With the Green Bay Packers’ season finally kicking off, numerous questions surround the team’s outlook. The NFL media has primarily focused on the offense, and understandably so. Aaron Rodgers is now a New York Jet, and Jordan Love takes the reins as the starting quarterback for the Packers. The offense, particularly in the pass-catcher department, is young and raises many questions. Yet the defense also faces its own share of uncertainties.
Talent On The Defense
In April, the Packers selected Lukas Van Ness with their 13th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. This brings the team’s total to eight first-round picks on defense. The talent is impressive. In fact, this roster boasts more first-round defensive talent than even some of the most celebrated defenses in NFL history. This surpasses the likes of the ’85 Bears and the 2000 Ravens.
So based on draft position alone, one would think this defense should be tops in the NFL. This isn’t even considering non-first round talent that has done well for the Packers such as Rasul Douglas and De’Vondre Campbell. The defense has talent everywhere except in one spot.
The defense has one spot that appears to be a potential vulnerability. It wouldn’t be surprising if opposing teams are already devising game plans to exploit this weakness. This area of concern lies in the safety position. While Darnell Savage, a former first-round talent, occupies this position, his recent performance leaves much to be desired. In fact, he was benched last year. Savage has had one standout season, but the rest of his career has been marked by inconsistency, with more misses than hits.
The other starting safety projects to be Rudy Ford. Ford had his moments last season but ultimately was too inconsistent. He played well against the Dallas Cowboys but that was just about it. Like Darnel Savage, Ford had to ride the bench for poor play. The other safeties on the team have not played well in training camp and in preseason. The Packers do have an unproven safety that was drafted in the seventh round in Anthony Johnson Jr. I would expect Johnson Jr. to start by the end of the year.
Defense Playing More Aggressive
Look for the defense to play more aggressive this season. In the past, the Packers defense would play soft coverage, leaving too much room. It would seem like the defense was not playing to win, but rather not to lose. That mentality needs to change and sounds like it will.
When asked how the Packers are going to stop the Bears (who the Packers play today, Sunday, September 7th) run game, Kenny Clark said this: “We got a different plan. You’ll see on Sunday as far as the plan. As far as the techniques and everything, how we playing defense, we’re just being more aggressive. Going to move a little bit. You got guys like myself, TJ, D-Wy that can play stout and get off of blocks. That’s all we got to do. Get off blocks at the end of the day. Stop the run and plug gaps.”
It seems that anytime a Packers defensive player is asked how this team is going to be different than in years prior, they always mention that they are going to play more aggressively. The Packers’ defense is going to attack the gaps in the opposing line way more this season, rather than just waiting for the runner to get to them.
If this is the case, it means defensive coordinator Joe Barry is going to let his guys hunt. They won’t be playing to not lose, they’ll be playing to win.
“We basically told [Coach Barry] we want to be aggressive. We want to be up close in guys’ faces and we want to challenge and make throws tight.” This is what Rasul Douglas told reporters in regards to a meeting the defense had with Joe Barry after last season.
Did Barry listen to his team?
Coaching the Defense
It all comes down to coaching. So far, it does seem like Coach Barry has listened to his team. But, we won’t truly know until the season progresses and more games are played. I hope we see it against the Bears. If not, then Joe Barry might be coaching in his last season as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.
So, what does a successful defensive season look like for this talented roster? It for sure needs to be in the top sixteen, right? If I’m being honest, it probably needs to be even better than that if Joe Barry is going to keep his job. This defense is too talented not to be in the top ten, even if you include the lackluster safety position.
Will the Packers’ defense finally triumph? Or will they fall flat on their face?
We’ll know the answer to these questions soon enough.——————
Damon is a diehard, fully-immersed cheesehead who currently lives in southern Missouri. He teaches at a local high school and has a family YouTube channel about all things Packers. You can follow him on twitter at @packersfamily and on YouTube at The Packers Family.