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Quarter Benchmark: Pass and Run Defense Flip Positions From 2016

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Quarter Benchmark: Pass and Run Defense Flip Positions From 2016

The Packers were banking on a stout performance via a rejuvenated defense this season, engineered under coordinator Dom Capers for the ninth consecutive campaign. And through the first quarter of his ninth year in Green Bay, his unit hasn't disappointed in some respects.

By going after Washington cornerback Kevin King with their 33rd overall selection in Apri's draft, a message was sent to a 31st-ranked pass defense from a season ago: King is the future of that group. His skill set has already been showcased by him being assigned to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green a week later; both of which he held up well against.

Of course, at 6-3 with measurables impressive enough to write home about, he's been everything the Packers could've hoped for.

The pair of first and second-round cornerbacks from 2015, however, haven't been up to this point. Both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins have had their fair share of struggles, but even more so in the last 20 games spanning back to the beginning of last season. 2016 was initially dubbed as an injury-plagued year for the both, but four games into their third year, the song remains the same with their seemingly inept ability to play their position.

Pair the struggling duo with former Packers cornerback LaDarius Gunter, who was released shortly following the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks after just playing just two defensive snaps, and the Packers have certainly had their deficiencies in the secondary this year.

Even so, they've held up well through four games. Entering their week five showdown with the Dallas Cowboys, the Packers have a fifth-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of 188.5 yards per game. This is after going up against the Seahawks and Falcons, two clubs notorious for having two of the most prolific offenses in the league, albeit has been a different story for the Seahawks this season.

Alternatively, the Packers are ranked 19th in run defense, a complete 180 compared to where they were this time last year.

In 2016, a healthy Packers defensive front became a front of enforcement, sporting one of the league's top run-stopping units through the first half of the season whereas their pass defense faltered. It's the complete opposite so far this season, but a large part of that is the looming absence of Mike Daniels.

Daniels suffered a hip injury in the week two loss to the Falcons, keeping him sidelined ever since. He was, fortunately, a limited participant in Wednesday's non-padded practice. Thursday will be the true test to see whether or not he'll be in the cards to play Sunday, as the Packers will be practicing in full pads.

As a collective whole, the Packers have allowed a sixth-best average 299.5 total yards per game, one of six teams to hover under 300. Getting off the field has also been no problem, as they're ranked a respectable seventh in opponent third down conversion percentage. They've only allowed 17 third-down conversions on 47 attempts this season.

Putting together a deep playoff run relies heavily on this defensive unit and if they can manage to keep their consistent play intact. With one quarter down and three to go, there's certainly a case for newfound optimism.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

The Packers have put up these rankings with their best defensive player missing 3 games. Their 2nd best missing 1 game and is now playing with his familiar club on his hand, and the other staring CB (House) pretty much missing EVERY game so far, preseason and regular season.

If you told me at the start of the season the Packers would have the 5th ranked pass defense, 6th in total yards, and 7th in 3rd down percentage all while having the above named players missing 7 of a possible 12 games combined I wouldn't have believed it but it's happening.

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah NP,

It's happening - but against whom? The Bengals hadn't scored a TD before they played us. The Bears suck. And the Seahawks offense might just be the worst in the league.

There are promising signs that when (if) the unit gets fully healthy, it will be a competent unit (which it has not been outside of an 8 game run in 2014 since 2010). But I am not going to fool myself into believing this is a dominant unit.

If we can be slightly above average by the end of the year, that will be a win.

EdsLaces's picture

What he said. We have played some pretty awful teams. I mean should we even count the bears game? And I'm not even joking tbh...

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

It should also be mentioned that Atlanta, the only remotely good offense we played, could have scored 50 if they wanted to.

Nick Perry's picture

That's all true but I remember a defense last year that gave up 400 plus yards to the Bears and Matt Barkley for Gods sake. Got blown out a few times on the way to a 4-6 start, and were pretty much roasted just about every game. It didn't matter who they played last season, they blew every time they took the field pretty much

Playing these same 4 teams last season and they'd be ranked in the high 20's. It's an improvement...Period. I'll take what I can get.

Finwiz's picture

I'll start to believe in an improved defense when they beat Dallas or MN, and don't get blown out in either game. Dez & Elliott will be a real test, so let's see if they're up to the challenge. At this point I'm still on the fence. We saw last year how the defense completely turned around against the run, and went the other way, after the Cowboys exposed them

Since '61's picture

Most importantly the Packers defense is holding opponents to just under 17 points a game. When Daniels returns and Perry is fully healthy this defense may be able to improve upon that number.

