The Green Bay Packers notched their first victory of the season on Monday Night Football. The Packers downed the Detroit Lions 35-17, overcoming an embarrassing loss the week before to the New Orleans Saints. Aaron Rodgers and the offense looked solid in the victory. Rodgers completed 22 of 27 passes for 255 yards with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Three of those touchdown passes went to running back Aaron Jones. Jones also ran for one touchdown and rushed for 67 yards. Star wideout Davante Adams hauled in eight passes for 121 yards. The Packers offense looked like the offense that fans were hoping they would see in week one. Unfortunately, defensively, the Packers still have a long ways to go. Issues still remain that plagued them on that side of the ball in week one. The issues could, and probably should force the Packers to make a change in defensive personnel.
Green Bay Packers Defense Needs to Change Things Up
Joe Barry had a very rocky debut in week one against the Saints. The first half of this past week’s game was not any better either.
The Barry-led Packers defense made Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff look like Joe Montana in the first half. Goff, and the Lions offense, put up 17 points in the first half and took a 17-14 lead into halftime. However, Barry’s defense made a few adjustments and stiffened up in the second half. The Packers defense held the Lions offense to zero points in the second half and even caused two turnovers. Although the adjustments might not have been Barry’s decision.
Barry’s first two weeks on the job have shown that he is going to need help. Not only guidance from his boss, but from the players that make up the Packers defense. That means the Packers defense is going to need to put players on the field that are going to contribute. That could lead to some change in personnel. Two areas specifically should see some changes in the following weeks, if the Packers defense is going to improve.
For the Packers to Change Defensive Personnel, the Kevin King Era Must Come to an End
At this point, Packers fans have to ask themselves what has been worse. The fact that the Packers passed on selecting T.J. Watt in the 2017 NFL draft, and instead selected Kevin King. Or, that general manager Brian Gutekunst decided to re-sign King this off-season and have him return as one of the Packers starting boundary cornerbacks.
Along with being injury-prone, King is proving that he is incapable of being a starting cornerback in the NFL. In fact, the argument can be made he is not even a contributor for an NFL defense. Sure, King has fantastic size for an NFL cornerback. But that height has not overcome his inability to cover NFL wide receivers.
The numbers do not lie. As Matt Schneidman of The Athletic pointed out, King was downright awful against a below-average Lions wide receivers group on Monday night. His performance on Monday night was very similar to his performance in week one against the Saints. This would be King’s third straight putrid performance. If his so-called effort against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year’s NFC Championship Game is included.
One of the adjustments Barry, or maybe LaFleur, made in the second half was to move King inside and replace him with rookie Eric Stokes on the boundary. The performance was not about putting King in a better position. In fact, it was more hiding him.
In Schneidman’s same tweet, he showed how well Stokes, the Packers first-round draft pick from 2021, performed on Monday. He showed enough to assert himself as the better option than King is at this point.
Stokes will have his struggles. A starting rookie cornerback adjusting to the NFL speed will have some bumps in the road. But after what King has done in his last three games, those bumps might be very well worth it. The time has come for the Stokes era to begin, and the Kevin King era to end.
Defensive Line Struggles for the Second Week in a Row
Currently, Kenny Clark is the only interior defensive lineman that is making some type of contribution to the Packers defense. This is not breaking news. The past several seasons the Packers defense has only been able to depend on Clark. It appears that once again, that is the case for the Packers.
This off-season, the only addition that Gutekunst made to the interior of the Packers defensive line was selecting TJ Slaton in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. It is a decision, not bringing in more help, that might turn out to hurt the Packers defense. The first two games of 2021 are proof.
Many expected Dean Lowry to be a salary cap casualty this off-season. However, Gutekunst and the Packers thought differently and decided to bring Lowry back. So far, Lowry’s performance is showing that might have been the wrong decision. Lowry, similar to his week one performance, did close to nothing against the Lions. In the 34 snaps he played on Monday, Lowry registered just three assisted tackles. Lowry consistently faced one on one opportunities and still wasn’t able to do anything.
Lowry was not the only defensive lineman who saw time and failed to make plays. Tyler Lancaster played 18 snaps and registered just one assisted tackle. As we have written here many times, if the Packers defense is having to play Lancaster, they are going to have a lot of trouble. The Packers should know what they have in Lancaster by now, which is a try-hard player who just does not have what it takes to be a contributor.
Lowry and Lancaster are taking away snaps for Slaton and fellow defensive lineman Kingsley Keke. Lowry and Lancaster have more experience than Slaton and Keke, but that experience is not helping the Packers defense get better. From what we have seen, the Packers would be better off going with the better athletes in Slaton and Keke.
Help from the Outside as Packers make a Change in Defensive Personnel
Gutekunst has stated that he will always be on the look for making the Packers roster better. If that is the case, it might be time to bring in some help for the Packers defense, especially on the interior of the defensive line.
While many will point out that players who are currently available are available for a reason. But the argument could be made that from what Lowry and Lancaster are bringing to the table, it cannot get any worse. Not only are Lowry and Lancaster getting blown off the line, but they are also playing affecting what the Packers inside linebackers can do.
Similar to the defensive line, the only addition Gutekunst made to the inside linebacker position was the signing of De’Vondre Campbell. In the Packers first two games, Campbell appears to be the best out of the Packers inside linebacker group. However, he, and fellow starting inside linebacker Krys Barnes, could be doing more if they could get some help from the Packers defensive line. With Lowry and Lancaster getting blown off the ball, it is creating issues for Campbell and Barnes. Instead of staying “clean”, the two inside linebackers are being reached at the second level by opposing offensive linemen.
Currently, there are two free-agent defensive tackles who would be an upgrade over Lowry and Lancaster. Former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kewann Short and former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins are still out of work and looking for an opportunity. While both have some miles on their tires, they would still be an upgrade over what Lowry and Lancaster are bringing to the table.
The Joe Barry hiring was not a popular one. In fact, he has not done anything as of yet that illustrates he is the right person for the job. But Gutekunst has not done him any favors. While there is not much the Packers defense can do with King, except demoting him, Gutekunst could bring in some help on the defensive line. If not, Barry will need to make chicken salad out of chicken, well, you know the rest.