This Will Be a Make-or-Break Season for Joe Barry and the Packers Defense

The Green Bay Packers defense faces a big challenge this year. Last season, experts and fans expected the defense to be elite, but the team failed to live up to expectations. Instead of being a top 10 defense, Joe Barry’s group was 17th in the league in points allowed; 17th in yards allowed and 26th in rushing yards allowed. The Packers finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs.

Barry came under criticism for the way he approached the defense last season. The team had seven former first round picks in the lineup at the start of the season with Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt, Darnell Savage, Eric Stokes, and Jaire Alexander all on the roster.

But when the season started, Barry didn’t play to the strengths of the players on his roster. The team played a lot of soft zones and didn’t get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. The results were too many easy first downs on third and long that kept drives alive.

Players like Stokes and Rasul Douglas play their best when they can be physical with receivers early in their routes. Alexander can stay with any receiver and play many types of defensive styles but keeping him in a soft zone proved less than ideal.

In-game adjustments were also a problem, especially early in the season. The Packers would be slow to adjust to what the opposition was doing offensively and this cost in several games.

The Packers endured a five-game losing streak in October and November and lost seven-of-eight games to fall to 4-8. There was no more margin for error.

Changes were made to the pass defense’s strategy after the bye week and the defense played better down the stretch. The secondary got more aggressive and jammed receivers more frequently. The soft zone was used sparingly, and the results were certainly better in the final five games.

While the pass defense improved late in the season, the run defense was horrible all year long. The Packers allowed opponents to gain nearly 140 yards rushing per game and they averaged 5.0-yards per carry. That means if a team ran the ball twice on the Packers during a series, they would usually pick up a first down.

Barry emphasized stopping the pass, which makes sense, but the run defense cannot be so bad that it ranks at or near the bottom of the league in most statistics.

Things have changed since last year. While Aaron Rodgers was only statistically average as a quarterback last year (ranking 15th in QB rating among qualifying quarterbacks), Jordan Love takes over as the quarterback this season. Love started exactly one NFL game prior to this season. The receiving corps and tight end group are also inexperienced.

That means the Packers will be relying on their defense even more in 2023 than they did in recent years. This will be even more true early in the season when most of the younger players are still learning and getting comfortable in the offense.

Barry seems to be changing the way the defense is playing this season. He has the defensive line playing more aggressively against the run. The defensive linemen will be asked to penetrate the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays more frequently, hoping to create tackles for a loss. Clark has been moved to the outside with T.J. Slaton taking over as the nose tackle.

The team is also expected to blitz more with inside linebackers Quay Walker and De’Vondre Campbell being used to rush the passer more frequently than they had in the past.

The pass defense will play more like they did late in the 2022 season with less soft zones, more combination zones and players often making contact with receivers early in the play to knock them off their route and stay closer to them.

The pressure is on Barry to make this work. He has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for six seasons but has yet to have a highly ranked unit. Granted, in Detroit and Washington, he lacked the talent to have an elite unit. Still, his defenses have ranked in the bottom half of the league in points allowed in five of his six seasons as a DC with the 2021 Packers who ranked 13th being the only exception.

This is likely a make-or-break season for Barry who now has eight former first-round picks on the roster (once Stokes returns from the PUP list) and a defense with a lot of potential.

Many fans felt Barry should have been gone after the team’s disappointing defensive performance last year. Now he has one more chance to make good. His future with the Packers and the team’s season will be on the line starting Sunday in Chicago.

 

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5 points
 

Comments (54)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
stanthemanwiththeplan's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:16 am

As much as Barry has frustrated me I'm really rooting for the guy this season, mostly because our team needs a strong defense more than ever.

4 points
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GilMartin's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:58 am

Definitely rooting for him. If he's successful, the team will be, too. Thanks for the comment, Stan.

2 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:15 pm

I'll root for JB to be good this season, but I was ready to crucify him during more than 3 games last year.

Id still rather have Brian Flores and hate the idea of seeing him on the Viking's sideline.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:26 am

For Barry and probably for LaFleur too, I’m the end, as an individual on O and and as a HC for his coaching hires.

