Have you ever known someone that owns an expensive car, but rarely uses it? Like they have a Super-Charged Chevy Camaro in the garage, but they only drive it back and forth to the grocery store? That’s how I’ve viewed the way Joe Barry has used the talented Green Bay Packers defense so far.
There are seven first round draft picks on the Packers defense. Outside of those, four more are All-Pro/Pro Bowl caliber players. This defense is oozing with talent. It should be a nightmare for opposing offenses. But yet, here we are feeling like we’re well on our way to another year of frustrating defensive play.
It started with excitement
Much like after someone’s initial purchase of a Ferrari, everyone was buzzing about the potential of this Super-Charged Defensive machine. De’Vondre Campbell was returning after an All-Pro season, Jaire Alexander was returning healthy from an injury-riddled season, and Rashan Gary was poised for his best year yet. It was time for the Packers Defense to take over as the top weapon of this Franchise. The potential of this defense was drawing comparisons to the 2010 Super Bowl-Winning Defense. Then Training Camp came.
At the start of Training Camp, Aaron Rodgers said himself that he thought the Offense would get it’s butt-kicked by this overwhelming Defense. He stated “we’re a defensive team now” as the Defense definitely did kick their butts the majority of camp. Everyone thought this defense was a powerful Ferrari. But then the season started.
Game 1 showed the defense get absolutely embarrassed by Justin Jefferson recording 9 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was as if the Packers didn’t want to cover him. They’d let the player gashing them every drive run free around the field through poor coverage. Some wrote it off that they’d get better, but they really have not. They seem to play too relaxed.
Playing too careful
I’ve read it a number of times that the Packers Defense is “defending against the big play.” We see it all the time. Defenders playing 5-10 yards off Wide Receivers, only a four-man rush to the QB. Just, vanilla defense. Here’s where the Prius reference comes in. It’s a decent, efficient car to get from A to B, but when it comes to power or pizazz, it doesn’t have it. It’s a perfect car to just get you to the store and back. But that’s it. Joe Barry is definitely coaching for a Prius. The defense is just there to get to the end of the game and hopefully not give too many issues.
The problem is, Joe Barry has the keys to a Ferrari, not a Prius.
What needs to happen
Jaire Alexander is one of the best corners in the league. Alexander can play very aggressively jamming receivers at the line, and he needs to be allowed to do this. Not playing 5-10 yards off a receiver and hoping the receiver runs into his lap. I’ve longed for the days of Charles Woodson and Al Harris mugging receivers at the line of scrimmage. We have the guys to do it, let’s see that again.
Rasul Douglas I’ve always viewed as an excellent sideline defender. He seems to have a great way of keeping receivers to the sidelines and shutting them down. We need to take advantage of that. Let him play the outside, let Jaire shadow a top receiver or play the slot. Let the playmakers make the plays, don’t make them an X or an O, let them be the players they can be.
Blitz. For the love of all things holy, blitz. The Packers have only blitzed around 30% of the time resulting in an 8% pressure rate. I thought this defense was athletic. Let’s send more pressure! Yes, Rashan Gary has been a monster so far. But we need more than just Rashan Gary sending pressure.
Maybe swap Darnell Savage into the slot occasionally and place Rasul Douglas at safety. Sure yes, this kind of contradicts my comment of putting Rasul on the edge, but Savage hasn’t exactly shown out at Safety. He’s shown some potential as a slot corner and has done well blitzing from the slot in the past. Perhaps an occasional switch up could help spice things up a bit.
Send Quay Walker in on the pass-rush. All we’ve heard about Walker is how athletic he is. How fast he is. He has tremendous closing speed. But yet, we seem to use him as just a safety pin. Just put him behind the line and have him wait for the play to come to him. No! While Kenny Clark is pushing back a double-team as usual, send Quay Walker speeding around it on the pass rush. I want to see number 7 come flying up the middle to disrupt the QB. We need to be aggressive.
Joe Barry needs to start utilizing his Ferrari. Luckily, Thursday he made comments that he intends to start. He made comments pertaining to having more press coverage and a more aggressive mentality. Hopefully he sticks with it, and we start seeing a lot of improvement.
No more driving that Ferrari to the grocery store and back. It’s time to take it out on the highway and let it roar.
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.