GREEN BAY, Wis. – How will the Green Bay Packers’ defense differ under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry?
That’s an impossible question to answer because, at this point, even Barry probably only has a rough idea of how he’s going to deploy his personnel. Not only is there a draft class to acquire in a couple weeks, but Barry must figure out the strengths and weaknesses of players. The only way for Barry to learn that is through time on the practice field.
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to look at some of the personnel tendencies from last season, when Mike Pettine coordinated Green Bay’s defense and Brandon Staley coordinated the Los Angeles Rams’ defense with Barry serving as linebackers coach.
Presumably, Barry will run Staley’s defense, which is rooted in Vic Fangio’s defense. Staley spent three years as Fangio’s outside linebackers coach in Chicago and Denver. But Barry is Barry, making him a product of almost two decades in the NFL.
“I think it’s a benefit to me because I’ve been able to be a part of so many different defenses and so many different philosophies, and I formulated my own,” he said during his introductory Zoom last month. “This is going to be our system, our package, the 2021 Green Bay Packers system. I think it’s been very neat that I’ve been able to see a lot of football through different lenses based on the people I’ve worked for and the people that I’ve worked with. It’s not even in the same spectrum from a Monte Kiffin defense to a Vic Fangio defense, there’s no doubt about it.”
Sports Info Solutions’ “Rookie Handbook” includes personnel rankings such as how much a defense lined up in base defense and how often it sent six rushers at the passer. Looking at those numbers, the one big difference could be reliance on dime packages. Under Pettine, the Packers lined up with six-plus defensive backs on 50 percent of the defensive snaps, the highest rate in the NFL. The Rams under Staley lined up in dime 25 percent of the time.
Packers-Rams Defensive Tendencies
- Base – Packers: 20 percent (23rd). Rams: 16 percent (27th).
- Nickel – Packers: 27 percent (32nd). Rams: 59 percent (18th).
- Dime+ - Packers: 50 percent (1st). Rams: 25 percent (8th).
- Man – Packers: 20 percent (20th). Rams: 21 percent (28th).
- Zone – Packers: 68 percent (4th). Rams: 66 percent (8th).
- Three rushers: 7 percent (13th). 4 percent (26th).
- Four rushers: 70 percent (9th). 70 percent (7th).
- Five rushers: 19 percent (19th). 22 percent (11th).
- Six-plus rushers: 2 percent (31st). 2 percent (28th).
The unanswerable question is whether that big difference was driven by philosophy or personnel. Without a solid coverage option at linebacker, Pettine felt inclined to play with an extra defensive back. If Barry goes into the 2021 season with Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin as his inside linebackers, will he lean more toward Pettine’s style? On the other hand, if the Packers land one of the top inside linebackers in the draft, the dime package could be limited only to third-and-long situations.
“At the end of the day, defensive football, bottom line, is about guys killing blocks and getting off blocks, it’s about tackling, it’s about taking the ball away,” Barry said.
“It’s about playing with not effort but relentless effort. Those are things we’re going to do here. Really, with those things, it doesn’t matter if you’re 4-3, if you’re 3-4, if you’re Tony Dungy, if you’re Vic Fangio. It doesn’t matter. I’m not making a bunch of promises, but I promise you the guys will tackle, I promise you they’ll get off blocks. I promise you we’re going to do everything humanly possible to take the ball away and get the ball in 12’s hands, and we’re going to play fast and furious.”