At the beginning of the season most fans were concerned about the Packers offense. They struggled in their first couple games to sustain momentum and were bailed out by a staunch defense that was limiting opponents drives and creating takeaways. I believe the Packers defense forced 8 turnovers in the first 3 games, but only 6 in the next 5 games. Green Bay Packers Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine stressed winning the turnover battle in the off season, early on it appeared to payoff. The Packers need to return to that aggressive style they displayed early in the season and scrap the “bend but don’t break,” defense we have seen of late. While it is true the Packers defense ranks 6th in Red Zone defense, holding opponents to Field Goal attempts rather than Touchdowns, they remain 27th against the run, 1st in yielding explosive plays (plays over 20 yards) and 15th overall. Not where we expected this defense to be at this point in the season.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, and Ted Thompson before him, spent multiple high draft picks in an attempt to shore up the Packers defense. This off season Gutekunst stepped out of Ted’s shadow and signed three key defensive pieces in Free Agency, something that hadn’t been done in an while. Arguably Preston/Za’Darius Smith and Adrian Amos have provided a much needed spark to the defense, they haven’t solved all the problems. One could question the release of Mike Daniels and Clay Matthews, as to whether those moves hurt the Packers. Could Daniels have stayed healthy enough to provide run stop support (he’s been hurt with Detroit)? Or would Clay Matthews accepted a salary cut and a move to ILB? We’ll never know. What we do know is Clark, Adams, Lowery, and Lancaster is not working.
The Solution may still be Free Agents on the market right now to come in, much like DL Howard Green did in 2010/11. A few names come to mind NT Bennie Logan (2013 3rd Round Draft pick for the Eagles), DT Willie Henry (2016 4th Round pick Baltimore Ravens), DT Darius Philon (2015 6th Round San Diego Chargers, comes with Legal Problems) and NT Olive Sagapolu (UDFA, spent time with the Packers during Pre-Season 6-2, 331 lbs). Sagapolu is currently on the roster of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks. Following Packers history, Darius Philon would be out, although he has the highest rating of the available DT’s. It may be worth kicking the tires on Logan and/or Henry. Sagapolu is interesting because he’s the type of immovable object the Packers need on the interior. Gutekunst needs to shore up that Dline for a serious playoff run. As for ILB, I believe Zach Brown is still available. On occasion all it takes is a change of scenery for a player to have a renaissance season. I would think Gutekunst and his staff are constantly combing the landscape searching for players to improve Matt LaFleur’s roster.
We can only watch and hope that either Pettine figures out how to fix the defense with the players he has or another player or two join the roster. I still sense the Packers, especially veteran’s like Aaron Rodgers want to make a serious run at the Super Bowl this season. Reason being, you never know what next year will bring. The Packers are relatively healthy right now, with a couple players dinged up, but few major injuries. Adrian Amos and Jaire Alexander are listed as questionable for today’s game versus the Panthers, but I can’t imagine them not playing, knowing the magnitude of this game.
The Carolina Panthers present an enormous challenge for the Packers defense, in versatile RB Christian McCaffery and TE Greg Olsen. While on the defensive side, LB Luke Kuechly, S’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston will challenge Aaron Rodgers and his offense. The Packers need this win heading into the Bye Week and to maintain their standing in the North. My prediction, Home Field spurs the Packers to an impressive, but close 28-24 victory over a tough Panthers squad.
As Always, Go Pack Go!
PackerGregPackerGreg Veteran/Go Army @DrGTP on Twitter