While drama swirls around the uncertainty of Aaron Rodgers’ future, the Packers new DC Joe Barry still has to put together a defense.
Barry wants a disrupting pass rush and a shut down secondary, but so does every defensive coordinator. Luckily for Barry, his squad already has the talent to make that dream a reality, but there are specific areas for improvement. The Packers used the draft to add four defensive players that address those specific weaknesses.
Led by Jaire Alexander, this secondary shuts down top wideouts in the NFL. Adrian Amos has been a security blanket over the top, allowing Darnell Savage to roam and ravage opposing offenses. However, as evident from the NFC Championship against the Buccaneers, the lack of depth beyond those three is questionable at best.
Green Bay addressed their lack of depth in the secondary with their first-round pick, Eric Stokes, and fifth-round pick, Shemar Jean-Charles.
Stokes will compete from the jump with Kevin King for the starting boundary corner position. But a more obtainable way for the first-round pick to crack the rotation would be overtaking Chandon Sullivan’s slot corner role. Stokes isn’t guaranteed either of these spots. In fact, he would have to significantly outperform either King or Sullivan in training camp to start week one. I don’t expect the Packers to break camp with Stokes as a starter, but with Barry at the helm we may see some significant changes in the secondary beyond the core three.
Jean-Charles is a solid competitor and will be a special teams ace from day one. However, his path into the secondary rotation is muddier than Stokes. I think Jean-Charles can compete with KaDar Hollman and Stanford Samuels, but is firmly locked into that third tier of corners. Barring injuries, it would be best if the Packers didn’t have to count on significant reps from the fifth-rounder.
Packers Run Defense
The Packers run defense was their other core weakness last year. The Packers addressed that by adding an immovable object and a heat-seeking missile.
Tedarrell Slaton is the immovable object that the Packers hope to plug in on early downs/obvious running situations to ease Kenny Clark’s workload.
He is a very raw prospect, but he has a clear skillset that this defense needs desperately. The Packers added veteran Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison last year to fill this need, but now Barry has a young prospect who might bring a little more juice. Best case scenario for Slaton in year one is carving out that run stuffer role. Keke Kingsley still has something to prove in my opinion, and Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster are trusted core pieces at this point.
Isaiah McDuffie is the heat-seeking missile that the Packers added in the sixth round.
The Packers proved once again that they do not value the MLB position enough to use an early round pick. Or, the Packers proved that you can find value for the MLB late in the draft. For the third consecutive year, the Packers used a fifth-round or later pick on a middle linebacker. When healthy, Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin both showed promise last year. However, both also showed that difficulties staying healthy. The Packers would rather have those two on the field, but the sixth-rounder can provide some depth. At worst, McDuffie is a special teams ace for almost every unit. New special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton has to be smiling ear-to-ear watching McDuffie film.——————
Kirien is a big fan of the Packers, Beer, and Battlestar Galactica. You can follow him on twitter at @KirienSprecher.