Joe Barry and the Packers’ defense are a problem. Again.  

This is the first season in 15 years to be led by a quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are the youngest team in the NFL (have I mentioned that before?). Generally, expectations are lower than they have been for a long time. I get it. There will be growing pains.  

It’s why I can understand the Packers’ offense imploding in the fourth quarter in a 25-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Green Bay led 24-12 at the end of the third quarter. Firstly, this side of the ball has suffered the bulk of the injuries so far. Green Bay entered this game missing arguably their top three offensive players: Aaron Jones, Christian Watson and David Bakhtiari. They endured another huge blow when Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins sprained his MCL during the game Sunday.  

The offense is also where the majority of the youth on the roster lies. The Packers have two players aged 28 or older on offense – Jones and Bakhtiari, who both missed the game. When it came time for a game-tying drive with about a minute left, on the road, in the fourth quarter, the young Packers offense that made a lot of great players throughout the game without some of their top players looked overwhelmed. In this Week 2 contest against one of the more experienced defenses in the NFL, the moment seemed too big for Love and company. It’s disappointing, but it also felt like a moment we will see this offense one day succeed as they grow.  

Like many other Packers fans, I’m still baffled how defensive coordinator Joe Barry was allowed to return for a third season. There are no excuses left for how inconsistent and poorly the Green Bay defense has performed since 2021 under Barry. The fourth quarter in Atlanta was a terrible reminder that, no, the defense will not be taking the next step this year. I don’t care that it’s Week 2. Overall, the production is no different, and the same issues arise again and again.  

In the final quarter alone, the Falcons ran 27 (27!!) plays for 166 yards and 13 points to complete a storming comeback and defeat the Packers. Third down after third down after fourth down were surrendered by a Green Bay defense that looked completely soft and gassed. The Falcons have their fair share of talent on offense, but this is a defense loaded with veterans and eight first-round picks in the third year of the same system under Barry. Total meltdowns like the one that took place in Atlanta should not happen like this, especially when the opposing team is starting Desmond Ridder at quarterback.  

What exactly are the Packers expecting to happen with Joe Barry and the defense at this point, three years in? We’re certainly not waiting for Barry to make some sort of return to a greater form. This is the defensive coordinator of the 2008, 0-16 Detroit Lions and the 2015 Washington Redskins that finished 28th in yards allowed. Barry has never really shown a promising, legitimate upside as a defensive coordinator in his career. Even with the Packers, a defense with undeniable talent, there’s just nothing special, creative, or effective there.  

However, it certainly isn’t doing Joe Barry any favors when arguably the top cornerstone of the defense decides to take the day off. Jaire Alexander played probably the worst game of his career Sunday against Atlanta. He dropped what should have been a pick six, allowed 5 catches for 99 yards, and Ridder had a perfect passer rating when targeting him.  

I truly don’t feel this is an overreaction to one game. I came into the season with zero expectations for the defense. I brushed off a solid performance against the Bears as a solid performance against the Bears. Whatever. Giving up 446 total yards (211 rushing) in the fashion Green Bay did is unacceptable.  

Not to be too much of a downer here, but… I’ll cut off the tip of my pinky if the Packers finish as a top 10 defense.  


Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.