Packers: It’s not time to panic about the defense after Week 4
By Evan Siegel
The Green Bay Packers defense was awful against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it is not yet time to freak out about the state of affairs on that side of the ball.
The Eagles destroyed the Packers on the ground with 176 rushing yards, and three touchdowns for Jordan Howard, one of which came through the air. The Packers lost this game for a number of reasons, but the most glaring culprit was the wide open holes that the running backs were repeatedly supplied with.
The Packers had only given up 35 points combined through the first three games, but against the Eagles, they surrendered 34. But while a lot of the “same ol’ Packers” sentiment is spreading like jet fuel across Packer Nation, there are reasons to be optimistic about the team’s ability to position itself for a playoff run.
For one thing, defenses on Thursday Night Football are traditionally awful. It is the NFL’s fault for subjecting players to such a violent sport twice inside of a week. The Packers were worn down, tired, and fatigued going into the game against the Eagles.
Za’Darius Smith was listed as questionable before the game with a knee injury. Smith clearly wasn’t the same player against an excellent Eagles offensive line.
The Packers got a pretty decent showing from Adrian Amos, and Kevin King had the best game of his career against Alshon Jeffrey. The injury to Will Redmond complicated matters in the back end for a secondary that is already missing Raven Greene. The worst performances of the night came from Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez.
Clark once again showed why he will never be in the same class as Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, or Damon Harrison. Clark can be a forceful pass rusher, but he offers almost nothing as a run defender. The Packers have never been able to trust him as an anchor to the defensive line, and couldn’t again against the Eagles.
But the absolute worst of the worst was Blake Martinez. Martinez seemingly blew a coverage at least once on every single possession that the Eagles had. That is less about physical fatigue and more about a complete lack of understanding of the offense he was tasked with stopping. But the Packers need to simply put the loss behind them.
Unlike in the past, this was a game the Packers definitely could have won. Two field goals in the first half and numerous goal-line errors robbed the offense of crucial points. The huge kick return the special teams surrendered to Miles Sanders immediately put the defense in a bind, and the Aaron Rodgers fumble in the first half gave the Eagles another short field to work with.
Mason Crosby also shanked a kickoff out of bounds and put Carson Wentz on the 40-yard line. Few defenses can be expected to shut down an extremely talented quarterback and offensive line when they are given three different short fields. The Packers, despite all that went wrong, came up three yards short of the tying score.
In past years, that game would’ve featured a terrible Packers defense that let the Eagles march up and down the field at will, both through the air and on the ground, and get blown out at home. But as the offense appears to be taking shape, the Packers were able to stay connected throughout the game. GM Brian Gutekunst and the Packers also have some opportunities to help get some expedited reinforcements to the interior of the defense.
The Packers are already armed with an extra sixth-round pick in next year’s draft that they got from the Oakland Raiders for Trevor Davis, and have two extra seventh-round picks from the Ty Montgomery and Reggie Gilbert trades.
The Packers should evaluate their options with their extra draft capital and consider a trade for instant defensive line help. A few names that come to mind are Geno Atkins, Leonard Williams, Corey Peters, Marcell Dareus, and Calais Campbell. All are solid trench players on teams going nowhere at light speed.
Campbell might be a tough pry as he is still playing at such a high level, but if the Jaguars continue to lose games and find themselves out of the race in the AFC South, they may pull the plug, especially with a rookie quarterback. In the meantime though, the Packers need to heal up, and get ready for the Cowboys.
A loss is a loss. There’s no way around it. But there are reasons to be optimistic about where the Packers are after four weeks. They now have 10 days to get ready for the toughest opponent they’ve faced so far.
Za’Darius Smith will be in far better shape by then, and Mike Pettine’s staff will no doubt work to shore up the team’s 29th-ranked run defense. It hasn’t all been pretty, but the Packers are in a fairly healthy position at the moment.