The Green Bay Packers have intercepted an NFC-low two interceptions this season, part of the reason they’re an uncharacteristic negative-three in turnover differential this season. Only the New York Jets have intercepted fewer passes among all NFL teams.
Despite the low interception output, cornerback Tramon Williams isn’t concerned. He knows the Packers defense has played well this season, regardless.
“The turnovers and things will come,” said Williams. “It’s one of those things where we’d rather be playing better team defense, like we’re doing right now. The interceptions, the fumbles, they’ll come, and once they come, they usually come in bunches. So we don’t have a problem with that right now.”
It’s true. The Packers have been playing good defense this season, particularly against the run, where they rank third in the league giving up only 78.2 yards per game and a mere 3.4 yards per carry.
But they haven’t been quite as good against the pass, ranking near the bottom of the NFL, 28th to be exact, giving up 293.6 yards per game.
If only they could grab a few more interceptions, it stands to reason that those passing yards would go down.
The question to ask at this point in time, however, is why have the Packers grabbed so few interceptions this season? After all, this is a team that’s grabbed them at a break-neck pace the past couple of years.
Since 2011, the Packers have racked up 51 interceptions, which ranks second in the league in that timespan, behind only the Chicago Bears’ 53.
To take it a step further, their 127 interceptions from 2008 to 2011 were the most in a four-year span by any team since the AFL-NFL merger.
Correspondingly, the Packers’ record is predictably good when they’re snatching away passes from their opponents and expectedly poor when they’re not.
During the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay, for example, the Packers are just 8-19 (.296) when they don’t intercept a single pass in a game, but they’re 25-4 (.862) when they take away two, 11-3 (.786) when they grab three and a perfect 7-0 (1.000) when they steal four or more.
One of the obvious reasons the Packers haven’t grabbed many interceptions this year has been the absence of cornerback Casey Hayward, who has yet to play this year as he nurses a hamstring injury aggravated during the preseason.
When he comes back back, Hayward is hoping to pick up where he left off last season when his six interceptions ranked fifth in the NFL and tops among rookies.
“I only can go about the things I can control,” said Hayward. “I can’t control I got injured. But when I come back, I’m going to try to do the best I can, get back into the same form I was, on that same level. If I can get back to that and help this team out, I’ll be happy.”
Hayward has been a limited participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday this week, but at least it’s the first time he’s practiced the first two days of the week yet this season. His status for Sunday remains up in the air, but the Packers could definitely use his service, especially considering all the injuries they’ve suffered elsewhere on the roster.
“It definitely helps us out a lot,” Williams said of Hayward. “Obviously the depth we have at this position, it helps that out, plus the injuries that we have on defense. It helps us out with that too and gives us a little more flexibility to run some different packages. I’m definitely looking forward to him coming back.”
Once Hayward comes back, the secondary will be able to settle into more comfortable roles. While Hayward has been out, Williams has had to defend the slot on occasion, a position he’s rarely played.
Maybe with Hayward’s presence, the Packers will be able to improve upon the two interceptions they’ve come up with this year, cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Mike Neal the only recipients.
The Packers have done a good job creating turnover via fumble this season, forcing eight and recovering four. Now they just have to grab more interceptions to get back to a level they’ve become accustomed to in previous seasons.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.