GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will be down a key cog to their improving but shorthanded defense for Thursday night’s showdown at the undefeated and high-flying Arizona Cardinals.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Barry tested positive for COVID-19, coach Matt LaFleur confirmed. While he’ll be able to help create the game plan while working virtually, he probably will not be on the sideline in Glendale, Ariz. Because he is vaccinated, Barry would be cleared with consecutive negative tests the next two days.
"I'm not going to hold my breath on that," LaFleur said.
In response to the positive test, the team is spending Monday conducting virtual game-planning meetings, LaFleur said. Everybody, vaccinated or unvaccinated, must wear masks. Any meetings with players would be done virtually, as well. Tuesday's practice, a jog-through to install the game plan, would be conducted as planned.
Barry’s defense has played a big role in Green Bay’s six-game winning streak. Even with the chronic red-zone woes that finally showed signs of progress during Sunday’s 24-10 victory over Washington, the Packers have allowed only 18 points per game the past six weeks. On a per-game basis, that trails only Buffalo (15.0), Arizona (16.8) and Cincinnati (17.3) during that span.
On Green Bay’s coaching staff, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray would be a logical replacement, though LaFleur would not say if he would be the man calling the plays on Thursday night.
Getting Douglas Instead of Gilmore Has Worked Out for Packers
It's time to revisit Oct. 6, when the Green Bay Packers pursued former All-Pro Stephon Gilmore but instead announced the signing of Rasul Douglas.
Jones Shows Peril of Second-Contract Running Backs
With a new contract, Aaron Jones has been good. He just hasn't been great. Here's a look at Jones and the NFL's other high-paid running backs.
Gray was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo from 2001 through 2005 and Tennessee from 2011 through 2013. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, outside linebackers coach Mike Smith and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti have not been coordinators in the NFL. Smith was either coordinator or co-coordinator at Texas Tech from 2013 through 2015 and Montgomery was the coordinator at North Iowa Community College in 2005.
“Certainly, you feel confident with a guy like Jerry, who’s called it before and has had a top-five defense in this league,” LaFleur said of Gray. “We definitely have people that we feel are capable of getting the job done.”
The question is not limited to who will replace Barry as the play-caller on Thursday. Will there by any impact to the rest of the coaching staff or the players? That was a legitimate concern, LaFleur said, though the entire coaching staff and most of the players are vaccinated.
“There’s potentially some other issues with staff,” LaFleur said.
Barry's unit has been on the upswing, with the caveat of it not facing a bunch of quality quarterbacks. The Packers allowed 10 points vs. Washington, their best showing since a 23-10 win over Minnesota in Week 16 of the 2019 season.
“Defensively, I can’t say enough about the guys,” LaFleur said afterward. “I thought our pass rush, specifically in the second half, really got going. It was great to see guys like Rashan Gary get two sacks. He was an impact player on this game. We see it every day just the energy, the effort, what he brings to this football team, how much he cares. It’s awesome to see a guy like that get rewarded and go out there and make some key plays. Can’t say enough about De’Vondre Campbell as well. What an addition he’s been, just making impact plays all over the place. I know there’s been a lot of discussion about the red-zone defense, but when you hold a team to 0-for-4 in the red zone, that’s a pretty big deal and I think that was a big difference in the game.”
Green Bay’s strong defensive performance came with the starting outside linebackers (Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith) and starting cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander and Kevin King) sidelined by injuries.
The challenge will be much greater on Thursday. Arizona is fourth in the NFL with 32.1 points per game. It has scored at least 31 points in six of its seven games this season. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury returned for Sunday's victory over Houston following his own bout with COVID that kept him out for one game.