Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Going On With The Packers Defense?

In Week 1, against a pretty good Seattle offense, the Packers defense allowed 36 points and maybe that can be excused as one bad game. However, the badness lingered into the second quarter against the Jets, and the clouds didn't lift until DE Mike Daniels started to take over. There are three things on my mind and the first one is addressed by this is a very interesting tweet from former Packer LB Brady Poppinga:
I can recall one play when Matthews was acting like a middle linebacker in pass coverage, and also the one pass down the sidelines that was covered by LB Julius Peppers, who was tied for the team lead last Sunday with two pass defenses. So far, Mike McCarthy is supportive of deploying two of the best pass rushers in the NFL into coverage, but it's obvious the coaches aren't playing to those players' strengths. An occasional zone blitz can be useful to give the defense some unpredictability, but I find it hard to defend dropping Matthews into coverage 35% of the time. Matthews and Peppers are known for making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, and moving them away from it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Jamari Lattimore or Brad Jones? While Jones was a disaster against the Seahawks (he was probably playing hurt), Lattimore earned a positive grade from Pro Football Focus for his start against the Jets. I'm not a huge Jones fan, but he has played very well at times, and it's hard to believe Lattimore can be anything more than an adequate starter. I'd like to see what Lattimore would do with another start, and I wouldn't mind if they kept Sam Barrington loose in the bullpen either.

Where in the world is Casey Hayward? I did notice during the Jets game that Hayward seemed to be riding the bike on the sidelines instead of lining up on the field. If the Packers were going to improve their defense, I expected Hayward (who was arguably their 2nd best defensive player in 2012 before an injury plagued 2013 season) would be a big factor. There currently seems to be a mystery injury surrounding him, but there could be another couple factors as to why he's on the bench. One of his final plays in Week 1 was a killer 15 yard personal foul that ended their slim comeback hopes against the Seahawks. Also, CB Davon House played very well this preseason and he's clearly outplayed Hayward so far this season (two pass defenses for House against the Jets and a positive rating from Pro Football Focus). The defense needs to force more turnovers and no one has more potential for grabbing INTs than Hayward (6 INTs during his rookie season) but he injuries and more competition might be pushing him to the sidelines.

So the defense is still a work in progress. Despite having the entire preseason to figure everything out, everything is not figured out. There isn't an obvious fix here, expect that it's time to unleash Matthews and Peppers, and it's something to keep an eye on.

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