Green Bay Packers

Midweek Musings: Pressure falls on Packers’ DC Barry

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Green Bay Packers’ defense is officially on notice.

That might seem like a strange thing to say. The last time that unit was on the field, it held the San Francisco 49ers touchdown-less in the NFC divisional round.

But with two more major investments thrust into that side of the ball, it’s the truth.

For the last several years — for most of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career, honestly — the bar for the Packers’ defense has been middle of the road. Just be average, and the offense will take care of the rest. 

That can no longer be the expectation. Not after general manager Brian Gutekunst spent the Packers’ 2022 first-round picks on linebacker Quay Walker and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt.

There might be franchises with more financial capital spent on defense. I challenge there’s none that’s invested more draft capital. 

Since winning the Super Bowl in February 2011, the Packers have made 13 first-round picks. Eleven of those were geared toward the defense (offensive lineman Derek Sherrod in 2011 and quarterback Jordan Love in 2020 are the lone exceptions).

There’s more to a successful draft than the first-round pick, but there’s no doubt it’s the largest investment. The Packers’ approach has mostly been defense early, offense late.

And who could blame such a strategy? Nick Perry was an honest selection in 2012 after the Packers struggled to rush the passer in 2011; Datone Jones made sense in 2013 after Colin Kaepernick torched that unit in the prior postseason.

This year was the first in many which the offense probably needed the firepower more than the defense. Yet it was the defense that won out once again.

In 2022, the Packers could field a defense that features seven of its own first-round draft picks. That doesn’t include veterans like Adrian Amos (two-time PFF All-Pro), De’Vondre Campbell (2021 AP All-Pro), Preston Smith and Rasul Douglas.

The bar is no longer to be average. If the Packers are not a top five unit in 2022, it’ll be a colossal disappointment.

That responsibility falls on second-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who led a competent but somewhat uneasy unit last year.

Don’t be mistaken, the Packers’ defense had several strong performances last season.

The playoff game vs. San Francisco was impressive (though it should be graded on a curve, considering the opposing quarterback). The Packers also drove a stake into Kyler Murray’s MVP campaign with that dramatic Thursday Night win in Arizona.

There were inexcusable games too. Five touchdowns surrendered to Jameis Winston in Week 1. A nearly-costly late meltdown in Baltimore in Week 15. Over 200 rushing yards allowed Christmas Day vs. Cleveland.

By season’s end, the Packers ranked ninth in yards allowed and 13th in points allowed. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric was far less kind, placing the Packers at 22nd.

To be clear, it’s not 1985 (sorry, Bears fans). Defenses cannot be expected to hold opposing offenses to a touchdown or less for 17 weeks.

Last year’s Buffalo Bills, who ranked No. 1 in all three aforementioned defensive metrics, allowed 40-plus points twice and 30-plus points twice.

The offensive-minded rulebook and wealth of talented quarterbacks do not allow defenses to thrive as they once did.

That fact could be an argument why continuously focusing most of your resources toward defense, as the Packers have, is akin to a fish swimming against a turbulent current.

But that’s the path the Packers have, once again, chosen. Maybe it’s a sign, that the Packers are trending away from finesse and toward power. We’ll pound you with AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones on offense, and grapple you into submission with Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary and these first-rounders on defense. 

The next 17 games, and hopefully three or four more after that, will judge the wisdom of this direction. And it falls upon Joe Barry to prove he’s the appropriate steward.

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x