Ranking the Best Pass Rushers in Packers History

The Green Bay Packers franchise has had some outstanding pass rushers during their illustrious history. Although sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, we look back at the greatest pass rushers in Packers franchise history.

The Green Bay Packers franchise has had some outstanding pass rushers during their illustrious history. Although sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, we look back at the greatest pass rushers in Packers franchise history.

Keep in mind that only a player’s time with the Packers is considered here. Our rankings are based on a combination of impact and longevity. Again, numbers for players who played before 1982 are unofficial and/or incomplete.

10. Bryce Paup (1990-94)

Paup put together four strong seasons of rushing the passer from his outside linebacker position in the early 90s. The former Northern Iowa star had his most productive season in 1993 when he totaled 11 sacks. He earned Pro Bowl honors after the 1994 season when he added 7.5 more.

Paup had good speed off the edge and was a tenacious rusher. In addition to rushing the passer, his speed allowed him to go a good job of covering receivers when called upon.

9. Tony Bennett (1990-93)

The Packers selected Bennett with the 18th overall selection in the 1990 NFL Draft. The former Ol’ Miss star established himself as a premier pass rusher in his second season with the team, recording 13 sacks in 1991 and a career-high 13.5 in 1992.

He recovered three fumbles in 1992 including one he returned for a touchdown in the Packers Week 13 38-10 win over the Lions.

Bennett finished his career ranked fourth on the Packers all-time official sack list with 36. He finished his career with the Indianapolis Colts.

8. Aaron Kampman (2002-09)

Defensive end Aaron Kampman started off slowly as a pass rusher but eventually became a two-time Pro Bowler for his ability to sack the quarterback.

The Iowa product’s best season came in 2006 when he had a career-high 15.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and had one fumble recovery. He recorded a pair of three-sack games that season including some that were crucial to the Packers 9-7 win over the Vikings in Week 15.

Kampman was 6’4” and 260 pounds, not heavy for a defensive end, but he used his speed and determination to get to opposing quarterbacks consistently.

He spent eight seasons with the Packers, starting in 104 games and recorded 54 sacks before finishing his career with the Jaguars.

7. Tim Harris (1986-90)

Lanky Tim Harris was a major force on the Packers defense in the late 80s. He recorded 13.5 sacks in 1988 before adding a career-best 19.5 sacks in 1989, the year the Pack surprised everybody by finishing 10-6. His best game came in Week 4 when he recorded four sacks in the Pack’s 23-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors for his outstanding performance that season.

Harris was quick off the edge and used his long arms to power past blockers and get to the quarterback. He recorded two safeties in 1988 and scored a touchdown on a blocked punt return in the Pack’s 34-14 win in Minnesota.

6. Ezra Johnson (1977-1987)

Big Ezra Johnson spent 11 seasons on the Packers defensive line and is officially credited with 41.5 sacks although his first five years with the team were before the sack became recognized as an official statistic so they aren’t included in his career totals.

The Packers drafted Johnson in the first round of the 1977 draft out of Morris Brown. He became a full-time starter in his second season with the team and earned Pro Bowl recognition after unofficially recording 20.5 sacks. He started the season strong, sacking Greg Landry of the Lions five times in the Packers 13-7 win in the season opener at the Silverdome.

Johnson’s best official sack total came in 1983 when he recorded 14.5 sacks including three in a 31-28 Week 14 win over the Bears.

Johnson had outstanding quickness and was excellent in pursuit. After leaving Green Bay, he finished his career by playing two seasons each with the Oilers and Colts. Johnson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1997.

5. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (2000-2008)

KGB spent nine seasons with the Packers and retired as the team’s official all-time leader in sacks with 74.5.

The former San Diego State star had four straight seasons with at least 10 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2003 campaign.

His best season came in 2001 when he recorded 13.5 sacks despite not starting and often coming into the game in obvious passing situations.

Gbaja-Biamila had a 72-yard pick six off Jim Miller of the Bears in the Packers 34-21 win in Week 5 of the 2002 season.

