of confidence from an excellent position coach.
“That means a lot. I appreciate that,” Fackrell said. “I’ve really enjoyed Coach Smith. I’ve learned a lot from him. Wherever I end up, if I’m here or somewhere else moving forward, I’ll definitely keep in touch with him because of the coaching and the way he goes about pass rush and coaching the outside linebacker position. I really enjoy it. So, it means a lot. I’m grateful that he feels that way.”