3 points
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GilMartin's picture

September 07, 2023 at 12:00 pm

I think LaFleur has a little more leeway mostly because Love is a first year starter. I think you're spot on about his hires and him being responsible for them and that will be a strike against him going forward. Thanks for the comment, Coldworld.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2023 at 08:20 am

I accept that there will be leeway for the inevitable growth pains on O. If there’s a certainty it’s that this team will not be better now than it will be later in the year, if healthy.

However, LaFleur can and should be judged on how he utilizes personnel and on his schemes and calls, irrespective of actual execution. How adroit any coach is at that has a lot to do with how quickly and successfully any team performs, but especially so where there is so little in field experience. That is going to be clearly distinguishable from issues rookie mistakes in execution, and from the outset.

1 points
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greengold's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:10 pm

2023 is pressure packed for this entire coaching staff. 100%.

What I do like is MLF is competitive. That will drive him and the entire team to deliver. They know the stakes.

He understands the shortcomings he had these last 4 seasons, but, it wasn't without what many would consider extraordinary circumstances. None of us can know that mandates pressed upon him during that time either, but we can imagine. 2023 presents an entirely new direction, his direction. We'll see how things go very soon, the changes he's made to correct previous mistakes, and how he plans to lead his team, unencumbered.

I'm excited to see what he's able to deliver this year. My positive outlook... We all know that the inverse can brings something different entirely, but, I can't help but think they will do all they can, he and his entire staff, to deliver the goods.

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:39 pm

I keep wondering what if the defense looks good overall but the safeties repeatedly are getting beat deep? I've been saying for three years they need a good deep safety and also saying you don't have to pay a lot for such a player. A day 3 pick would do, or a cheap vet.

I guess it will depend on how the rest of the team looks but if they look like they can contend for the division or a wild card spot it will be interesting to see if they make a move. Hopefully Gutey doesn't sit on his hands and picks up the phone.

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2023 at 04:58 pm

He used a Four pick to move up in the 1st round for Savage and extended the 5th year option w/out viewing his pedestrian performance in '22. He was supposed to be the Man in the Middle. I would rather see Savage in the slot where he played in college as a DB and put Nixon in the deep spot to roam with his speed and ability to go to the Ball. Three picks in limited reps for him last season. The dynamic duo from 2019. One guy sat on the bench most of the time and this guy is a safety who is afraid to tackle. Pettine at least moved him around to blitz the QB. Gary came into form, but they wasted his rookie year. Budda Baker was the guy to deal for.

0 points
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CheesedDeadHead's picture

September 08, 2023 at 07:01 am

“ extended the 5th year option w/out viewing his pedestrian performance in '22. ”

Hard to do when the option had to be picked up BEFORE the 22 season, but don’t let facts get in the way of your hate for Gute.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 08, 2023 at 09:47 am

Was Love extended?

-1 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:35 pm

LL,

Adrian Amos is getting paid $1.25MM this year.

I think I'm going to toss my cookies.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2023 at 08:43 am

I have to wonder if Amos didn’t want to play for Barry with how Barry was using safeties.

One interesting sideshow with the Jets this year will be how he performs. I’ve never really bought the “lost a step” theory. He’s not old at a position that often allows for longevity. Was it Barry (and thus likely part of Savage’s issues and regression), or is Amos really prematurely in athletic decline?

Either way, he’d still be the first starting S on my team sheet even if he has lost a step. He was still better than anyone else in this roster last year.

If I was an OC for an opponent I’d be after Nixon and particularly the safeties all game. Why not? Make them prove themselves. The Bears will try, though I’m not sure Fields and their O line are best set up to succeed but I expect Moore and Tonyan to used to stress that group regularly. Can we turn that into takeaways?

2 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 08, 2023 at 12:07 pm

Agreed - Nixon has been shaky in the slot. Or a couple of rookies will be in the conversation for offensive rookie of the year.

0 points
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Rory P Scrotem's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:27 am

EVERYONE...Do you remember what the New York Jets Head Coach said about the Packers after playing them last year? Can't remember; was it pre-season? He said, "THE PACKERS PLAY SOFT!" Well, What about it guys? "DO YOU PLAY SOFT?"

