Packers: Evaluating each position on defense ahead of free agency

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews /
1 of 6
GREEN BAY, WI – DECEMBER 11: Mike Daniels
GREEN BAY, WI – DECEMBER 11: Mike Daniels /

Evaluating each position group on defense for the Green Bay Packers ahead of free agency.

The Green Bay Packers defense started out with a bang in 2017.

In the season opener the unit kept Seattle’s offense in check, while Aaron Rodgers and the offense figured out the Seahawks’ always-tough defense.

A week later all the good feelings came crashing back down. Atlanta’s offense lit up Dom Capers’ defense just as they did in the 2016 NFC Championship game. In what would prove to be a season-long problem, the secondary looked lost. Matt Ryan faced little to no pressure from the front seven and the Falcons cruised to an easy win in their new home.

All season long the Packers defense couldn’t rise to the occasion to help a Rodgers-less offense. Oftentimes it looked as if the opposing QB new exactly what the Packers were going to do pre-snap.

A change was needed.

Must Read: Evaluating Packers offense ahead of free agency

After years of stubbornly sticking by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, head coach Mike McCarthy had finally seen enough. Just days after the season ended in Detroit, fans across Packer Nation got what they have been begging for season after season: Capers was fired.

After a two-week search, McCarthy found his match and Mike Pettine was hired.

With Capers out and Pettine in, the defense should have a much different look. Pettine uses multiple fronts and mixes in zone and man coverages frequently.

One of the biggest problems with the 2017 defense was constant breakdowns in communication.  Too often receivers were running free on a blown coverage for an easy completion. Quarterbacks sat back comfortably in the pocket and picked apart the Packers defense.

According to a recent ESPN interview with Rex Ryan, Pettine likes to use a KILL (Keep It Likeable and Learnable) philosophy when establishing his defenses. It’s important to make sure your players buy in, but also to keep it easy enough for everyone to learn. This practice should help reduce the breakdowns that were all too frequent last season.

Pettine alone won’t be the one to fix the defense. New GM Brian Gutekunst will use the draft and free agency to help the team improve. With as many as 12 possible draft picks and enough cap space to make an impact signing or two, there will be new pieces added.

But, change also comes from within. Players develop and improve. Rookies become second-year players and young guys become vets.

So, will it be a free agent addition or a player’s development that helps make this defense more of the same or a much-improved unit?

Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Packers defense heading into the 2018 season.