Well, my fellow Cheeseheads, this is it. Your Green Bay Packers have a shot to make the playoffs if they defeat the Detroit Lions. Pinch me. If you would’ve told me a month ago that we’d actually be playing for a playoff spot, I would’ve been very excited, but also very shocked. The Offense couldn’t seem to get anything going. The Defense couldn’t get out of its own way. But somehow, that was all turned around. A big part of that is due to the play of the Packers secondary. But who do we thank, Joe Barry, or Jerry Gray?
You can absolutely count me in as one that was ready for the Packers to embark on the search for a new Defensive Coordinator. There were times the defense could barely generate a pass rush, and times the secondary looked like a disorganized mess. It was time for that to change. Low and behold, that change came with the exact same coaches at the helm.
The Tide Turns
A common theme in the 8-game span where the Packers only managed a 1-7 record, was that the secondary seemed to be completely lost. Each time there was a big passing play for the opposition, you could count on seeing the Packer’s defensive backs asking each other who messed up. There weren’t many turnovers as well, and the run defense was also disappointing ranked near the bottom of the league.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect for yours truly was watching zone coverage give receivers a 10-yard cushion on third and medium situations.
This all suddenly changed in the last few weeks.
We’re watching Defensive Backs play closer to the line of scrimmage the majority of snaps. Also, a major tide-changer has been the turnover average going from only about 1 per game the first 12 weeks, to 3 per game the last 4.
The defense has gotten more aggressive as well. We’re seeing defensive backs taking more risks jumping coverages to go for the interception, and we’re seeing some more disguised blitzes to generate pressure. This secondary is functioning all of a sudden with a lot of trust. Not to mention the undeniable swagger.
It appears Joe Barry is starting to call more to the strengths of his defense rather than what he thinks looks good on paper.
Or is it Joe Barry?
Could this be the work of Jerry Gray?
Of course, given that he is the Defensive Backs coach, and the Defensive Backs looked like a disorganized mess, Jerry Gray was receiving his fair share of flak as well.
It’s been said that during halftime of the game vs Miami that Jerry Gray let the secondary have it. Normally a pretty mild-mannered individual, Gray is said to have cursed out the secondary. He was frustrated in regard to how preventable the big plays the defense gave up, were.
The secondary obviously respects Gray enough that when he talks like this, they listen. They wake up and go fix what they’re doing so that they don’t let coach down again. They definitely haven’t since. Along with being the Defensive Backs coach, Jerry Gray also wears the hat of Passing Game Coordinator. Perhaps he’s had a little influence on the increased blitz-calls to help out his secondary a bit.
In early November some news broke of Packers Defensive players frustrated with play-calling. There was a “declining confidence in the defensive scheme” It was believed that talent was being underutilized. This mainly involved defensive backs.
I believe there is a legitimate chance that Joe Barry may have turned to his Defensive Backs coach for some input. The way this defense has responded to the adjustments made has turned them into what they perhaps should have been from the season’s start. The way this defense respects Jerry Gray, maybe it’s true.
Time to deliver
Regardless of who we have to thank for this turnaround of the defense, it’s helped save the Packers season. But we can’t stop there. We need the defense to continue this streak this weekend and if we win, well into the playoffs.
Go Pack Go
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.