Joe Barry has given the Packers the best gift of all, a defense

Green Bay Packers, Joe BarryCent02 7fxxd1chankiuni6hjf Original
Green Bay Packers, Joe BarryCent02 7fxxd1chankiuni6hjf Original /

The Green Bay Packers entered the off-season in search of a new defensive coordinator. This coaching search inspired a renewed hope that finally, Green Bay might just end up with serviceable defense – one that’s capable of giving the Packers a shot in the playoffs.

That hope dwindled quickly when the Packers were rejected by Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, and were essentially forced to go with their Plan B, Joe Barry.

I’ll be the first to admit, I thought this was a terribly underwhelming hire for several reasons. Barry had failed at previous stops as a defensive coordinator (Lions – 32nd-ranked defense, Washington – 28th-ranked defense), and was passed over twice in two years in favor of other candidates for the Rams DC job despite being the in-house option.

So, not only was Joe Barry not Green Bay’s first choice during their process, but he wasn’t the Rams’ first choice any of the times they had an opening. My overall expectation of this defense turning things around was really quite low.

Joe Barry’s defensive scheme basics

  • Five-man fronts
  • Plays a ton of two-high safeties
  • Play a lot of nickel/dime looks on third down
  • Covets aggressive inside linebacker play (thank you, De’Vondre Campbell)
  • Combination coverages that have changing rules depending on field position

Matt LaFleur had a strong desire to run a defensive scheme similar to that of Vic Fangio, and thus Packers fans were left having to trust the third-year head coach’s decision.

Now, through nine weeks, Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry has me looking like a fool. And let me tell you, it feels good to be wrong about this one.

Packers defense under Joe Barry

  • Fifth in total defense (321.2 yards per game)
  • Fifth in yards per play allowed (5.27 yards)
  • Fifth in passing yards per play allowed (6.13)
  • Sixth in scoring defense (20 points per game) – if Packers can maintain, this would be the second-lowest average in the last decade
  • Seventh in passing yards per game allowed (210.4)
  • Ninth in interception rate (2.91%)

If you’re noticing a theme here, it’s that Joe Barry’s defense has done an excellent job limiting chunk plays. Anyone will tell you limiting big plays is a critical component to keeping your team in the game, it’s not exactly rocket science – but the Packers are doing it, and doing it well.

This season, Green Bay has allowed just 22 passing plays of 20 yards or more, which ranks seventh best in the NFL. This can be attributed to the fact Green Bay often plays two-high safeties, forcing teams to nickel and dime their way down the field. Of course, this is an easier feat to accomplish when you are getting strong safety play from Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

Most importantly, the Packers are keeping points off the board. Joe Barry’s defense has allowed less than 23 points in seven of the team’s nine games, including six straight, which is the longest such streak in the NFL this season.

The Packers are going to be a difficult out in the playoffs if Joe Barry and this defense can keep up a similar pace. The last time Green Bay won the Super Bowl, they finished top 10 in both scoring offense and defense – which would appear to be an attainable goal at present.

Either way, I owe Joe Barry an apology because I thought for sure this was going to be a dud of a hire. Instead, Barry has given Green Bay the greatest gift of all – a defense.

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