Why the Green Bay Packers’ defense is its own worst nightmare in 2021

Can the Green Bay Packers overcome a bottom-10 defense? That's where they're headed, without facing a good QB-and-weapon combo yet.

The Green Bay Packers might be in trouble, and it could very well be their own doing. The Packers’ defense is playing poorly. They’re struggling versus both the run and pass right now, and that’s against two teams that lack legitimate receiving threats. Quite frankly, they haven’t even played an established top-20 quarterback yet. Still, they rank 28th in defensive efficiency through two weeks.

The Packers’ defense has a pass-rush problem

This issue might sort itself out, at least a little bit. Through two weeks, they’ve faced two good offensive lines. Penei Sewell, Terron Armstead, and Ryan Ramczyk are three of the four offensive tackles they’ve battled. Eventually, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith have to find some freedom on the way to the passer.

Currently, they only have 1 sack as a team through two weeks and haven’t done much to affect Jared Goff or Jameis Winston. Last season, the Packers’ defense averaged 2.6 sacks per contest, which ranked 11th in the league. However, that is a volume stat. They ranked last in the league with a 1.72% sack rate, meaning they got their sacks by being up in games and having teams throw against them a lot.

Eric Stokes should have Kevin King’s snaps

King has taken the brunt of hate on Green Bay’s defense over the past few seasons. I’ve been less willing to bury the young cornerback, but 2021 has been ugly. Moreover, they have his eventual replacement already waiting in the wings. The only thing is, Stokes has already played 52 NFL snaps, with 44 of them coming Week 2 against the Lions.

He’s ready to play. The rookie cornerback has been impressive aside from a miscommunication between Stokes and King that resulted in a Lions touchdown. He’s played a more physical brand than what we saw him do at the University of Georgia. With King on a one-year deal, and given his length, maybe he takes on a role as a big slot that matches up against opposing tight ends.

Or, he can sit on the bench. There have been times on tape where his effort doesn’t seem to be 100% there.

Green Bay linebackers are a problem

There is a reason why the Packers reportedly looked to trade for a linebacker just about a week ago. Aside from Smith and Clark, this front seven is on the proverbial struggle bus.

They’re ranked 25th against the run and 26th against the pass. In Week 3, they face the fifth-most efficient passing attack in the NFL. It’s a passing attack that’ll force the linebackers to play a more cerebral brand of football.

They’ll have to contend with the superb ball-handling of Jimmy Garoppolo, who is a wizard at misdirecting second-level defenders with his play fakes. Green Bay will also have to chase screens and tackle receivers in the open field.

With the amount of misdirection the 49ers use in the rushing game, it isn’t easy to imagine Green Bay’s defense turning things around in Week 3.

Joe Barry’s track record as a defensive coordinator is … not good

Barry is now on his third stint as a defensive coordinator. His first was with the historically bad 2007 and 2008 Detroit teams. The other tour was with Washington in 2015 and 2016.

He’s never had a top-20 defense.

That is the résumé they chose to replace Mike Pettine with — a team whose only goal is to improve their defense just enough to win a Super Bowl. It truly does not make a lot of sense. Admittedly, the team lacks talent in the front seven. But not replacing King for Week 3 could be seen as a fireable offense by itself.

With the Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams, Ravens, and Browns still on the schedule, this team might not even sniff a top-20 defense from an efficiency standpoint.

If that’s the case, this offense needs to be what they were last year to stay competitive. Seeing how they produced the most efficient offense since 2011, that’s a tall, tall ask.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles