Losing The Edge: Sacking Kampman Could Be Double-Edged Sword For Packers

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst INovember 14, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18: Aaron Kampman #74 of the Green Bay Packers sacks Duante Culpepper #11 of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 26-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When Aaron Kampman heard the Packers were switching to the 3-4 defense, he kept his mouth shut about his frustrations. As we all know, that was as good as saying, “I’m not on board.” Through eight games in 2009 it isn’t hard to see why.

Kampman has just 2.5 sacks and has been rendered useless on many passing downs, having to cover running backs and tight ends from his new linebacker position. Now, out with a concussion, Kampman will be replaced by Colorado rookie Brad Jones for Sunday’s key face-off with the Dallas Cowboys.

That is great news for Packer fans this week (“this week” is important).

Aaron Kampman is not an outside linebacker, not a very good one anyway. He should have his hand down as a 4-3 end because Kampman is a technician pass-rusher. That is to say he doesn’t beat tackles with speed or power, but rather by working them over and over all game long. He has great hands, quick feet, and no one will out-hustle him.

That used to be enough. It isn’t in this defense.  

Kampman is regarded as an elite pass-rusher even though he’s had double-digit sack numbers just twice in his career. Before his break-out season in 2006 Kampman had only 12.5 sacks in 48 career starts.  And since his career high 15.5 sack season in 2006, his numbers have gone from 12.5 in 2007 to 9.5 in 2008. He’s currently on pace to finish with just 7 in 2009.

The former Iowa Hawkeye will be 30 at the end of this month. He was still an elite pass-rusher despite the numbers last season, but how much longer can that continue? Late bloomers are tough to predict.

Despite Kampman’s frustration with it, this new defense has made light year strides against the run. Adrian Peterson was essentially a non-issue in both Vikings contests, and the Packers currently rank ninth in the league in rush yards allowed.

It wouldn’t matter if Kampman were playing or not, that number would likely be the same.

The problem this season is the pass-rush. The problem last season was the pass-rush. The problem next season will be the pass-rush if Aaron Kampman is still in Green Bay, assuming the Packers stick with their new defense and that isn’t necessarily a knock on Kampman.  

I’m not saying Brad Jones is the definitive answer either, I’m just saying he’s closer. 

Kampman does not have the agility to play in space against tackles. He beats them by getting them off-balance and working them for position. But when talking about Aaron Kampman’s skill set, “explosive” is not an appropriate word.

Brad Jones on the other hand, runs a sub 4.6 40. From a pure athletic standpoint, there just is no comparison.  

If you look at the elite defenses in the league, nearly all of them have an explosive pass-rusher. Teams like the Giants, Steelers, and Colts have a couple. That’s why they’re scary teams for opposing offenses.

The Packers are an edge rusher and an offensive tackle away from really being a contender in the NFC (let’s not forget a coach). Whether it’s the draft (There are probably seven or eight first round pass-rushers and a deep crop of tackles), or free agency, there are places to go to sure up this team.    

Kampman heads to free agency after this season, and will expect a big payday (that he’ll likely get). The smart move would have been to make a Jared Allen-type trade with Kampman months ago, ensuring the Packers would receive SOMETHING for their Pro Bowl pass-rusher. Now, he can walk away and head to say, the Vikings where he signed an offer sheet as a restricted free agent in 2005.

You’d like to keep Kampman because pass-rushers can take over a game. Just ask the Packer tackles. But in this defense, Kampman isn’t a game-changer at outside linebacker. In fact, he’s just barely average, particularly with his deficiencies in coverage.   

But whether you like it or not Packer fans, Dom Capers is here for a while. What’s more, it wouldn’t surprise is Ted Thompson hired him knowing Mike McCarthy may not be long for this world.

Kampman’s potential departure would open up a starting spot for someone who could be an impact player, but it also opens up the possibility of Kampman coming back to hurt the Packers, something Cheeseheads know all about this season.

The problem is Aaron Kampman can’t help the Packers much more this season and probably couldn’t in the near future either. Unfortunately for fans, he could certainly help someone else.