His quickness and hunger to get to the football helped him force 17 fumbles during his NFL career and recover seven more.

KGB was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2013.

4. Henry Jordan (1959-69)

Although Henry Jordan played before sacks were an official statistic, the quick defensive tackle was one of the Packers best all-time pass rushers.

Jordan joined the Packers in 1959 after spending two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.  He was a five-time All Pro and a four time Pro Bowl selection. He was also a key contributor to the Packers five championship teams under Vince Lombardi.

In the 1967 playoffs against the Rams, Jordan had one of his biggest games. He sacked Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel 3.5 times as the Packers defeated the Rams 28-7. Jordan was also credited with 1.5 sacks in the first Super Bowl against the Chiefs.

Jordan was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1977 at the age of 42.

3. Clay Matthews (2009-2018)

Clay Matthews had an instant impact in Green Bay after the Packers selected him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of USC, recording 10 sacks as a rookie.

Matthews came from a football family with his grandfather, father and uncle all having played extensively in the NFL.

“The Claymaker” earned six Pro Bowl berths in 10 seasons with the Packers and was named All Pro after the 2010 season. He is the Packers official all-time sacks leader with 83.5 including a career-high 13.5 in 2010.

Matthews showed his unselfishness by moving to inside linebacker in 2014 and 2015 when injuries and a lack of depth at that position created a big need for the team. This cost him chances to rush the passer but helped the team win football games.

Matthews’ most famous moment came in Super Bowl XLV when he forced a fumble by Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall in the fourth quarter which helped the Pack to a 31-25 win and their most recent championship.

Matthews signed with the Los Angeles Rams before the 2019 season and is now an unrestricted free agent.

2. Reggie White (1993-1998)

Few players changed the direction of the Green Bay Packers franchise more than Reggie White. “The Minister of Defense” signed a free agent deal with the Packers in 1993, showing that the league’s smallest market could compete for free agents and changing the perception of Green Bay among African American athletes.

White played six seasons with the Packers and totaled 68.5 sacks. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in every season he played with Green Bay and was twice named All Pro.

In Super Bowl XXXI, White sacked New England’s Drew Bledsoe three times late in the game to help seal the Packers 35-21 victory. He had eight total postseason sacks during his tenure in Green Bay and the Packers made the playoffs every season he was with the team.

White retired as the NFL’s official all-time sack leader. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sadly, White died in 2004 at the age of 43.

1. Willie Davis (1960-1969)

The Packers acquired Grambling alum Willie Davis in a trade with the Cleveland Browns prior to the 1960 season. Davis went on to become a five-time All Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection en route to a Hall of Fame career with the Packers.

“Dr. Feelgood” weighed only 243 pounds but his quickness helped him become one of the top pass rushers in NFL history. Although sacks were not an official statistic when Davis played in the NFL, John Turney of the Professional Football Researchers Association estimates that Davis had at least 100 sacks during his time with the Packers and possibly more than 120. He also holds the Packers career record with 21 fumble recoveries.

Davis played his best in big games. He recorded 1.5 sacks in Super Bowl I against the Chiefs and three sacks in Super Bowl II against Oakland. In all, Davis was a part of five championship teams in during the Lombardi Era.

Davis was a leader on the Green Bay defense and in the community. He went on to a successful business career after retiring from football in 1969.

Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. He died on April 15, 2020, at the age of 85.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (44)

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

June 06, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Gil, thanks for posting those stats. Very interesting.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 01:16 pm

Thanks for commetning, Ferrari-Driver. Glad you enjoyed it.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 07, 2020 at 10:56 pm

Toss in Ted Hendricks for the year rental.

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NickPerry's picture

June 06, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for including Ezra Johnson Gil. Many of our younger readers here might not recognize his name but he was a force on a LOT of crappy Packers teams.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 01:22 pm

Yeah, because he played on teams that struggled, Ezra often gets overlooked. He was a great pass rusher and a long-time Packer. Thanks for commenting and glad I'm not the only one who remembers Ezra Johnson.

