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Blackmon: Barry Brings Work Ethic, Passion, Motivation

Former Packers defensive back Will Blackmon played for Joe Barry's defenses in Washington in 2015 and 2016.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Few people have a better feel for the Green Bay Packers’ hiring of Joe Barry as defensive coordinator than Will Blackmon.

Blackmon, a fourth-round draft pick by the Packers in 2006, spent his first four NFL seasons in Green Bay. Blackmon’s 10-year NFL career concluded with two years in Washington, the 2015 and 2016 seasons when Barry was the defensive coordinator.

Blackmon is well aware of the outcry from Packers fans over the hiring of Barry. He’s well aware of Barry’s track record, too, after failed stints as the coordinator in Washington and Detroit.

He wants you to be aware of the circumstances.

“I can understand that. You’re only as good as your last job and all those things,” Blackmon said. “Right, he did struggle at some places. When I first met him, it was 2015 in Washington. The cool thing about Joe B. is he’s willing to adjust and continue to find ways. Yes, we did not have the greatest personnel on defense. We had a bunch of outcasts with the exception of a few guys like Ryan Kerrigan and Preston (Smith). But he was able to find a way where he kept the energy good. He came to work every day like crazy-excited and passionate despite everything that was going on. There was a bunch of stuff going on with the GM and the president and ownership but he was still able to stay the course and still be able to find a way.”

With Jim Haslett running the defense 2014, Washington finished 4-12 and ranked 29th in points allowed. With Barry taking over in 2015, Washington won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and improved to 17th in points allowed. In 2016, it finished 8-7-1 and 19th in points allowed. Coach Jay Gruden fired Barry after the season and replaced him with Greg Manusky. Washington went 7-9 and plummeted to 27th in points allowed.

RELATED: RAMS LINEBACKER TROY REEDER ON JOE BARRY

The Packers’ defense he’ll be inheriting is not filled with “outcasts.” While lack of top talent and a revolving door of personnel forced Barry to play with simplistic schemes in Washington, Green Bay’s Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander are Pro Bowl players. The safety tandem of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage is well above average. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary is an up-and-coming player. The 2019 Packers finished ninth in points allowed; the 2020 Packers finished ninth in yards allowed.

“No, we didn’t rank high in terms of overall defense but we were able to get the damn ball out despite having a limited package,” Blackmon recalled of a team that finished eighth in takeaways and first in fumble recoveries in 2015. “Even that Year 2, we had so many injuries, we had so many guys rotating in and out, we had some guys suspended. We had a bunch of new faces, but he was able to make a game plan that allowed us to go out there and compete. Now, he’s going to a team in Green Bay, which is his best roster. He has great football knowledge to truly get done what needs to be done. I understand the numbers but sometimes that’s just how it is.”

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Packers coach Matt LaFleur spent the 2017 season with Barry in Los Angeles. With the Rams, LaFleur was the offensive coordinator while Barry was the linebackers coach/assistant head coach for a 31-year-old rookie coach named Sean McVay.

LaFleur is a grinder, a trait he shares with Barry.

“I remember I would come back to the facility a couple times a week to watch extra film,” Blackmon said. “I’d leave at 11 o’clock or midnight and Joe Barry’s taking a break. I’m like, ‘Go home, man!’ But he’s up all night just because he cares. The best thing about Joe B. is he has absolutely zero ego. It’s never about him. Never, ever, ever. It’s never about Joe. It’s always about the players. He’s an emotional guy when it comes to that. He’s emotional and passionate. So, I understand his history in terms of success. But there’s a reason why Joe was the assistant head coach of the Rams. He’s got head coach qualities in terms of the leadership and being able to communicate. At the end of the day, as a coach, if you’re able to lead, if you’re able to communicate and you truly have the best interests in the players, that’s all that matters.”

Blackmon said Barry had an open-door policy. He’d eagerly listen to the players and, at times, adopt their thoughts into his scheme or game plan.

Blackmon downplayed the notion that his track record with Washington and Detroit a decade earlier would be held against him by his new players.

“If he’s going to work his ass off to put us in the best position, if that’s his main mission, then it’s all good,” Blackmon said of the players’ perspective. “For any athlete at any level – I dealt with coaches who cussed me out all day long but, at the end of the day, I knew their heart and knew they wanted me to do well. I coach some kids and if the kid knows that I want it for him, then it’s all good. He’s willing to do all those things.”

In terms of the official rankings, which are judged on yards instead of points, Barry’s defenses have never finished outside the bottom five in total defense or bottom 10 in rushing defense. Those horrendous numbers have made LaFleur’s hire ripe for criticism.

Blackmon said Barry is aware of that history, too. With experience and talent, Barry’s got a chance to rewrite his resume.

“I’m just happy for the dude that he’s got another opportunity,” Blackmon said. “He knows the numbers, he knows the history. He has a motivating factor. He knows these things. Trust me, he’s going to go in there and he’s going to work.”