A Lot of Blame To Go Around for the Green Bay Packers Defense

Packers defense
Spread the love

Sunday’s 28-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a gut punch to the Green Bay Packers. It was a game that the Packers not only was expected to win, but one they should have won. On paper, it looked like the then 5-1 Packers would have no problem with the then 1-5 Vikings. But that isn’t what went down at empty Lambeau Field. The Packers offense made some mistakes, but they did enough to win the game on Sunday. If you are looking to blame somebody for the Packers loss you don’t have to look far. The Green Bay Packers defense once again failed to do enough to win a game.

A Lot of Blame To Go Around for the Green Bay Packers Defense After Loss

It isn’t just one thing, or even one person, that is causing the Packers defense to fail. Of course, the person in charge of the Packers defense should get the blunt of the criticism. But there are many reasons on why the Packers defense continues to falter.

The Packers defense possesses quite a bit of talent. However on Sunday, the less talented Vikings defense outshined the Packers defense. It isn’t the first time the Packers defense had more talent than the opposing team’s defense. It wasn’t the first time their defense was outshined either. Today, we take a look at the many reasons the Packers defense can be considered a failure.

Mike Pettine Has Failed To Get the Job Done

In the business world, when you run a company and that company fails to produce, it is the person who is in charge that takes the heat. The same can be said when you are a coordinator of an NFL defense. The Packers defense is failing and the person in charge is Mike Pettine.

The Packers defensive failures isn’t a new thing. In fact, Packers fans are quite accustomed to the Packers defense not playing well. It was the case when Dom Capers ran the Packers defense from 2009-2017 and has continued with Pettine. Similar to when Capers was in charge, the Packers defense has showed some glimpses of hope under Pettine. But the overall product of the Packers defense under Pettine has been underwhelming.

Sunday’s loss was a perfect example of what fans have grown accustomed to under a Pettine-led Packers defense. Big plays and a lot of yards given up in the run game, poor tackling, and not stopping the opposing offense on third down. Pettine, similar to Capers, relies on pressure and turnovers. When the defense fails to do that, the Packers are in trouble.

On Sunday, the key to stopping the Vikings offense was pretty simple. Stop Dalvin Cook and force quarterback Kirk Cousins to beat you through the air. Seems pretty simple, but Pettine didn’t have an answer for it. It isn’t just Sunday’s loss that caused Pettine to be on the hot seat. It is an issue that he has had throughout his tenure in Green Bay.

While Pettine deserves to be on the hot seat, blame shouldn’t just stop with him.

LaFleur’s Decision To Bring Back Pettine

Head coach Matt LaFleur has had his chances to move on from Pettine. When he was hired prior to 2019, LaFleur made the decision to keep Pettine as his defensive coordinator. Former head coach Mike McCarthy hired Pettine prior to 2018. Under Pettine, the defense showed some promise, so the decision to keep him seemed pretty safe. However, the decision to keep him after the 2019 season wasn’t as easy.

The 2019 Packers defense finished ninth in total defense, 14th against the pass, and 23rd against the run. If you figure in what the Packers invested in the defense prior to 2019, it was very underwhelming results. Then, there was how the Packers defense performed against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

That day in Santa Clara, the Packers defense gave up 285 yards rushing to the 49ers. 49ers running back Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards with four rushing touchdowns. It is a familiar showing that the Packers defense had Sunday against the Vikings.

What LaFleur saw on Sunday shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He saw it in 2019 and he continues to see it in 2020. He had the chance to move on from Pettine after last season and he chose not to do anything. If Pettine and the Packers defense falters again against the 49ers on Thursday night, LaFleur will be faced with the same decision he did at the end of 2019. This time the choice should be an obvious one.

Lack of Talent on the Interior of the Defensive Line

Kenny Clark is one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. But to expect him to carry the middle of the Packers defense is just asking too much. Still, it is appears that is what the Packers are expecting him to do.

Excluding Clark, the interior of the Packers defense is just not very talented. The Packers expected Dean Lowry to be a key player next to Clark. That is why the Packers gave him a big money extension prior to 2019. Unfortunately since the signing, Lowry has done close to nothing. At this point, Lowry is just stealing money from the Packers. The contract extension can be considered a major mistake by Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and Vice President of Operations Russ Ball.

Behind Lowry and Clark are players who are at best rotational players. Tyler Lancaster sees a lot of playing time, although he has proven he is just another guy. Gutekunst spent a third round pick on Montravius Adams and he yet to live up to that draft status. Kingsley Keke has showed some promise, but he still has a long ways to go.

If Gutekunst is truly working the phones to make a deal, the interior of the defensive line should be an area to look at upgrading. Gutekunst has failed to give Clark help and the Packers defense is hurting because of it. But it isn’t the only position that Gutekunst has failed to upgrade.

Inside Linebacker Still Missing a Playmaker

Under Ted Thompson, and now with Gutekunst, the Packers haven’t valued the inside linebacker position. It could be one of the reason’s the middle of the Packers defense has struggled.

Kris Barnes and Kamal Martin, the starters at inside linebacker for Sunday’s game, seem to have some potential. Still, Barnes is an undrafted free agent and Martin was drafted in the fifth round of last year’s draft. Gutekunst has failed to spend a high round draft choice to upgrade the position.

Gutekunst took a waiver on Christian Kirksey in free agency this past off-season. Kirksey came to Green Bay as a player who has dealt with injuries throughout his career. His injury history has followed him to Green Bay. He hurt a shoulder this season which forced him to the injured reserve.

Gutekunst and the Packers are hoping that Barnes and Martin can develop into playmakers. However, betting on an undrafted free agent and a former fifth round pick, who also has a history of injuries, is a long shot. Not spending to upgrade the position has played a part in the Packers defensive struggles.

Lack of Production Out of First Round Picks

During the 2019 off-season, the Packers spent big on free agent help. The Packers inked outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, safety Adrian Amos, and outside linebacker Preston Smith. Gutekunst also spent two first round picks on defensive players, selecting outside linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage Jr..

The Packers have gotten production from the Smiths and Amos. But they are still waiting on Gary and Savage Jr. to contribute on a game to game basis.

Gary was expected to be a project. Loaded with talent, but never playing up to his talent while at the University of Michigan, the Packers have banked on Gary blossoming into a player that matches his talents. He has teased what he can do, but for a first round draft pick, he is going to need to contribute more. This season he has one and a half sacks. He is seeing more playing time this season, but he is still not producing at a high level.

Savage Jr. is an even bigger mystery. He earned a starting safety spot in his rookie season. But his play has dropped dramatically this season. He has struggled mightily with tackling and hasn’t been making plays on the back-end of the defense like they expected.

The Packers need more out of their former first round picks. It could be that Pettine isn’t putting them in positions to make plays. Or, it could be that Gutekunst and his staff overvalued the two players. If it is the latter, the Packers defense will continue to struggle.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images