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Packers' edge rushers to have depth tested

Second-year pro Kingsley Enagbare out due to injury

LB Lukas Van Ness
LB Lukas Van Ness

GREEN BAY – It was one of the Packers' only position groups that hadn't dealt with any significant injury issues this season.

But now it's the edge rushers' turn to have their depth tested.

Without getting into details, Head Coach Matt LaFleur indicated Monday that second-year outside linebacker Kingsley Enagbare sustained a major knee injury in Dallas that will, at minimum, end his season.

Enagbare had played 40 of the defense's 90 snaps Sunday, plus seven snaps on special teams, before exiting in the fourth quarter. The 2022 fifth-round pick out of South Carolina had played in every game this season, ranking tied for second on the team with eight tackles for loss, plus two sacks.

"I just love his play style, his relentless pursuit of the football," LaFleur said. "There's a number of examples in that (Dallas) game of just the physicality that we preach, the hustle to the ball."

He added the whole team is "hurting for him" and trying to support him while working to continue the team's playoff run, which will likely require rookie first-round pick Lukas Van Ness to take on a greater workload, and possibly thrust undrafted rookie Brenton Cox Jr. into action.

Green Bay's edge rushers had experienced minimal health concerns to this point, and the group's steady rotation had proven productive.

Rashan Gary played limited snaps early in the season in his comeback from a torn ACL before ramping up to a full workload, while Preston Smith has been his usual durable self, not missing a game despite dealing with a minor ankle injury of late.

Enagbare averaged just over 26 snaps per game on defense in the regular season, while Van Ness averaged just over 21 in recording four sacks, eight TFLs and 10 QB hits.

Van Ness added a fifth sack in Dallas, giving him four over his last seven games. He's also had multiple QB hits in three of his last eight contests as his production climbed in the second half of his rookie campaign.

LaFleur noted the Packers are using Van Ness differently than he was used in college at Iowa, and that created a learning curve he's continuing to traverse.

"He's really shown progress, and that's what you want to see from your young players," LaFleur said. "I think the more he plays, the better he gets."

If Cox gets an opportunity, it will be his first notable one since making the 53-man roster out of training camp. Undrafted after being dismissed from two college programs (Georgia and Florida), Cox was a model teammate in earning a roster spot with a strong preseason, but he's played a total of just 11 defensive snaps in four games. He's been a gameday inactive 13 times, including the playoff opener, and dressed but did not play in one other contest.

The Packers also have two options at edge rusher on the practice squad in second-year pro Arron Mosby and undrafted rookie Keshawn Banks. International development player Kenneth Odumegwu is on the practice squad as well but is well behind the other two in terms of potentially being elevated.

"It's going to be the next man up," LaFleur said. "That's just the mentality and the reality of the National Football League. Another guy gets an opportunity and we'll see where we're at, at the end of the week."

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