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dobber's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:35 pm

He was a character, and one of my favorite Packers. I'd put him ahead of CMIII at #3 on this list.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:41 pm

I remember during the 1980 preseason, Ezra got fined for eating a hot dog on the sidelines late in the game. A banner at the next home game against Chicago (actually the Chester Marcol touchdown game) read "Ezra Eats Bear Meat." He was a darn good pass rusher and I think his place in Packers history would have been much higher if he played on some better teams. Thanks for commenting, dobber.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:07 pm

Nick,
I was a 'huge' Ezra fan. My wife liked Butler!

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Butler was also a good player. The Packers certainly missed him in 1983 when he signed with the USFL. Thanks for sharing KnockTheSnotOutOfYou.

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JerseyAl's picture

June 06, 2020 at 12:51 pm

I have to say, this is a really good list and properly ordered. Although if somebody wanted to flip Reggie and Willie, I could live with that.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 01:24 pm

Thanks, Al. I could live with it too. It was a tough decision to make but Davis' longevity with the franchise and his consistent performance over that time period gave him a slight edge in the end. I wish we had complete stats for Davis and all players who sacked the QB before 1982. Always good to hear from you, Al.

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frankohodge's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:18 pm

But we agree on seeing Davis in first place.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Thanks, so do I.

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crayzpackfan's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:08 pm

I have an affectation for Bryce Paup being that he’s one year older, grew up (Iowa) just 90 miles away from me and played college ball at UNI. I played on a high school team during that same period of time that won 3 state titles in a row. Never played against him as he was in a larger school. But everyone certainly knew who he was. A real effort, overachiever for sure. Fun article. Thank you for that.

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frankohodge's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:16 pm

I was long, long gone by then, but Paup was likely the greatest man ever (after) to come from Greene County.

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:48 pm

Cool. Any other well known people from there?

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 02:44 pm

Thanks for sharing, crazypackfan. I always liked Paup as well. Came across as a hard working guy and he really developed into a good football player. Thanks for commenting and glad you enjoyed the article.

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mbpacker's picture

June 06, 2020 at 04:18 pm

Thanks for a trip down sack lane! I wonder who would be the fastest 40 time among this list? Clay?

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 04:21 pm

Not sure. Clay? Ezra? KGB? A lot of these guys were fast off the edge. Good question, tough to answer because numbers for some of the old timers are harder to find. Thanks for the comment, mbpacker.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:10 pm

The 40 yard doesn't matter. Who has the fastest first step and quickest in that 3 to 4 yard spurt?

Having said that there has never been anyone like Reggie White. The guy was incredibly strong and would throw OT's all over the place. Unbelievably strong and a heck of a player!

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:13 pm

He was a special player to watch. A rare, once in a generation type player. So glad the Packers had him for six season.

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nostradanus's picture

June 06, 2020 at 05:50 pm

Good stuff Gil thx

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GilMartin's picture

June 06, 2020 at 07:08 pm

Thanks, nostradanus. Glad you enjoyed it.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 06, 2020 at 07:14 pm

I know I'm not alone in believing the 11th spot on this list will be forever held for Dave Roller. ROH-LER! ROH-LER!

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Roller was so fun to watch. Quick and strong and genuinely seemed to enjoy playing the game. Thanks for commenting, LeotisHarris.

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Since'61's picture

June 07, 2020 at 07:24 pm

Agree with list and the order. Tough call between Reggie and Willie, but I agree with putting Willie first due to the length of his Packers career and due to him playing in an era when sacks were not counted as stats. Nice job Gil. Thanks, Since ‘61

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Thanks, Since'61. Glad you enjoyed the article and always good to hear from you.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 06, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Willie Davis sure looked bigger than 243 and definitely played bigger. First thought that popped up in my mind was, few if any players I remember, had any excess weight with Lombardi pushing them. Big time player.

