Packers: The difference with this year’s defense compared to past

Green Bay Packers (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Why is this Green Bay Packers defense different from last year? 

There’s no doubt that the Green Bay Packers have been nothing short of spectacular so far this season. Boasting an 8-2 record, and atop the NFC, this Packers team once again feels like a Super Bowl favorite. Unlike so many other previous Aaron Rodgers-led teams, this year’s success has been spearheaded by the defense.

In the last three weeks the Green Bay defense has held Kyler Murray to no touchdowns, the Kansas City Chiefs to 13 points, and this past Sunday they pitched a shutout at home to an explosive Seattle Seahawks passing attack. It begs the question, what’s been making this Green Bay defense so special this year?

You would think that without All-Pro corner Jaire Alexander, and their best pass rusher of the past two seasons in Za’Darius Smith, this defense would look a little more depleted. Even so, that hasn’t really seemed to matter.

I see many parallels between this year’s defense and the 2010 squad. Not to be misconstrued, I’m not saying Alexander is Charles Woodson, or that Smith is Clay Matthews. What I am saying is the talent of this defense has the potential to be on par with that of the last Super Bowl defense. That kind of defense is the difference between losing in the NFC Championship game and winning a Super Bowl.

The difference for the Packers’ defense this year

So what’s been the difference this year compared to previous? What is that Joe Barry secret sauce that’s elevated the defense to new heights? Through my research, and hours of pouring over stats, I would summarize it in two words — trust and aggression.

Oh what a simple answer, but yet so very powerful. Barry trusts his players to make the right plays. And when you have that trust, it allows players to play hyper aggressive.

Think of a chef in the kitchen. Chopping up vegetables at a vigorous pace. Whisking up eggs at  inhuman speed. Churning out orders one after another because there’s a restaurant full of hungry people that need to eat.

Now think about yourself in the kitchen. Chopping up vegetables trying not to cut yourself. Checking the recipe because you don’t have it memorized. Taking 30 minutes to make one dish that hopefully you didn’t screw up because frozen pizza again doesn’t seem like an option you want to eat for a third night in a row.

The difference between you and that chef is that they are professional, and they have complete trust in what they are doing. This Packers defense is that chef. The majority of them have played together for a few years now and there’s chemistry between them.

Combine that with Joe Barry’s new defense and we might just have a Michelin star on our hands. In Barry’s defense the rules are variable. Meaning, coverages are played situationally based on down, distance, and what the scoreboard says. When everyone knows the rules, they can play confident and aggressive within the system.

Barry trusts his players to situationally play as aggressive or conservative as they see fit. It’s led to a defense that is third in both points allowed and total yards given up. Matt LaFleur seems to have found the salt to his pepper, and I’m excited to see this defense continue to lay waste to the rest of the schedule.