Secondly, do you remember what Matt Lafleur said about Joe Barry after his initial hiring of Barry way back when? He said, Barry disguised his defenses well so that he (Lefleur) never knew what he was doing/what was coming after his offense? My God, if this is true...what you said (hey all, go back & recheck the quote), then Matt, you haven't got a defensive clue!

Barry on a short leash...I'm begging you Gutey, give him until the bye week...shake his hand...and please promote Rich.

I mean seriously, could there be anything more wrong than our Defensive Coordinator! AM I MISSING SOMETHING???

4 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:36 am

The last time Bisaccia coached defense was in 1990 as the University of South Carolina's DB coach. Moving him to DC in the middle of the season would be a disaster of biblical proportions.

Many people have brought this up and it needs to be put to bed and left there.

6 points
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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2023 at 08:52 am

I agree, however, presumably disaster has already struck in this scenario. The absolute worst thing is a coach that’s lost the belief of his players and coaches. Sometimes a good coach not expert in the field can right that somewhat by simply not being his predecessor and better use of his off field team.

The decision to replace the DB coach with one hardly standing out as ready to step up to DC was one that raised eyebrows for me. A leader makes sure he has contingency plans. LaFleur didn’t, he really put not only his faith in Barry, but piled all his eggs into that basket as well. If that blows up, then Bissacia may still be the least worst, temporary, in season option that we have until season end.

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 08, 2023 at 11:24 am

I think Jerry Montgomery would be the best choice as interim DC if Barry falls flat. He had a bit of DC experience at Oklahoma(albeit as co-DC) and has been there since Capers so at the least he should know the negatives and positives of the guys he's worked under and can maybe glean something workable from them.

0 points
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GilMartin's picture

September 07, 2023 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for the comment, Rory. The Packers usually don't fire assistant coaches midseason but if the defense is a total mess, maybe. I hope the defense thrives this season but we'll see how it goes. Thanks for the comment.

1 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

September 07, 2023 at 05:42 pm

Rory, are you related to the Scrotem family that owns Fumunda Cheese?

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:31 pm

Damn man, you just gonna ask him a question that personal out here in the open where everybody can see? 😲

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:29 am

Unless the preseason was a total smokescreen we can expect them to play more cover 1 and cover 3 with some cover 6 sprinkled in and very little cover 2. Upfront they were 3rd in blitz rate this preseason, 1st in run blitz and 8th in pass blitz. They also ran more stunts upfront than any team in the league vs run and pass. I expect some of this was just to get a look at different players and who did what best but those blitz and stunt rates should be quite a bit higher than in previous years.

I think those cover schemes could be more out of necessity than anything else. Why put a 2nd safety deep when they aren't any good at playing back there? Ford is a very average safety but he does play fast and can tackle. He needs to be around the LOS. I'd like to see Savage play more in the robber role that he was pretty good at a couple of years ago but then who plays deep. It's telling that this statement is as true today as it was in November. Help us AJJ, you're our only hope.

https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/1588294227842437120?t=4Lg0WTZx...

5 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 12:48 pm

Last year the Packers played man roughly 27% of the time, 16th in the league. This preseason they played man a little over 38%, 6th most in the league and it would have been the 6th most last year if they had played it that much. My guess is it really dips this week(you want your DBs facing Fields) but they could play some mixed coverages(probably cover 5) with Alexander manning Moore and zone underneath it.

One thing to look for with mixed coverage is man everywhere they go(MEG) vs man on demand(MOD). If Alexander is in MEG he's on Moore no matter where he goes. In MOD he only follows him if his route takes Moore 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. If he's running a short route then a zone player picks him up and Alexander bails to a deep quarter. MOD is probably the way to go with a QB like Fields unless it's 3rd and 15 or something.

The other option is for Alexander to simply MUG Moore and hope he doesn't get a flag. 😉

4 points
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tealman0's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:53 am

I thought last year was the make-or-break season for Joe Barry but here he is again for season 7. As long as LaFleur is head coach, Barry will always have a job.

0 points
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2
jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2023 at 10:48 pm

That's what friends are for...

0 points
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0
Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 07, 2023 at 12:24 pm

Something is amiss here. Based upon all the first round draft choices which have been devoted to our defense in the last decade and a half, we should be a top five performer. Barry failed at two previous stops as a coordinator and I will admit that he was not in an ideal situation, but here he has been provided a goodly number of talented players with whom to work. I feel that there has been too much of Barry implementing "HIS" system rather than creating a modified system to best utilize the talents of his players.

