Last week we talked about how the Packers’ offseason will affect offensive strategy, this week we’ll go over how it may affect defensive strategy.
Walker is the biggest chess piece. The most talked about change with Walker will likely be a swap of 2-4 nickel for all the dime that the team played last season. Have an extremely athletic first-round draft ick linebacker on the field instead of a UDFA safety should certainly be an improvement.
I also think we will see Walker on the edge. He has the size and ability to rush or hold up on the edge in the run game against a tight end. Having him on the edge in the 5-1 look with Campbell as the lone inside linebacker or in a dollar type package with three guys on the LOS and two inside also gives the defense the opportunity to do more creative creeper pressures.
Walker on the edge is a lot more favorable dropping back into a zone than Preston Smith or Rashan Gary. Put him on the edge to drop and then rush Campbell or a slot defender. In the 5-1, penny, look, he can drop, and the other four defensive linemen can rush with stunts or games.
The defense got a lot of pressure on the QB last year, but once Gary or Clark was out of the game, the pressure went away, and the pass defense went into the toilet. Walker has the flexibility to gameplan more pressure without having to sacrifice the pass defense or bring a safety into the box.
The other defensive topic that has been talked about ad infinitum is the lack of a true slot defender. Some people want Jaire Alexander to go full Jalen Ramsey and man the slot. Some want Rasul Douglas in there as a strong run and zone defender. Some want to bring a worse player, like Keisean Nixon or Shemar Jean-Charles, on to man the slot.
An alternative that I like is play 2-man coverage with Darnell Savage in the slot. Jaire and Stokes are best on the boundary and Savage, who played in the slot in college, may be best in the slot. Really, many of the Packers’ defenders seem to be better in man coverage than zone – except Rasul Douglas.
Some sort of inverted cover 2 defense with Douglas falling into a deep zone and Savage replacing him in the slot could be interesting. Douglas has shown better instincts in zone coverage than Savage and Savage’s best play has been in the box. Plus, Savage may be the quickest defender on the team right now.
We could also see more one high man coverage defenses. More nickel may mean replacing some base defense with nickel as well. Play man free with Amos in the box to cover a tight end and you can stop the run with all three starting corners on the field.
Tampa-2 coverage, where the defense plays with two deep safeties and an inside linebacker splits the difference between the normal middle hook zone and the typical middle of the field deep zone, used to be the most popular coverage in the league. Years of offensive masterminds strategizing against it drove it almost out of the league.
Joe Barry’s formative years in the league were in the Tampa 2 defense and two high defenses in general are back in vogue. With two plus athletes at inside linebacker, he may be tempted to use this coverage in the base defense to limit deep play action passes while also stopping the run.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.