Turnover battle contributing to Green Bay Packers inconsistencies

Sep 25, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Turnovers have been a problem for the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball this season.

Defensively in 2021, the Packers finished with 34 takeaways, which was tied for the eighth most in the NFL. This included Rasul Douglas finishing with five interceptions of his own, good for the fourth-most in football. Four other members of the Green Bay defense had at least two interceptions.

Turnovers can be a very volatile stat, given that there is some randomness involved. However, when it comes to the 2022 Green Bay Packers, they haven’t given themselves a ton of opportunities to make plays on the ball, either.

Green Bay has just four takeaways this season, putting them on pace for just over 12 by season’s end. Only one is an interception, and as a group, the Packers have just four pass breakups. For some context, New York Jets rookie defensive back Sauce Gardner, who is coming to Lambeau this Sunday, has four pass breakups of his own.

"“It’s a combination of everything,” said Matt LaFleur on Wednesday when asked about the lack of turnovers. “I think there is definitely a lot of things that we can do better. Some of it is putting our guys in position. Some of it is our guys playing to technique. So that is something that we are working through right now, and we’re trying to do a better job of that, we know it’s an important part of this game, and when you’re sitting at minus-three on the year (in turnover differential), that’s not good.”"

One contributor to the lack of interceptions, as LaFleur pointed out, is that the Green Bay secondary simply has to play better. Another factor could be the Packers’ passive approach on defense, which often doesn’t have the players in a position to make plays.

With Green Bay’s heavy use of zone coverages, which often includes them playing off the line of scrimmage, opponents have had a lot of easy completions. Through five games, the Packers have allowed a completion rate of 80% when targeted, according to PFF ($$).

On offense, the Packers have been more careless with the football this season as well, and that certainly hasn’t helped things. Through the first four games, Green Bay had lost a fumble each week, and Aaron Rodgers had thrown three interceptions. The Packers still haven’t won the turnover battle in a single game, and their minus-three differential is the fifth-worst in 2022.

Overall, this has been a very Jekyll and Hyde start to the season for the Packers on both sides of the ball. In one half, we see the offense string together multiple scoring drives, in the next, they can’t get a first down. The defense goes from forcing a string of three-and-outs to allowing the opponent to march down the field on consecutive possessions.

As both LaFleur and Rodgers have pointed out, Green Bay is yet to play a complete football game this season.

As always, there are a number of factors contributing to those inconsistencies, but Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday that the issues with both giving and taking the ball away aren’t helping. Winning the turnover battle, or generating turnovers in bunches, is one way to hide any glaring issues.

"“Creating a lot of turnovers that can mask complacent stretches in football games on both sides of the ball. On defense, we haven’t forced a ton of turnovers. We’ve turned it over 7 times on offense. Usually, after 5 weeks, we are anywhere from low single digits to almost double digits in plus-minus in the turnover ratio. We’ve been so good at taking care of the football for so long. So we gotta get back to taking the ball away, and last game, we took care of it for the most part, but that can really gloss over any inefficiencies at times when you’re creating turnovers and short fields on offense.”"

This week the Green Bay Packers will be facing a ball-hawking Jets secondary that has been very good at creating turnovers as well as pass breakups. As LaFleur said, pass protection, the receivers being in the right spots, and Aaron Rodgers going through his progressions on time will be key to protecting the ball against this aggressive defense.

On the flip side, New York has been a bit sloppy with the ball as well, giving the ball away nine times this season. Unlike in the first five games, the Packers defense will have to be opportunistic on Sunday.

There is no magic fix when it comes to the Green Bay Packers playing more consistently—it’s going to take a number of factors coming together. However, winning the turnover battle can mask some deficiencies.