6 points
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x24's picture

September 07, 2023 at 12:50 pm

Brings back nightmares of watching Kampman drop back into coverage...

1 points
1
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ImaPayne's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:30 pm

My two cents and it fits it with what you said. Yes we picked a lot of defensive guys. My issue over the years with Ted, he paid zero attentin to injury records and we did a lot of drafting of guys who were perenial accidents waiting to happen.
Ex. Strenberger has three major concussions in college and we drafted him and he had at least two more with us before we cut him. He produced little for us. Sounds about right.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2023 at 05:05 pm

Sternberger over a 4.3, WR like McLaurin was Gutedkunst's Pick a' la round Three. Why draft a guy who was trained as a TE his entire collegiate career when you can go into the potential pool for damaged goods?

-2 points
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2
jhtobias's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:00 pm

What is infuriating as a packers fan is that Matt Lafluer seems to get a free pass for hiring berry and retaining berry.

I put absolutley no blame on berry we know who he is and the insanity that people think he will change is reaching comical levels at this point. He did not hire himself nor retain himself. I respect his ability to continue to cash a check as a d coordinator.

Lafluer is 100 percent to blame if the defense fails . Not Berry

6 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:15 pm

The defense this preseason sure was a fresh change. Now we see if the aggressiveness stays.

2 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:48 pm

Jh,

are we talking Chuck Berry or raspberry?

Raspberries for Joe Barry, although we have no choice but to watch his chance this season too.

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:34 pm

Joe Perry?

0 points
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ImaPayne's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:26 pm

One thing about keeping Bary. IF the team sucks and win only a handful of games, they got a scape goat build in. Problem for next year solved everyone else keeps their jobs.
My issue goes back farther to the days of the Dom. We got on his case too and I wondered: is it the coaches or it is drafting crap players that the coaches have to coach? I mean the "elephant" formations and stuff like that seemed to me just a way of trying to get lesser players to make up for abilities.
If you have four tough, skilled def linemen your dont need no stickin elephant formation, you just bull rush the Qb and kick ass. This team hasnt had that since the last super bowl win.

3 points
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Tundraboy's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:48 pm

Now your making sense.

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:35 pm

??? How high are you right now? And can you translate his comment into English?

I think the Sticking Elephant formation is in the Kama Sutra.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2023 at 09:04 am

If Barry’s D is awful, he will be an even worse scapegoat. We all know who wanted him here, we just don’t really know why. Let’s hope Barry shows us. He’s known what Chicago are and what they will try to do for months. He should have his game plan long prepared and coached for. He should know Fields, he certainly knows Tonyan and the RBs and Moore shouldn’t surprise anyone.

0 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:51 pm

We might have some maulers all across the defensive front. Serious disruption of the backfield, whether it's sacks or just pressures. That's our best strategy and just might make up for the safety room. That's the best chance I see anyway.

1 points
1
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Packerpasty's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:40 pm

Am I the only one getting pop up ads and what looks like stuff you shouldn't click on, as in malware, when reading these posts on CHTV??

1 points
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1
Packerpasty's picture

September 07, 2023 at 01:43 pm

just got another full screen pop up...clean this shit up CHTV..

0 points
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GregC's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:38 pm

I'm not getting that stuff. Just the usual junk. So it might be an issue with your phone.

0 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 09:53 pm

I'm not getting anything like that, but I'm on brave browser. I gave up on the app months back.

1 points
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CheeseEdWest2's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:16 pm

My question is, Where's the Fire? Lombardi knew who needed to be pushed or yelled at, and who he should coach a different way. But he knew when to bring the Fire. Holmgren too. I can't remember seeing MLF bring it except when he was made at a Ref. If MLF has no fire, and Barry has no fire, the players are left to make their own fire...which they did last year when given a chance. Get physical, tackle with authority, swarm to the football is the kind of defense you need to succeed. NFL football isn't tennis played among the English upper class. If the team isn't bringing it for a "player's coach," you gotta look at who you are drafting and who is coaching...

