Training camp and the preseason may have given us some brief glimpses into adjustments that the Green Bay Packers are going to make on defense this season. Most notably, we could see a more aggressive unit in 2023.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it; the Packers’ defense underperformed for most of last season. By weighted DVOA, they ranked 22nd overall. They were one of the worst units against the run. They struggled to generate consistent pressure without Rashan Gary and didn’t create regular turnovers for a large portion of the season.
To the defense’s credit, they finished out the 2022 season on a better note, but the eventual adjustments that were made weren’t timely, and while, Joe Barry, as the defensive coordinator, has to shoulder the responsibility for the defense’s play, it’s not as if many of the players weren’t at fault either.
In short, the players on this defense wanted to be more aggressive–and I’m sure many who watched the Packers last season felt the same way. In a meeting with Barry after the season ended, that’s what his players told him, and according to Rasul Douglas during training camp, Barry has delivered.
“We basically told him we want to be aggressive,” said Douglas via ESPN. “We want to be up close in guys’ faces and we want to challenge and make throws tight.
“So far that’s what he’s doing.”
Aggressive can mean any number of things, from the cornerbacks challenging the receivers to blitzing to more post-snap movement or all the above. Pick your preferred method(s), but if done correctly, the defense will become the one dictating things rather than the other way around with the offense in control and Green Bay playing on its heels.
So far this summer, we have seen the Packers’ defense in attack mode much more often. Along the defensive front, post-snap movement with stunts, in particular, has been very common, not to mention that as a group inside, Green Bay is more versatile and explosive. This is a different approach than what we’ve seen in recent years, with the Packers’ interior defenders occupying space and simply trying to rush from point A to point B.
“We got a different plan,” said Kenny Clark. “You’ll see on Sunday as far as the plan. As far as the techniques and everything, how we playing defense, we’re just being more aggressive. Going to move a little bit.”
With the linebackers, it’s been quite noticeable that they have been blitzing a lot more often in both practices and the preseason games. According to PFF, in the Packers’ three preseason games, the Green Bay linebackers rushed the quarterback 26 times.
“We’ve been switching it up and blitzing a whole lot,” said Quay Walker. “I felt like we blitzed a whole lot last year, but this year, we’ve been blitzing way; a bit more than we did last year.”
The cornerbacks, meanwhile, have been playing closer to the line of scrimmage in order to challenge the receivers right away and to take away some of the quick and easy completions that this group was susceptible against in 2022. Jaire Alexander specifically mentioned that new cornerbacks coach Greg Williams has been helping him with his alignment because Alexander has a tendency to play farther off than he should.
With all of that said, while it sounds great in practice, at the end of the day, we need to see it translate over to the regular season. With a young offense and with points potentially at a premium, it’s a must that the Green Bay defense improves this season.
We know this unit has the talent, but now it’s time to see them take back some of the control from opposing offenses and allow the playmakers that they have to be in better positions to go out there and make plays.