Green Bay drafted Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary with the No. 12 pick then traded up with Seattle to get Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. at No. 21. That comes after a free-agency wave that delivered edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith as well as safety Adrian Amos. SN’s NFL DRAFT HQ:Live pick tracker | Day 1 winners & losers | Day 2 mock draftThat should help fix a huge problem. Over the last three seasons, Green Bay ranks 29th in both points allowed (31.0 ppg) and pass defense (275.7 ypg) in that stretch. The Packers have the 26th-ranked defense in total yards in that stretch. It has been bad, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was retained after last season. The first-round picks give him more to work with in 2019. Gary is the boom-or-bust pick that will be under the microscope. He flashed the talent that made him the No. 1 recruit in the nation over three seasons at Michigan, but he also finished with just 9.5 sacks. He battled a shoulder injury in his junior season, but he also was in a scheme where he drew double teams – and blew a lot of them up. Gary did put on an impressive display at the NFL Combine, but he will be tasked with finishing those sacks for a franchise that let Clay Matthews Jr. and Nick Perry go this offseason. Gary, however, should have opportunities to shine on a defensive line that features Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. While the offseason narrative in Green Bay has centered around the rift between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, that was never the biggest impediment for the Packers getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010. The problem the last three years — including back-to-back losing seasons — has been a poor defense. Give general manager Brian Gutekunst and first-year coach Matt LaFleur credit. The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday showed the Packers are willing to take some chances to make that defense better. It is a risky pick, but with T.J. Hockenson and Devin Bush off the board it was the right pick for the Packers. Savage, meanwhile, fills a need at a position that has haunted the Packers since Nick Collins went down with a career-ending neck injury in 2011. The Maryland safety had seven interceptions and two picks sixes over two 50-plus tackle seasons for the Terps. That is a solid pick, even if the Packers reached up to get him. They need to find answers at safety, and Green Bay has burned through Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix since Collins went down, and now it’s Savage Jr.’s turn to perform with Amos and a quartet of Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jones and Josh Jackson which Green Bay spent their first- and second-round picks on the last two drafts.MORE: Cardinals set new NFL precedent in drafting Kyler MurrayThe Packers have to improve that pass defense in a division that features Mitchell Trubisky, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford. Gary and Savage should help make that happen. What’s next? Green Bay has not picked an offensive player in the first round in the last two drafts. But this was not the standard ho-hum pick-and-go-home-draft for Green Bay. Gutekunst and LaFleur have made it clear that a commitment to the defense should boost the new scheme on offense. That combination will give Rodgers the best chance to get back to the Super Bowl. That is the narrative worth paying attention to now.
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