The Green Bay Packers currently boast a top ten overall defense in the NFL. Numerous players and coaches have come out and said that the current defensive roster is the best that the team has had in quite a while, and from watching the Packers play it is hard to disagree.
The Packers currently give up the seventh fewest yards per game. While Green Bay currently ranks 28th against the run, thanks in large part to huge games from Matt Forte and Todd Gurley, the team has the fourth best pass defense in the NFL.
Green Bay also ranks near the top of the league in the defensive stat that matters the most: points per game. The Packers currently allow just 16.2 points per game on defense, which ranks third in the NFL behind only the Jets and the Broncos.
Dom Capers’ unit is finding more ways to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and it is paying huge dividends for the team. The Packers already have eight interceptions, good for second in the league. Many of those were the result of an excellent pass rush, which has sacked the quarterback 20 times through five games, which ranks just two behind Denver for the NFL lead.
Opponents are completing just 53 percent of their passes against the suddenly stout Packers’ pass defense, and have held opposing quarterbacks to a measly 62.8 quarterback. Both of those numbers again rank second in the NFL.
Green Bay is succeeding thanks to contributions from up and down the team’s roster. When Datone Jones and Letroy Guion were suspended, younger plays filled the void. When Sam Barrington was lost to season-ending injure reserve, Nate Palmer stepped up and has played well. Morgan Burnett has missed more games than he’s played so far, but Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have more than held their own.
The Packers’ defense also is receiving solid production from rookies and veterans alike. The elder statesmen of the defense, Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, are both tied for third in the league with 4.5 sacks. B.J. Raji is enjoying a renaissance season for the Packers and is looking to re-assert himself as one of the best nose tackles in football.
Meanwhile, fourth year cornerback Sam Shields already has two interceptions and six passes defended. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, though inconsistent at times, came up with a huge end zone interception in the team’s win against the Rams. Quinten Rollins recorded two picks against St. Louis and took one 45 yards for a Green Bay touchdown. Damarious Randall is quickly establishing himself as one of the top young corners in pass coverage in the league.
The biggest question surrounding Green Bay is whether their early-season success is sustainable. The Packers currently have easily their best defense since the team’s Super Bowl winning campaign in 2010, and this defense certainly has the depth and the talent to remain near the top of the league.
In fact, it is possible that the Packers’ defense actually improves its rank as the season progresses. The Packers have faced elite running backs Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, and Jamaal Charles as well as an emerging rookie in Gurley, which is part of the reason why the run defense ranks so low. But over the team’s final 11 games, the Packers really only have three more contests against “elite” running backs: two matchups with Adrian Peterson and one more with Forte.
From a defensive standpoint, the Packers do not really have to face the league’s top offenses throughout the rest of the year. Of the team’s remaining opponents, only San Diego (3rd) and Arizona (6th) currently rank in the top half in terms of yards per game.
Dallas currently ranks 17th in offense in the NFL, but every other team left on Green Bay’s schedule ranks among the league’s ten worst offensive teams to this point in the season. Those opponents include Oakland (22nd), Carolina (25th), Detroit (26th) twice, Chicago (27th), Denver (30th), and Minnesota (31st) twice.
Obviously those teams’ offensive production could change before their respective matchups with the Packers, but it is appears as if Green Bay will not have to be dealing with the upper echelon of the NFL’s offenses.
The Packers have shown that they have the depth to put a strong defense on the field even with a slew of injuries. Green Bay has finally found a balance between offense and defense that has eluded the team since 2010, and the current roster definitely has the talent to bring the Packers back to the Super Bowl.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .