DE Brenton Cox showcases pass rush abilities during Packers’ minicamp

By: Paul Bretl 6/15/24

When it comes to evaluating the play of offensive and defensive lines, we won’t truly get a pulse on where these units stand until training camp arrives and the pads come on. But with that said, Packers’ second-year defensive end Brenton Cox impressed during minicamp.

During Wednesday’s practice in particular, there were two pass-rush reps from Cox in 11-on-11 drills that stood. One came against Andre Dillard and the other against Jordan Morgan. On both reps, Cox won with power, popping both tackles in the chest, knocking them off-balanced, and then beating them around the edge to get to the quarterback.

“One thing that he could always do is he can rush the passer,” said Matt LaFleur after practice, “and I think, again, we don’t have pads on, so it will really show itself as we get into training camp. But I think, that’s why he made such a great impression on us a year ago. Certainly the scheme’s a little bit different, and we’re just letting him pin his ears back and go and he’s embraced that.”

As an undrafted rookie in 2023 out of Florida, Cox’s ability to get after the quarterback earned him a roster spot last season. As the fifth-man in the edge rusher rotation, his playing time was limited, appearing in only three games defensively, totaling five snaps.

Like many NFL players entering their sophomore season, Cox benefits from having a full offseason to work on his craft rather than training for the NFL combine and doing interviews. There is also the added comfortability that comes from the experience gained over the last year and knowing what it takes to be a professional day in and day out.

“With B, it’s his confidence, having more reps,” said Rashan Gary. “He’s the type of guy you need to put him in there so he can feel more comfortable. The more comfortable he feels, the more splashy plays he has. Just his hungry and being more comfortable. Understanding he has a group of guys that just want to see him win. It don’t matter.”

Jeff Hafley’s defensive scheme should also suit Cox’s skill set quite well. Under Joe Barry, the defensive front was asked to read and then react. With Hafley, this is an attacking front, as defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich put it. The goal is for the defenders to get north and south and into the backfield as quickly as possible. Or, in short, go get the quarterback.

In a deep defensive end room that features Gary, Preston Smith, Lukas Van Ness, and JJ Enagbare, Cox may not be climbing the depth chart this season, but there certainly is the opportunity for his role to increase, specifically on obvious passing downs.

With the depth that the Packers have along the defensive front, coupled with the more aggressive play style that will be asked of this group, the need to rotate defenders more often to keep everyone fresh throughout the game will be required, potentially resulting in more reps for Cox if he can continue to build upon these recent performances during training camp.

“I think he’s got a bright future,” said GM Brian Gutekunst about Cox earlier this offseason. “He’s shown through college and his time with us that he can rush the passer. He’s got a lot of physical traits that we are looking for. I think he will be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”