2021 Packers Preview – Defense
The 2020 NFL season is in the rearview mirror and the 2021 season will begin shortly. Teams are already making moves to get under the salary cap. In this two-part series, we will take an in-depth look at the Packers roster and the state of each position group. Up first is the Green Bay Packers defense going forward.
After another NFC Championship Game letdown, the Packers and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine decided to part ways. Now, Joe Barry comes over from the Rams to run this unit. Barry is described as a “passionate” and “high-energy” coach. He wants to employ speed off the ball and pressure with 1-on-1 wins. The Rams were a top defense last season and they were successful playing light boxes with great secondary play. Barry will have some nice pieces to work with here in Green Bay to run his style of play.
Employing a light box while being able to pressure and stop the run requires some elite play. The Rams had Aaron Donald in the middle to be able to do this successfully. While the Packers don’t have Donald, they do possess plenty of useful players. Kenny Clark in the middle is a problem for any offense. The key is to get him more one-on-one opportunities. Barry’s system likes to shoot and penetrate gaps. Getting solid play inside next to Clark is the lynchpin. With Dean Lowry being a potential cap casualty, and Tyler Lancaster more of a hole filler than penetrator the answer on the roster right now is Kingsley Keke. Before injuries shortened Keke’s season, he flashed that he can be this guy. A full-time gig might be a lot but Keke can get in the backfield in a rotational role.
At the least, the interior defensive line needs added depth if not a starter. In free agency the hot talk is recently released J.J. Watt. Yes, Watt would instantly bolster this front but let’s not hold our breath. Green Bay already is moving money to get under the cap. Watt would not come cheap even though he’s been relatively healthy the last three seasons, injury is always a concern. Still, Watt is playing at a high level and would be a prize of the offseason.
The Packers best bet would be to add via the draft. Early-round prospects like Christian Barmore or Davion Nixon could contribute on day one. After round 2 of the draft, Marlon Tuipulotu has the makings of a steal.
Whether their hand is in the dirt or standing up the Packers have two strong starting edge players. Za’Darius Smith has put together two top-notch seasons and the sky is the limit for surging Rashan Gary. After those two, there are question marks. Unless Preston Smith gets his contract reworked he could be another cut. Jon Garvin and Randy Ramsey are young players with no sacks on their resume. Again, Watt is the dream to this situation but I don’t see much depth added via free agency here. My favorite and best pass rusher in this draft, Jaelan Phillips would be an amazing value at 29. Philips would cement the future at the position and also offer pressure inside and out on 3rd-downs. Joe Tryon in Dayo Odeyingbo are also guys to watch in the top 100. All these prospects are long lean athletes that can move around.
Latest Packers News
- 2021 Packers Preview – Offense
- 2021 Packers Preview – Defense
- What Has an NFL Wild Card Champion Done For an Encore?
- NFC Championship Odds: Packers Maintain Betting Edge Over Visiting Bucs
- NFL Championship Games: Don’t Want No Rematch? Well, We Got Two
This off-season will be an interesting year for the off-ball linebackers. Coach Barry has really developed guys in his system such as Cory Littleton. 2020 free-agent signing Christian Kirksey looked his best in the playoffs but might be another cap cut. Krys Barnes showed potential as an undrafted rookie and Kamal Martin has the attacking ability that fits what Green Bay wants to do. Still, this group is missing a hybrid playmaker able to excel against the run or the pass. Tampa Bay showed the football world the benefits of superstar inside linebackers. The Packers don’t invest big dollars at this position but there is one player in the draft that could change the face of this group. The Packers will have to move up, but Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah is tailor-made for today’s NFL. My favorite defensive player in this draft, Owuso-Koramoah is a mix of Landon Collins and Myles Jack. For the Packers defense to take the next step forward, this group needs an alpha that can make splash plays.
Like the Rams in 2020, the Packers may play two scheme coverages. The Rams played more zone than anyone last year, and used Jalen Ramsey to cover opposing alphas. The Packers have that guy in Jaire Alexander. After that, the cupboard is pretty bare. Chandon Sullivan took a step back in a bigger role last season. Kevin King is a free agent and left an awful taste to Packer Nation in his last performance. Only on a prove-it deal do I see King back. Unlike the other positions where drafting could solve the issue, corner will need help through free agency. William Jackson would be the best option with his 4.3 speed and coverage ability but he might cost too much. Another option could be a short-term deal with Xavier Rhodes while a rookie could be brought in slowly. Rhodes rebounded in 2020 after an awful 2019. His size and zone skills could make a solid fit. Rodarius Williams could be a mid-to-late-round find. Williams (brother to Browns Greedy Williams) is a long, tough, and game bred cornerback with future starter traits.
The starting safeties for the Packers would excite any defensive coordinator. Darnell Savage is growing into a game-changer while Adrian Amos is as assignment sure as they come at strong safety. Nobody is unseating this duo but Raven Green‘s injury history leaves room for depth. Vernon Scott might be in the mix in his second year after being raw as a rookie. Henry Black could also get snaps as the third safety. Of course, Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah could mask all of this because I don’t see the Packers adding anything here in free agency. Even in the draft, it could be a late-round flyer at this position.
Overall the nucleus of this defense is here. There are field tilters and up-and-coming players. There is also room for another starter are two and upgrades at depth to take this unit over the top.
Thank you for reading 2021 Packers Preview – Defense. Be sure to check out all of the great NFL content available on Full Press Coverage.