Good to see Ezras name, and looking at Reggie's years he was just such a consistent force. Some great players here and some, just very good, to be honest.

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dobber's picture

June 07, 2020 at 10:44 am

Remember, too, that players just weren't as big then as they are now.

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Very true. A 275 pound player was considered huge in the 60s and for most of the 70s.

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Agree, some just very good, but the list was the top 10. Davis certainly did play bigger than 243. In August, all the Lombardi Packers were in shape, no doubt. Thanks for commenting, Tundraboy.

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Stroh's picture

June 08, 2020 at 12:07 am

Davis and Robinson who played LB next to him, were basically identical is size. Both were 6'3 and 245ish. Robinson was the biggest LB (bigger than Nitschke) on the team snd probably in the NFL at the time.

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mnbadger's picture

June 07, 2020 at 09:21 am

Hard to argue with any of the picks, but Dave Robinson has to be on the list somewhere, even though he was more of a traditional linebacker instead of just a pass rusher. He created havoc across the LOS, especially tough against screen passes. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

June 07, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Always been a big Dave Robinson fan and he's a classy guy as well. Because he was more of a traditional linebacker, he didn't make the list but yes, he is an all-time great LB and earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. Thanks for commenting mnbadger.

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Stroh's picture

June 07, 2020 at 08:32 pm

Both Ezra and Tim Harris were far superior to KGB. I would have them both in the top 5 right alongside Matthews. neither ever had any help from others pass rushing and oth wre much better run defeders, particularly Harris.

Harris was partially to blame for the bust that became Tony Mandarich. Harris absolutely desroyed mandarich's fragile confidence post steroids.

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GilMartin's picture

June 09, 2020 at 11:50 am

I wish Ezra's stats were complete. I remember 1978 and what a force he was for that defense. 20.5 sacks unofficially. Harris was the Packers defense when he was there, but he wasn't there very long. He was a great pass rusher though and played his best in big games. Thanks for the comment, Stroh.

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Comfortking's picture

June 07, 2020 at 11:32 pm

Yup agree with the list, I’m lucky enough (old enough) to see them all play. I think Reggie was the most dominant pass rusher I’ve ever seen, Willie was great but teams didn’t pass as much then, so I’d put Reggie #1. Also Freddy Carr was dangerous and fast.

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GilMartin's picture

June 09, 2020 at 11:52 am

Tough to argue with White, he was so good and so powerful. Loved Fred Carr, too. One of the best players on some mediocre teams in the 70s and made the Pro Bowl despite playing on those teams. Thanks for the comment, Comfortking.

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RunToWin's picture

June 08, 2020 at 05:52 pm

So sad that Reggie White passed so young. Hall of Fame player but more importantly Hall of Fame human being.

Appreciated the inclusion and ranking of Henry Jordan and Ezra Johnson.

Thank you for a good read, Gil.

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GilMartin's picture

June 09, 2020 at 11:55 am

Reggie White's passing was a tragedy. He was so young and there was so much more he could have done for the community and the country had he lived. So glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for commenting, RunToWin.

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CoachDino's picture

June 08, 2020 at 09:13 pm

Man that's a trip down memory lane.

Great list and tough to argue.

Unfortunately what stands out to me is the lack of HOF players. That's a
weak list compared to many teams. Some rough years in GB.

Willie Davis played in an era of limited passing, producing limited opportunities,
and still put up those #s

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GilMartin's picture

June 09, 2020 at 11:58 am

True re: Davis. People forget that teams only passed when they HAD to back then, rather than what they do now which is pass almost 65 percent of the time. Yeah, not a lot of HOFers on the list. Jordan, Davis and White are in the HOF. I wonder if Clay will make the cut or fall short. Good point and thanks for the comment, CoachDino.

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CoachDino's picture

June 08, 2020 at 09:14 pm

Why am I a hungry for a Hotdog...

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GilMartin's picture

June 09, 2020 at 11:47 am

LOL. Ezra was too. Thanks for commenting CoachDino

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