There has been a lot of discussion about the Green Bay Packers defense after Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Green Bay’s defense was supposed to be the backbone of this year’s team, but so far, the results have been disappointing.
The Packers entered Week 5 thinking they could shut down Saquon Barkley and secure a win. However, you could argue that it was Giants quarterback Daniel Jones who did most of the damage.
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Jones orchestrated five drives that spanned approximately 28 minutes and gained 338 yards. He completed 21 out of 27 pass attempts for 217 yards and finished with a 100.2 passer rating. Even though Jones didn’t throw a touchdown, he also didn’t throw an interception while adding 37 of his own rushing yards. Overall, his impact of him was probably greater than Barkley’s.
How could this happen against a defense with so much talent at all three levels? And against Daniel Jones, really? Not to mention, Jones was missing his top three receivers.
Most people will point to the scheme. Joe Barry’s defense has dropped in DVOA since last season despite having even more talent to work with. Some of it is fair, as Barry hasn’t done a great job of catering his defense to dictate more from the opposing offense, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. In some cases, the players are not executing what he is asking them to do, leading to breakdowns in coverage.
That leads us to where we are now. For this week’s film review, we are going to dissect Green Bay’s defensive performance against Jones and New York’s offense. In the end, we should have a much clearer picture of what the issues are.
Let’s start with something positive.
On the first drive, they were able to force a three-and-out. The Giants only need four yards, so they try to set up a running back screen for Barkley. The Packers do a nice job of flowing to the ball, especially De’Vondre Campbell, who is in perfect position just as the ball is about to arrive. However, I also want to point out Jaire Alexander at the bottom of the screen. Notice that he is playing up on the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage to ensure no easy completions on third and short. This will be important to remember later on.
Two positive plays in a row? Yes, believe it or not, Green Bay did have some good play calls early on. Here, Barry sends five rushers at Jones, who is in an empty set. The overloaded pressure on the left side forces Jones to get rid of the ball quicker than he wants. The Packers are in cover one, and everyone does a good job covering their man. Jones heaves a deep throw to Barkley, thinking he has a favorable matchup against a linebacker. However, Quay Walker is a freak athlete who does a great job of phasing Barkley out toward the sideline. Excellent defense all-around.
And here is where things start to fall apart. Green Bay has been terrible at defending crossers in 2022. According to Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, they have allowed the most yards from crossing routes of any defense this season (327). On this play, the Packers’ corners are in off-coverage, which gives the wide receiver a free release. Stokes appears to be playing match Cover 3, so he is basically in man coverage. Stokes gets burned even though he runs at 4.2. This shouldn’t happen, but more on Stokes later.
Now, this is frustrating. It’s 2nd and 19, and you are giving the offense a free completion. That’s Jaire Alexander at the bottom of the screen matched up against Marcus Johnson. Remember the first play we showed? It’s the same matchup, except, this time, Alexander is in off-man. Alexander is the highest-paid corner in the league and he should be pressing guys like Johnson every chance he gets. This play call is malpractice by Barry, as it ends up letting New York get into field goal range.
Let’s get back to Stokes. Stokes had a promising rookie year in 2021, but this season, he hasn’t been nearly as good. He doesn’t appear to be playing with as much confidence, and it shows in his coverage of him. Maybe this is on the coaches too, but Stokes should know he has to maintain better leverage in Cover 3.
Someone else who hasn’t been as good as they were a season ago is Campbell. This is terrible awareness from the All-Pro linebacker, who is basically playing in the same zone drop as Rasul Douglas. It allows a wide-open completion in the middle of the field on 3rd and 13, and you can see Darnell Savage is visibly frustrated after the play.
Another crossing route, another easy completion. The Giants clearly read the scouting report because this won’t be the last crosser we break down. It’s 3rd and 3, and the Packers are in another unaggressive Cover 3 look (shocker, I know). The receiver gets a free release when even a subtle jam could help throw off the timing of this play. Savage reacts late, and the result is an easy completion to Slayton for a gain of 14 yards. This drive lasted over 7 minutes and ended with a field goal when it could have ended sooner and without points.
What’s worse than a 7-minute drive that ends in three points? An 8-minute drive that ends in six. Here’s how it started with a lack of discipline from Stokes yet again. He follows the misdirection, and it opens up an easy completion to the flat on his side of the field. Again, this could be linked to coaching or Stokes thinking too much because he should know better.
Are we really going to show another crosser? Yes. Yes, we are. To no one’s surprise, this completion comes against off-coverage. This team really needs to mix in some other looks, or this will keep happening.
Let’s finish off with a complete and utter breakdown. New York came back from a double-digit deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead, and they couldn’t have done it without this 41-yard catch and run from Barkley. It’s 2nd and 10, so naturally, Green Bay sends out a conservative play call. Everyone does a pretty good job with their responsibility except Walker. Campbell tries to alert Walker of Barkley running a drag across the middle, but Walker doesn’t pick up on it. We talked about Walker’s processing issues in zone coverage in an earlier film review, and clearly, he hasn’t gotten better. This play might as well have been the dagger.
So, are there issues with the scheme, or are the players not executing? Both can be true. The Packers need to stray away from off-man, or guys like Jones will continue to carve them up. The crossing route is a major issue, and they are all coming against this coverage. Mix in some press when Jaire and Stokes are playing against below-average receivers. Meanwhile, everyone in the secondary, including the linebackers, needs to do a better job communicating and carrying out their responsibility in coverage. The scheme is partly broken because the players aren’t executing it properly. If things don’t change fast, things will only get uglier when Green Bay faces a better quarterback.