Offensively, the Green Bay Packers look like they are more than ready for the 2022 NFL playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks poised to win his second consecutive NFL MVP award. Even if he is a “bad guy“. Rodgers favorite target, Davante Adams, is playing at a level that doesn’t leave any doubt he is the best pass catcher in the NFL. The offense also will have their starting left tackle, David Bakhtiari, and center, Josh Myers, for the playoffs. Offensively, the Packers look to be ready to make some waves in the playoffs. But if the Packers are going to reach the Super Bowl, their chances will fall on the other side of the ball. The Green Bay Packers defense looks to be the biggest factor if the Packers can bring home the Lombardi trophy.
Green Bay Packers Defense is Key to 2022 Playoff Success
Packers Defense Needs to Step Up
In the Packers 37-30 loss to the Detroit Lions, the Packers didn’t take much away from the game. They had already locked up the number one seed in the NFC playoffs prior to the game. So, they didn’t have much to gain, win or lose, from the game.
Even with not having anything to play for, on offense, Matt LaFleur had some of his starters play the first half of the game. The results were expected. When the starters played, which included Myers and Bakhtiari, they looked sharp and ready to go for the playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, the Green Bay Packers defense took a little different approach. Instead of playing just a half, the starters for the Green Bay Packers defense saw more time. Some of them playing the entire game. The results? Not nearly as successful as the offense.
If the Green Bay Packers defense is the key to their playoff success, there should be some concern. It doesn’t have to do with just how they played on Sunday against the Lions. It was a meaningless game, their status in the playoffs was already set. But still, a lot of starters saw time and they still struggled. The overall concern stems from how this unit played the last seven games of the season.
Obviously, as a unit, the Green Bay Packers defense will need to step up in the NFL playoffs. But with that said, there are key members of the defense that are going to need to play better if the Packers are going to reach the Super Bowl.
Today, we highlight key members of the Green Bay Packers defense who are going to need to step up in the playoffs. If they don’t, it might be a very short 2022 playoffs for the Packers.
Joe Barry will be Under the Gun
When Matt LaFleur named Joe Barry as his new defensive coordinator, it wasn’t a popular choice. Barry had failed as a defensive coordinator two times before and many wondered if he was the right person for the job.
After starting out rocky, Barry settled into being the person in charge of the Green Bay Packers defense. It appeared that he found his groove as a play-caller. But down the stretch, the Packers defense seemed to have faltered and that early-season success seems like a decent memory.
If it wouldn’t have been for such an awful performance by the Packers special teams during that seven-game stretch, there is no doubt Barry would have taken more heat. If you take out the week 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings, who were led by backup quarterback Sean Manion, the last time the Packers defense was successful was November 14th against the Seattle Seahawks.
Barry’s defense during that seven-game stretch looked a lot like the defense former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coordinated. Those defenses weren’t good enough to reach the Super Bowl. If Barry’s defense continues to look like a mirror image of Pettine’s, the burden of reaching the Super Bowl will once again fall on Rodgers and the Packers offense.
Dean Lowry Needs to Earn His Money
In Dean Lowry‘s first three seasons he registered 105 tackles and seven sacks. That output, in limited playing time, earned him a new three-year extension. Not only did it earn Lowry a new deal, but it also pushed former Packers, defensive lineman, Mike Daniels out of a roster spot for the Packers.
Since signing that contract, Lowry’s play, at best, has been uneven. However, this season, Lowry has played better. He finished the regular season with 38 combined tackles and four sacks. His sack total this season is the most he has had in a season.
While Lowry has played better this season, there have been stretches where his name hasn’t been called. If the Green Bay Packers defense is going to play better in the playoffs, Lowry is going to be more consistent. Lowry’s pass-rushing from the inside has been better this season. But his run defense hasn’t been at the level it needs to be.
Down the stretch, the Packers run defense has struggled. Kenny Clark continues to be the Packers best run stopper on the interior of the defense. Lowry is going to need to do a better job helping out Clark. Taking pressure off of Clark will help shore up Clark to make more plays.
Not only will Lowry need to shore up Clark, but he has to make up for what is missing at the other defensive tackle/end spot. Barry and defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery keep trotting out Tyler Lancaster week after week. Lowry has shown that he is one of the least effective defensive linemen in the NFL. Lowry and Clark consistently need to cover up for Lowry’s poor play.
Return of Jaire Alexander Couldn’t Be Better
It appears the Green Bay Packers defense will have star cornerback Jaire Alexander back for the playoffs. Alexander, who missed a good chunk of the regular season due to a shoulder injury, will provide the Packers secondary with options.
Since Alexander went out, Rasul Douglas, a mid-season pickup, has become a standout in the Packers secondary. Teaming up with Douglas on the boundary has been rookie Eric Stokes. Stokes has had some bumps, a given for a rookie cornerback, but has also had some bright spots for Packers.
With the return of Alexander, the Packers now have three legitimate starting cornerbacks. The question is, where will Barry play each of them? If Alexander’s shoulder can hold up, he could be used at the “star” position, a position that lines up in the slot. That would allow Barry to keep Douglas and Stokes on the outside. There is a slight chance they could move Stokes inside. No matter how Barry does it, the Alexander return will shore up the cornerback position.
Alexander’s return will also push-starting nickel back Chandon Sullivan back to the dime position. Sullivan had some struggles as the nickel back. In his first season with the Packers in 2019 Sullivan was the starting dime cornerback and played well. Getting back to that position might be the best spot for Sullivan.
By having Alexander back in the fold, it will also mean less playing time for safety Henry Black and cornerback Kevin King. When Alexander was out, Black saw more time and was frequently picked on. Black is best off on special teams, where he is a contributor. King once again has been frequently injured. At the times he has been healthy, which wasn’t often, he hasn’t been much help on defense. There is little doubt this will be King’s final season with the Packers.
Time to Play Better
Darnell Savage had a very strong 2020 season. In 2020, it looked like Savage was the player they had envisioned when Brian Gutekunst traded up in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select him.
But this season, Savage has taken a step back. While he hasn’t been horrible, he still has had some struggles, especially covering elite pass-catching tight ends. When he went against Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, he allowed Andrews to catch 10 passes for 136 yards with two touchdown catches. It is a necessity that Savage improves in his coverage if the Green Bay Packers defense is going to be successful. He is the Packers biggest playmaker in the secondary and the Packers will need him to make plays in the NFL playoffs.
Savage isn’t the only starter who needs to get better for the playoffs. Starting linebacker Krys Barnes will also need to play better. Barnes had a strong game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but similar to Lowry, there have been games where Barnes has been missing.
De’Vondre Campbell is the Packers best inside linebacker. He has made big plays and also has been consistent on a weekly basis. But Barnes hasn’t been as consistent. He needs to contribute more from that other starting inside linebacker position. With Oren Burks and Ty Summers, two massively underachieving players, behind Barnes, it will be up to Barnes to play better.
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