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Barry Hasn’t Blitzed Yet, And Might Not This Week, Either

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry hasn’t sent a single blitz at a quarterback this season. With the experience of Tom Brady, don’t expect a big change on Sunday against the Buccaneers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With a talented defense, like the one the Green Bay Packers will be packing for Sunday’s NFC showdown at the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are two schools of thought.

One is to sit back, with the belief that the opponent isn’t good enough to move the football methodically up and down the field. That’s bend but don’t break.

The second is to attack, with the intention of creating big plays. There’s confidence the pass rush will get home and, if it doesn’t, the secondary can win their matchups. That’s risk vs. reward.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry has taken the safe and conservative approach. Through two games, he hasn’t sent a single blitz at the opposing quarterback.

“I did notice that,” Barry said on Thursday, “but then I saw some stat that we’ve defended the least amount of passes, too, through two games. So, I think there’s a little bit of a correlation there.”

Barry’s not big on blitzing. Last season, according to Sports Info Solutions, he sent five rushers 17 percent of the time (20th-most in the league) and six-plus rushers just 2 percent of the time (29th). Through the small sample size of two games, inside linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker have only dropped in coverage. Rasul Douglas hasn’t attacked from the slot.

“We do like to bring multiple people but, on the other end, too, when we do choose to rush four, the four guys we have rushing are pretty effective and pretty good,” Barry continued. “But by no means do I ever want to think that we’re not a pressure team because we can, we will, we like to do that. It’s just the way the two games have gone. We’ve defended quite a few runs. We’ll get to the point where we do that, but I really do like our four-man rush. I think it’s highly effective.”

By playing it safe, Barry is betting that his four-man rush can get the job done. That’s not a bad bet. Among edge rushers, Preston Smith ranks first and Rashan Gary ranks sixth in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-rushing productivity, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Among interior defenders, Kenny Clark is No. 1. Those players must bring the heat if the Packers are going to get the best of Brady.

“I’ve been getting great protection,” Brady told reporters on Thursday. “The guys up front have been competing very hard. I think that’s part of why we’ve run the ball so well. We’ve been able to run it a bunch of times and … control the line of scrimmage. It’s a big challenge. Great pass-rushers, one of the best inside players we’ll face all year, Kenny Clark; Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are great rushers. It’s another big challenge but we’ve got to meet it.”

A strong four-man rush, combined with Green Bay’s trio of cornerbacks and veteran safeties, should be a winning combination. That wasn’t the formula in the Week 1 loss at Minnesota but the Packers smothered Chicago in Week 2. The challenge will be infinitely higher this week.

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Brady is the quarterbacking gold standard. He’s seen every blitz, every defensive wrinkle, every coordinator’s try at sleight of hand. There’s nothing that Barry can scheme up that Brady hasn’t seen a thousand times. That’s not to say Barry should sit back and play zone for four quarters on Sunday. But the risk-reward paradigm is always slanted toward the accomplished veteran quarterback. That might mean another week with a low volume of blitzes.

“The things that you’ve got to do is you have to at least try to affect him because you’re really not going to trick him or fool him,” Barry said.

“It’s the constant cat and mouse of who’s going to make the first mistake,” Barry added.

Douglas used the same phrase.

“You’ve got to be smart,” he said. “You’ve got to know that if he understands it’s coming, he has a plan for it. It’s like a cat-and-mouse game that you’ve got to play with him. Sometimes you mix it in, sometimes you don’t.”

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