I’ve written weekly Packers positives for over a month now and in that time the team’s fortunes have changed completely. We’ve gotten to the point where most fans don’t think the team will lose another game this season and prognosticators en masse are saying that Jordan Love has arrived and is better than QBs such as Geno Smith, MVP favorite Brock Purdy, and even Super Bowl winner Matt Stafford. It’s time to tone it down a little. Here are a few areas where we need to see the Packers improve.
Here’s the most obvious one, and it’s probably not just Joe Barry’s defense. Quay Walker and TJ Slaton, who were both supposed to have breakout years, have been just fine this season. De’Vondre Campbell has played about as well as Quay, but he just isn’t the same guy he was a few years ago.
The spine of the Packers’ defense just isn’t playing as well as you need it to in a top run defense. Of course, the scheme doesn’t help.
There was an inciteful tweet this week from Ted Nguyen about Joe Barry’s defense. Nguyen was responding to someone who had made the point that Pat Mahomes has performed worse against Barry’s Green Bay defense than he has against any other team. Nguyen responded that Barry’s defense is designed to limit Pat Mahomes, the problem is that he also gives up 200 yards to the Steelers with Kenny Pickett at QB.
Barry’s scheme uses two high safeties and a light box almost all of the time. He doesn’t defend the run well on purpose. The way the NFL is going, this might not work for long. Wait until you get the 49ers in the playoffs.
Wide Receiver Rotation
Romeo Doubs makes a lot of splash James Jones-like plays. He’s definitely a fun player to watch at times and is a value for a fourth-round pick, he’s also probably the team’s 4th best receiver, maybe 5th.
Christian Watson and Jayden Reed have very specific roles that they are performing at above average levels. Malik Heath is the team’s current goon and is probably better at his role, which is an Allen Lazard type role on run downs. The key here, though, is Dontayvion Wicks.
Wicks gets open at a far higher rate than Doubs. He has the shiftiness to create separation against man coverage and the feel for when to sit down in zones. The natural evolution of this offense should be for Wicks to take over the starting spot opposite Watson and Doubs to be a change-up.
The best defenses in the NFL are creating pressure in interesting ways. The Vikings are using six man fronts paired with zone coverage that has never been used in the NFL, the Ravens are challenging defenses with unique coverage concepts paired with four man simulated pressures, the 49ers are moving their fearsome edges around the formation, the Chiefs are blitzing defensive backs.
This is another thing that we probably just won’t see with Joe Barry. Sure they’ll rush five in penny fronts or bring Quay from depth every once in a while, but there will never be game planning that involves these unique ways to get pressure. Barry prefers to line up four guys and bring it with them. It’s working fine, Rahsan Gary and Kenny Clark are both having career years as far as rushing the passer goes and Karl Brooks and Devonte Wyatt are also generating plenty of pressure. We’ll see how far it takes them.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.