Recipe is there for Year 2 leap from Packers DE Lukas Van Ness (2024)

The recipe for a Year 2 jump for Green Bay Packers defensive end Lukas Van Ness is certainly there, and the opportunity for that to happen is two-fold.

The first part of the equation that will help facilitate a potential leap in 2024 is the experience that Van Ness gained during his first NFL season, along with having a full offseason to focus on his craft rather than prepping for the NFL draft, which was the case last year.

That comfortability in knowing what it takes on a daily basis to be prepared to compete on Sundays, in addition to having adjusted to the play speed of the NFL level, are important behind-the-scenes elements that can play an integral role in a young player’s development.

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Even over the course of Van Ness’ rookie season, we saw this taking place as his production significantly improved down the stretch. Through Week 11, Van Ness had seven pressures, according to PFF, but five of those came Week 1 against the Bears, meaning that there eight games where he didn’t record a single pressure.

From Week 12 and on, however, Van Ness had 15 pressures and five sacks in the Packers’ final nine games. During that span, Van Ness would rank 34th out of 113 eligible edge rushers in PFF’s pass-rush productivity metric.

“Biggest jump in my opinion in my years and time of being in the NFL is from your rookie to sophom*ore year,” said defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich.

“Every guy that you see that luckily I’ve been around, I say I, we, us, organization, coaches, from Year 1 to Year 2 that is when that light, that is when it clicks. Because at this level as you guys have heard me say, it’s knowing about you’re matchup. It’s knowing about protections. It’s knowing about the scheme. You’ve got to know where the fit is.”

If that experience gained is the first element in what hopefully becomes a breakout year for Van Ness, Part II is the new defense being implemented under Jeff Hafley, which should fit Van Ness’ skill set quite well.

The Packers edge rushers – or defensive ends as they’re called now – will primarily line up with their hands in the dirt, which is how Van Ness spent the majority of snaps while in college at Iowa. So there is now added comfortability for him.

This is also a defensive scheme that has a more simplified approach for the defensive front. Under Joe Barry, the Packers utilized a two-gap scheme in the trenches. With each defender responsible for two gaps, it was their job to read what the offensive line was doing and what was taking place in the backfield and then fill the more vulnerable gap that they were responsible for.

In Hafley’s system, however, each member of the defensive line has only one gap to be concerned with in what Rebrovich has called an “attack front.” It’s not my intention to oversimplify what these players are asked to do, but in short, it’s their job to get off the ball as quickly as they can and go and get the football.

“I’m excited about Lukas,” said Matt LaFleur, “and I think a lot of times you see a lot of those guys that are pass-rushers take a huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2. So he’s a guy that’s put in a ton of work. I think his body looks great. I think it’s unfortunate that he broke his thumb, but he’s getting more time out there, and we’re, he’s somebody that we’re certainly excited about.”

Along with Van Ness, LaFleur really likes the depth that the Packers have along the defensive front. This was a unit that ran hot and cold last season, totaling seven games where they pressured the quarterback on more than 45 percent of his dropbacks along with seven games where they generated pressure on fewer than 30 percent of the snaps.

A Year 2 leap from Van Ness, which many successful NFL players make, can go a long way in adding consistency to this pass rush unit, and the opportunity to do so appears to be available.

Recipe is there for Year 2 leap from Packers DE Lukas Van Ness (2024)
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