4 points
4
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LeotisHarris's picture

September 07, 2023 at 05:47 pm

Could be worse. Seems all the fire is in Arizona. Check out the Cardinal's new leader:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmLKGhZghJE

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:41 pm

Do they have enough water in Arizona to put it out?

The players faces are like "oh no, we suck again!"

0 points
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CheesedDeadHead's picture

September 08, 2023 at 07:09 am

There’s a HC for a team going for the #1 draft pick.

0 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:35 pm

The Packers had a historically bad showing on offense in the 2021 playoffs. They traded away their best WR and drafted 3 more. The next year, we missed the playoffs, we said goodbye to Rodgers and Lazard and Cobb and hello to more yutes. Goodbye to Tonyan and Lewis, Hello to Musgrave and Kraft. That's their response. That's the actions they've taken. That's where they think we need the improvement.

The defense has been improved, but not overhauled like the passing game. We've added Van Ness. We'll get Gary and Stokes back. Valentine looks like he could help, as well as Wooden. It's obvious that in Gutekunst's view, they're going to try to stop the pass. That's why we're spending 1st round picks on people who can help us stop the pass...Alexander, Savage, Stokes, Walker, Gary, Van Ness, Enagbare.....

There's a huge disconnect, IMO, between how the Packers brass views the situation and how some fans see it. I'm pretty sure they've felt all offseason that improving the offense was going to be more important than improving the defense, which actually has several pretty good pieces in place. I mean, they wanted to replace Lowry with Wyatt, who's younger and cheaper and probably more of a pressure guy. They replaced Reed with Wooden. Both of these are younger and cheaper with more of an upside than the guy they replaced. They added VanNess, and the Packers are going to have one of the best edge rush rotations in the league. We were 8th in pressure % last year, and that's without Gary for half a year.

Chicago has scored 10 and 19 against us in the last two games. The average NFL score is around 23, home teams score a little higher. Justin Fields is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league and if we hold them to 24 or less, that's not bad at all. I suspect we'll do better, but there aren't any guarantees at all. And of course, if we gift them some points via turnovers or special teams, that would have to be adjusted for.

2 points
2
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2023 at 11:44 pm

Don't forget Fields averages more per rush than per pass. That being the case I think they should just let them pass at will so Fields won't be tempted to run.

1 points
1
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Leatherhead's picture

September 08, 2023 at 12:53 pm

Not quite. Best of all is if he hands it off. Second best is that you try to contain him until he gets rid of the ball and make him throw, not run. If/When he does take off, you need 11 guys in a hurry, and it's better if your DBs don't have their backs turned to him because he's a really fast guy who runs well.

I'm in favor of quarters with two deep help, two edge rushers containing, the two DL trying to collapse the pocket. One LB like Walker spying on Fields. If we can keep him in the pocket trying to make short completions or handing off.....that's our best hope at neutralizing what he does best.

0 points
0
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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2023 at 09:16 am

Chicago averaged 19.2 points per game for the season in 2022, less than that the year before. I can’t draw much from holding them to 10 and 19 last year as a result.

1 points
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T7Steve's picture

September 07, 2023 at 02:57 pm

Gill, I agree with others that it's more on MLF if it doesn't work.

That said, I think JBs finally learned his lesson, and the D will shine this season. Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks.

There are issues in the backfield that need to be addressed, but maybe by addressing the front line, it has been addressed. The safeties will be able to sit back there watching and smoke cigars.

If all three phases of this team play together and for each other, which didn't seem to happen all the time in the past, this team will flourish. Complimentary smashmouth football (sounding like Insider Inbox now).

2 points
2
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

September 07, 2023 at 10:04 pm

At many positions our guys are taller, heavier, and faster than most opponents. Time to kick some ass.

Maul aggressively on defense and dominate all across the O line and that's awfully hard to beat.

Let the league think GBP play soft, I think this team is ready to take exception to that idea.

2 points
2
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Qoojo's picture

September 07, 2023 at 06:48 pm

I thought that was last season, but here we are.

4 points
4
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Starrbrite's picture

September 07, 2023 at 07:12 pm

Barry should have been fired last year. If the defense struggles, I hope the administration has the stomach to dump him when needed. We can’t afford another Drayton situation.
Go Packers!!!

3 points
3
0