Joe Barry, Green Bay Packers Defensive Coaching Staff 2022 Evaluation

Joe Barry

It was expected that it would be a year of transition for the Green Bay Packers offense this season. But what wasn’t expected was the struggles of the Green Bay Packers defense. Head coach Matt LaFleur was hoping the defense would carry them this season. Unfortunately, that never really happened. Because of that, many are pointing the finger at Joe Barry and the rest of the Green Bay Packers defensive coaching staff.

Joe Barry, Green Bay Packers Defensive Coaching Staff Review

The Green Bay Packers defense finished 17th in total defense, sixth against the pass, and 26th against the run. For some NFL teams, those rankings might bring joy. But for the Packers defense, it was disappointing.

General manager Brian Gutekunst spent a lot of money and draft capital on improving the defense. At times in 2022, the Packers had seven starters who were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Along with those draft picks, Gutekunst had signed four players through free agency who were contributors on defense this season. Unfortunately, those picks and free-agent signings didn’t pay off this past season. It wasn’t that Gutekunst missed on those players, but rather it was the failure of the person who was in charge.

When Matt LaFleur hired Joe Barry prior to 2021, it wasn’t a popular decision. Barry had failed two times before as a defensive coordinator. Expecting that a third time would be a charm was a long shot. One that hasn’t paid off.

However, those failures haven’t changed LaFleur’s opinion of what he thinks of Joe Barry. It appears that Barry will be returning for his third season as the Packers defensive coordinator. It’s a decision that could very well cost the Packers chances of being a Super Bowl contender in 2023. It also might cost LaFleur his job as the Packers head coach.

Today, we grade out the efforts of Joe Barry and several of Green Bay’s defensive assistants.

Defensive Coordinator

Don’t let the way the Packers defense finished up 2022 fool you. They might have played better down the stretch, but the damage was already done. For a defense that many Packers podcasters thought would be the next coming of the 1985 Chicago Bears, they never came close to reaching those expectations.

Gutekunst stocked the Packers defensive roster with players who have the ability to play an aggressive style of defense. But even with knowing that, Barry rarely coordinated a defense to play to his players strengths.  Instead, choosing to run one of the most vanilla bland defenses in the NFL.

The biggest example of this was how Barry utilized cornerback Jaire Alexander. It took Barry almost the season to finally allow Alexander to play the in-your-face defense that made him one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Gutekunst and the Packers paid Alexander big money. Money that was wasted by how Barry utilized Alexander.

But it wasn’t just Alexander. Rasul Douglas, who received a big money contract, was also wasted. Barry played him in the slot to start the season, a position that Douglas wasn’t suited to play.

Young players such as Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes (prior to his season-ending injury) regressed under Barry. Along with younger players regressing, so did veterans such as Kenny Clark.

There is no getting around it. Hiring Joe Barry was a mistake and keeping him is an even bigger one. If continuity is what LaFleur wants for 2023, then he has it in Barry. That means LaFleur shouldn’t expect anything different from the Green Bay Packers defense in 2023.

Grade: F

Defensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator

Jerry Montgomery has been the Packers defensive line coach since 2018. Prior to the 2022 season, LaFleur promoted Montgomery to the defensive run game coordinator. Both as the defensive line coach and now as the run game coordinator, Montgomery’s defensive lines have failed expectations.

This off-season, Gutekunst added free-agent defensive lineman Jarran Reed. Along with Reed, he drafted Devonte Wyatt in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. With holdovers Clark, Dean Lowry, and TJ Slaton, the Packers defensive line was the deepest it had been in years.

But even with the newfound depth, the Packers defensive line struggled. Reed and Clark did come on late as pass rushers, but they struggled against the run throughout 2022. Wyatt played sparingly in 2022, with most of his playing time coming late in the season after Lowry was lost for the season. Speaking of Lowry, he again underachieved and has made many wonder why the Packers continue to bring him back.

It is no surprise that the Packers finished 26th against the run. It has been a consistent issue in recent history. A history that Jerry Montgomery has been a part of. If not for Clark and Reed contributing as pass rushers, Montgomery would receive the same grade we gave Joe Barry.

Grade:  D-

Outside Linebackers

When former outside linebackers coach Mike Smith departed to join the Minnesota Vikings, he left a big hole on the Packers coaching staff. Smith was respected by his players and his outside linebackers produced when he was in charge of the room. First-year Packers outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich had big shoes to fill.

Like with most of the Packers positional coaches, Rebrovich had injuries to deal with on his unit. Rashan Gary, the Packers most explosive pass rusher, was lost to a season-ending injury mid-season. But even in playing in just nine games, Gary posted six sacks. If he could have stayed healthy, there isn’t much doubt he would have finished with double-digit sacks.

With Gary out, veteran outside linebacker Preston Smith did his best to pick up the slack. Smith became the Packers best pass rusher with Gary out. If not for Smith, who some thought should be cut for salary cap purposes prior to 2022, the Packers pass rush would have been in trouble.

Rebrovich earned his paycheck with the work he did with rookie Kingsley Enagbare and mid-season pickup Justin Hollins. Enagbare, a fifth-round rookie, became a key contributor as a pass rusher when Gary went down. He posted three sacks and was able to create pressure on numerous occasions. He showed some promise under Rebrovich, which paints Rebrovich in a good light.

Hollins was picked up midway through the season off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams. He and Enagbare rotated at the outside linebacker spot of Smith. He chipped in two and a half sacks for the season. Again, Rebrovich did a great job getting Hollins ready to play immediately and having him become a contributor.

Grade:  B+

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