Packers Defense to Remain Mostly Intact for Year 2 Under Barry

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is shown during the first quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 28
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is shown during the first quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 28 /

There has been a lot of uncertainty this offseason for the Green Bay Packers, most of which has come on the offensive side of the ball. We were left wondering whether or not Aaron Rodgers would be back for the 2022 season, and now more recently, Davante Adams has been traded, which has left a massive void to fill at wide receiver.

But over on defense, the Green Bay Packers found a way to largely keep the 2021 unit together for another season.

The only significant loss on defense was that the Packers had to move on from Za’Darius Smith–which was an expected move. Of course, in a perfect world, we would all love to have Smith a part of this team, but with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith both finishing top-10 last season in pressures generated, while as a unit, the Packers ranked top-5 in total pressures, Green Bay did show that they could absorb Z. Smith’s absence.

The Packers were also able to retain two of their most important free agents–De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas. Campbell was an All-Pro, finishing 2021 near the top of most key statistical categories at the linebacker position and giving Green Bay an element at the position that they haven’t had in years. It was fairly clear early on this offseason that retaining Campbell was a priority.

Douglas would provide playmaking and stability at cornerback when the Packers were in desperate need, allowing a completion rate of only 51% along with five interceptions and seven pass breakups, according to PFF ($$). With the freed-up cap space from trading Adams, the Packers were able to re-sign him as well.

Campbell and Douglas will now rejoin a defense that already includes the aforementioned Smith and Gary, along with Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage.

Overall, some of the final numbers from this Green Bay Packers defense in 2021 may not be eye-popping. In terms of points per game allowed, the Packers ranked 13th, and they would rank 22nd by DVOA.

However, as is the case with any new offense or defense, there is going to be an adjustment period, which there certainly was under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. But over the course of the season, we didn’t just see good stretches of play, but we saw a few downright dominant performances.

During a three-game span that featured some of the game’s most talented quarterbacks in Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson, the Packers defense gave up only 34 total points, just 601 passing yards, and recorded four interceptions.

Green Bay also saved their best defensive performance for when it mattered most, which was in the playoffs. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown as San Francisco recorded only 212 total yards. In addition to this game, there were seven others during the regular season where the Packers allowed 17 points or fewer, including a shutout against Seattle.

Two particular areas where Green Bay was among the best in football were at creating pressure, as already mentioned, and generating turnovers. In 2022, we will also get to see a full season of Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas playing together, something we, unfortunately, missed out on with Alexander sidelined for much of the year.

Now having said all of that, there is certainly room for improvement. The run defense can absolutely be better, and positions that could still use some added depth include edge rusher, interior defensive lineman, and safety.

However, you have to feel pretty good about where this Packers’ defense currently stands, and as a group, they should take a step forward in 2022, just given the simple fact that it will be the second year in Barry’s system. On the offensive side of the ball, we saw the Packers take a big step forward from Year 1 to Year 2 under LaFleur.

Even with Adams now in Las Vegas, as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, there is going to be an expectation that the Green Bay Packers offense is going to put up points. But if there is an adjustment period — which I would expect — or perhaps they’re never quite firing on all cylinders, the Packers should have a fairly stout defensive unit to lean on.