Is the 2022 Green Bay Packers Defense Finally Ready?

It feels good, doesn’t it? Yes, the sweet relief of Jaire Alexander’s extension still hasn’t washed over Packer fans, but it’s coming soon. With that major caveat, the 2022 Green Bay Packers defense is the most reassuring offseason development — it has continued to develop and is perhaps peaking. One thing is for sure, this offseason is the most confident Green Bay fans have been in their defense in over a decade.

Arguably, last year might go down as the best of the “back nine” defenses of the Aaron Rodgers era. However, with question marks at inside linebacker and the questionable return of Kevin King for more than other available defensive backs with similar skills and no emotional baggage, the offseason was tumultuous. Oh yea, and they hired a new defensive coordinator that appeared to be a bust until October. Wait, and also, the defense was a main reason to blame for the inability to reach the Super Bowl after a home loss in the NFC Championship. 

So yea, there were issues and concerns.

This year, De’Vondre Campbell is locked up and Packer fans (and the NFL) know his value. Kenny Clark has help inside with Pro Bowl level talent in Jarran Reed. The Amos / Savage safety combo is again a solid backcourt (despite the obvious misalignment of Savage’s skills in his current role), and Erik Stokes is now a bonafide CB1 or CB2 in the league instead of an untested rookie. The loss of Za’Darius Smith is a blow, but with Preston Smith’s bounce-back year and the emergence of Rashan Gary, it is lessened. 

In fact, this Packers D has more talent and athleticism than the last of the great Packer Ds, the Super Bowl winning team led by AJ Hawk, Clay Matthews III, Nick Collins, Sam Shields, and Charles Woodson. That defense had the perfect mix of mainstays (Hawk, Collins) and new athletic additions (Matthews, Shields), combined with a Hall of Famer (Woodson) with strong leadership. This year’s defense feels more cohesive. Teammates who banter back-and-forth on Twitter, have played together for 3-5 years, and genuinely have confidence in their ability to take over a game (proving they can in the playoffs last year).

Don’t be surprised if the Pack draft the best EDGE defender available to back-up Gary/Smith and again attempt to develop behind Gary if his free agency price becomes untenable or a deal can’t be reached for an extension. Yes, WR1 is in play, but this defense adding depth and another premier athlete at Safety or EDGE would give the Packers flexibility and a defense that has the potential to Carry the G all on their own, instead of the liability and then “bonus addition” they have grown into in the last few chapters of the Rodgers era.

What this defense needs to become one of the great Packer defenses though, is not just to dominate a game in the playoffs, but finish the job. Yes, it’s not their fault after an incredible performance, but forcing San Francisco to put the game on the line instead of a long-range field goal are the types of things Super Bowl caliber defenses do no matter what the other two phases are doing. We all thought last year was it, but it wasn’t. One more shot with this group mostly intact.

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