We're getting effective contributions from each level of the defense and particularly from rookies and 2nd year players. Martinez has improved at ILB and combined with Josh Jones they have solidified that position group. CM3 has been healthy and effective. King and now Hawkins have made a big difference at CB and hopefully a return of House in the near future will reinforce that position group.

The key remains for the defense to get and remain healthy. Our younger players have gained valuable experience through the first four games. This week's contest against the Dallas OL will provide a big challenge. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Savage57's picture

Martinez has played ILB the last two games like a dude with his hair on fire. If the DL can continue to keep him clean, I see it continuing against Dallas, but it's going to be a tall order against those guys, who are big, work really well together as a unit, and have the athleticism to get to the second level.

Turophile's picture

I saw a number of post that were down on Martinez, both in the offseason and at the start of preseason this year. Similar negativity surrounded Ryan the year before.

Some people are just too impatient on these guys. Their strength is reading the field, neither are especially athletic (relative to equivalent NFL players). 'Read the play' ability comes with time. Ryan was good from his second year (now in his third), Martinez is looking great this year.

Both guys are most effective on run plays and can do an overall above average job, at ILB. The weakness was not having a faster player to call on, with the range to change offensive plans. That's where Josh Jones comes in.

It's taken 3 years of drafting, but the result is a fine ILB crew, and because the ILB often calls the defense, we now have very capable guys for that.

RCPackerFan's picture

Overall I like where the defense is right now. They have actually played pretty well considering they have been put in some bad positions early in the year. Also playing without their top defensive player (Daniels), and losing one of their best pass rushers and run stoppers (Perry), and one of their top CB's (House) for most of the season so far.

I'm not concerned of where they are ranked right now because honestly, the first few games of the season stats are very misleading.
The rush defense for example.
They are rank around 16th for rush defense. They have given up 444 yards rushing on 105 carries (4.2 ypc). Breaking that down though, looking at the first game they held Seattle's RB's to 50 yards rushing on 16 carries. (3.1 ypc). But adding in Wilson's 2 runs for 40 yards and it changes the narrative. They then "ran" the ball 18 times for 90 yards (5.0 ypc).
Against Atlanta they gave up 141 yards on 27 carries (5.2 ypc). To be fair about that game, they lost their best defensive player on the first couple of plays during the game. During that game they got down to 2 healthy DL. Also I believe Perry got hurt early in that game as well.
Against Cincinnati they gave up 110 yards on 30 carries (3.7 ypc). They were still without their best defensive player, and there best run stuffing OLB.
Against the Bears they gave up 103 yards on 30 carries (3.4 ypc).
Taking away Wilsons 2 runs for 40 yards, and the Packers defensive ranking moves from 19th to 15th.

Overall I like where the run defense is. As Dial, Brooks get more involved in the defense the run defense would be much better. Once Daniels comes back the run defense will greatly improve.

Archie's picture

It seems like there is reason to be optimistic that this defense is much better and likely to continue to improve. The keys will be King and Hawkins on the corners. Every place else looks fairly solid. Reinforcements on the way in terms of M Adams & Biegel as well as return to health of Daniels & Perry. Acquisition of Brooks & Dial is looking great for depth. Development of young DL, ILB and S portends well too.

On offense, got to give credit to Campen for holding things together with B&B out. RB depth about to get tested. Only problem I have with offense is scheme - WRs are never open. MM runs an 80s style WCO when it comes to the WRs. OTOH, RBs and TEs not used as much in pass game as they were in the 80s and even in today's modernized versions of the WCO.

Bearmeat's picture

Who are you and what have you done with the Archie we all know???? :D

dobber's picture

Whether the style of the WCO is viewed as antiquated or not, it doesn't stop this offense from being (except for 2015) a perennial top 10 unit.

Montogomery, with time missed, has 23 targets in a shade over 3 games...that's almost 8 per. Bennett has 28 in 4 games (7 per) and is tied for the team lead. Each of those is WR2 range. That's pretty significant.

Qoojo's picture

I really have no idea how to view the defense yet because it is changing every game due to injuries and using the new guys more. I do not put much stock in the bears game because the bears' qb was so bad with some unforced errors.

Tundraboy's picture

Anybody heard from Fackrell?

ironman3169's picture


ironman3169's picture

I find the whole flip flop premise of this article irksome. The first quarter of last year the rushing attack our defense faced was a bunch of second stringers. It was no surprise they ranked high in the run defense standings.
That said, I am pleased thus far with our defensive efforts and hope the arrow keeps pointing up.

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