Packers have a major problem to tackle

Bill Huber

The Green Bay Packers, somewhat predictably, missed a lot of tackles in Thursday night’s preseason opener against Houston.

Pro Football Focus marked the Packers down for 16 misses. I had them down for 19. Coach Matt LaFleur and his defensive staff deemed it even worse.

“I think we ended up with 24 missed tackles that got 164 yards,” LaFleur said after Saturday’s practice.

The Packers don’t practice live tackling at practice, meaning Thursday’s game against the Texans was their first opportunity to take the ball-carrier to the turf. It’s not an ideal way to get ready for the season. Then again, losing running back Aaron Jones during a training camp tackling drill wouldn’t be an ideal way to get ready for the season, either. As with everything during training camp, there is a give and take. LaFleur, like most coaches, has consistently erred on the side of caution.

That doesn’t mean the players were given a pass for the hideous tackling against Houston.

“The process is obviously different than it was awhile back,” inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said on Friday. “The reason you miss a tackle isn’t because you haven’t tackled. It’s usually an angle approaching up to it, it’s usually body position or foot position as you go up. A lot of those things can be coached without doing it live. Those are the things that on film come to life more. ‘Oh, shoot, I can tackle this guy, and I didn’t have my feet right – that’s why we do that drill.’ I think those things come to life a little bit more when you have an opportunity to bring people to the ground, and that’s why the progression of it probably has changed but the expectations on our end haven’t changed.”

According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers were a slightly below-average tackling team last season. (See list at end of story.) As with everything in second-year coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense, he expects improvement.

“It’s the hardest thing in the NFL defensively for that exact reason: The only real tackling reps that we’re going to get in the preseason are in games,” Pettine said. “But you drill it enough and you’re constantly talking about it. The key thing for us is our guys getting into position to show they can make the tackle, that they can close ground on the ball-carrier, that they bend, that they get their arms wide and show us they can do it. You do everything but the tackle. That’s something we grade the guys hard on. We have to get creative, but I think the position coaches all have a variety of drills that they use. You never know what kind of tackling team you’re going to have until you get to the games, but I’d be surprised if we’re not pretty good at it.”

Missed tackles in 2018 (from Pro Football Focus)

New England: 65

Minnesota: 71

Detroit: 74

L.A. Rams: 77

Pittsburgh: 86

Jacksonville: 90

Tennessee: 90

Washington: 92

Chicago: 93

New Orleans: 93

Baltimore: 97

Seattle: 99

Carolina: 104

Denver: 104

N.Y. Jets: 104

Indianapolis: 107

Arizona: 113

L.A. Chargers: 115

Houston: 119

Green Bay: 120

Dallas: 121

Philadelphia: 124

Miami: 126

Tampa Bay: 126

Oakland: 127

N.Y. Giants: 128

Kansas City: 130

San Francisco: 132

Buffalo: 137

Atlanta: 138

Cincinnati: 141

Cleveland: 169