GREEN BAY - Not so long ago, there were days when rookie outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell looked like a project who might — might — be able to contribute on special teams for the Green Bay Packers. He had long arms, good speed and no strength, a combination that translated to an underwhelming training camp for a third-round pick.
To imagine that, five weeks into the season, Fackrell would be among the team's most productive pass rushers would have been crazy. Yet here we are.
Through four games Fackrell has carved himself a niche role in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' defense. He is not a starter and not in the second unit — those pairings are Clay Matthews/Nick Perry and Datone Jones/Julius Peppers, respectively — but Fackrell receives a dozen or so snaps each week and continues to produce. He notched his second sack of the season against the New York Giants when he hauled down quarterback Eli Manning and, on the same play, forced a fumble.
"Dude was a beast," outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott said. "Guy comes to work, doesn’t say much and just does his job. As a teammate, personally, I’m proud of him. Guy came here since day one and just continues to make plays. He’s continued to get better like every day."
DOUGHERTY: Lacy in line for big role
D’AMATO: Rodgers' play still off
RELATED: Defense coming up big this year
INSIDER: Thumbs up to pass defense
Associate head coach/linebackers Winston Moss has spoken highly of Fackrell for weeks, almost since the start of the regular season. Moss was convinced Fackrell could help the Packers immediately and wanted him to be part of the regular rotation. It appears his inkling was right.
Fackrell lined up at left outside linebacker across from Bobby Hart, the replacement right tackle for the Giants. He relied on his patented speed rush — for a bull rush he needs to add strength — and beat Hart around the corner. Fackrell collided with Manning 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Manning promptly dropped the ball. Rookie Kenny Clark recovered the fumble.
It was his second sack of the year, the third-highest total on the team.
"It was actually Jayrone Elliott that forced him out of the pocket," Fackrell said. "I think (Manning) would have just stepped up in the pocket. (Elliott) made a nice inside move and basically forced him to roll out. I was right there, and luckily everybody else was flying to the ball and we got the ball back."
Clark recovered at the Giants' 31-yard line with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Five plays later, kicker Mason Crosby connected on a 44-yard field goal as time expired. The Packers went into halftime with a double-digit lead.
Fackrell resurfaced late in the fourth quarter. Again he lined up over Hart, again he got pressure on Manning. He lunged low as Manning attempted a pass to running back Paul Perkins, and Fackrell's disruption forced the ball to flutter aimlessly incomplete.
"I think we did a great job, and that’s something that we needed to do coming in," Fackrell said. "They have explosive receivers, so if we were going to just let them run around, there’s no way it was going to work. That was an emphasis that we put and I think we did a great job."