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Will Packers Defensive Investment Pay off?

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Will Packers Defensive Investment Pay off?

For years it seems like the Green Bay Packers have been trying to fix their defense. 

Whether it has been with high drafts picks, big free-agent contracts or defensive coordinators and new assistants, the Packers have invested in just about every way possible on defense. 

Now, you have to ask, will any of it finally pay off in 2019?

There are reasons to be optimistic. On just about every level of the defense, there are proven playmakers. 

On the defensive line, there is Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. At linebacker, you have Blake Martinez, Preston Smith, Zadarius Smith and first-round pick Rashan Gary. In the secondary even, guys like Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage all offer reasons to be excited.

But if you dart back to reality, the Packers haven't finished among the top-10 in both points and yards allowed since 2010, which was also the last time the Packers won the Super Bowl.

There were other seasons when Green Bay was solid. In both 2014 and 2015, Green Bay finished in the top-15 in both categories, however, the Packers haven't finished in the top-10 in either category since that 2010 unit coached by Dom Capers.

That team had impact players everywhere. Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji were young standouts. But the defense also had guys like Nick Collins, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Ryan Pickett, Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and more.

On paper, this Packers defense feels like it could have something similar. Gary has the chance to be a disruptive force on the edge, alongside Preston and Zadarius Smith, Green Bay's two big free-agent additions.

With Clark, Daniels, Gary, the two Smiths and Kyler Fackrell, pressuring the quarterback shouldn't be an issue. 

The run defense should also be fine. In fact, it should be much improved.

Gary was a very good run defender at Michigan and Savage should make an instant impact at safety, along with Amos, who excels near the line of scrimmage.

Savage and Amos will provide a huge upgrade at safety, a position where Green Bay had arguably as little talent last season as any team in the national football league.

That has now been rectified, at least in theory. Unfortunately, the same could be said about a lot of positions on the Green Bay defense.

King, Alexander, Jackson and Jones all went in the first two rounds in the 2017 and 2018 drafts. Green Bay added two more defenders in the first round in 2019, as well as a third-round pick in 2018 (Oren Burks). 

The Packers also invested three big-money deals in free agency this offseason as well and also used its 2016 first-round pick on Clark, while also adding Fackrell and Martinez with third and fourth-rounders.

The resources invested in the defense by Green Bay over the past few years is staggering and under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, if it all comes together this season, Green Bay should surprise people.

The Packers have added a tremendous amount of size, speed and talent over the past two offseasons defensively and at this point, they have acted to address just about every weakness. 

Now, it's time to make the dream a reality as we hope this defense and this group of Green Bay Packers can finally live up to their potential. 





Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (41) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

4thand1's picture


Turophile's picture

As 4thand1 says, "YES". The only question really is, by how much.

I think the re-vamp of the defense is pretty much done, there isn't that much weakness anywhere, maybe at ILB if Burks doesn't make a jump, and neither do less vaunted additions like Summers (or even Donnerson with a position change from OLB to ILB).

while Chris Peterson concentrated on the player additions, let's not forget the other additions.

Gutekunst brings a bigger appetite for higher-priced (but still fairly young) veterans. LaFleur brings a different energy than McCarthy, and that is going to affect the entire squad, not just the offense. Then there is Pettine, who I still think is one of, if not the best in the business.

Nick Perry's picture

"On the defensive line, there is Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. At linebacker, you have Blake Martinez, Preston Smith, Zadarius Smith and first-round pick Rashan Gary. In the secondary even, guys like Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage all offer reasons to be excited."

Just looking at this paragraph with the players listed at every level this defense, I can't really help but think this is a top 5 defense at least, probably better. When I look at this defense and compare it to the defenses of 2009 and 2010, I see more depth, more athletic ability, and IMO a better overall defense.

The secondary has the pieces to be every bit as successful as those defenses in 2009 and 2010, but it's the number of players the Packers have in that front 7 that has me absolutely stoked about this years defense. I think Gute invested wisely this year and yes, it will DEFINITLY pay off.

Freezn's picture

This Defense will be fast aggressive and confusing for offenses as Mike will be sending players form anywhere and we all know speed kills and I believe we will have a very fast defense. Quarterbacks be ware.

wildbill's picture

Starting in 1961 the Packers have never won a championship without a top 10 defense. Being able to score is important but being able to get stops at important points in the game is even more important.

Montana's picture

Wild Bill,

Great point....I have been beating that drum since 2010.

IceBowl's picture

At this point, all optimism, little reality, of course. On paper.... top 5 .... Definitely!!!

Gman1976's picture

With better personnel, a very good defensive coach, and an improved offense (to give the defense some rest), we will definitely see a much better defense. Go Pack!

Old School's picture

If we stay healthy, the defense should be better. But this is an offensive league and the two best offenses will be in the NFC Championship game, just like last year.

Old School's picture

Go Pack.

DThomas's picture

Someone disliked "Go Pack"? Really? LOL

Qoojo's picture

It's nice to be optimistic, but this article could be written every year for the past several years. The packers have invested heavily in defense for too many years, at the cost of decent offensive depth. Those constant and frequent whiffs on defense have lead to both the GM and HC replacement, and why the packers are in their current predicament/position

The difference at this point in time, from the many years before, is that Gute is doing to the selecting, and we hope he can pick them better. Until he does prove it, I will reserve my optimism that this year will be any different from the past 7 or so years.

Archie's picture

I have not been optimistic about the defense in many years. I am this year. But I realize it may take another year to jell. Regardless, we will be better in 2019. Bookit Dano.

Qoojo's picture

I was really optimistic last year, after getting rid of Capers and getting Graham. Finally, no more ground hog day on defense. I expect them to be a lot better this year on defense and offense, but I literally said the same thing last year lol

Rak47's picture

And they were better last year in almost every statistical category from 2017. I'm not sure how much an improvement many people expected considering all the holes TT left on the defense. I believe it was already mentioned how weak the safety and LB positions were last year and previous years before that.

DThomas's picture

Qoojo, “It's nice to be optimistic, but this article could be written every year for the past several years. The packers have invested heavily in defense for too many years, at the cost of decent offensive depth.”

That’s not true. No time in the past several years have the Packers added a young free agent who has NFL experience and production. And of course, no time in the last several years have they added not one, not two, but three of those free agents on defense. We can question how the Smiths and Amos will adapt to Pettine’s scheme but we don’t have to wonder if they are legit NFL players or worry about their performance ‘falling off a cliff’ because they’re at the end of their careers.

Will the investments in D pay off? None of us know for sure but this off season is not like any other in recent memory.

Packer Dave's picture

On paper this should be one of the better defenses fielded in the modern era - barring injuries. The best part will be being able to sub in guys like Gary to keep the pressure high all game long.

What's really going to put this unit over the edge is guys like brown, donnerson, summers, lancaster, and greene making plays when they get the chance.

TheBigCheeze's picture

great on paper....but let's face it......the injury bug will reduce this defense to bench scrubs and street FAs......

ricky's picture

You're right. Might as well call off the season and just forfeit every game. All is gloom and doom. They should put a sign in front of Lambeau saying "Abandon hope all ye who enter herein."

flackcatcher's picture

Every year since 2010 (with the exceptions of 2014 and 2015) injuries have wiped out this defense in one way, or another. I defended Dom Capers because he found a way to keep his defensive scheme effective even when the NFL changed the rules to favor offenses. While there were some busts draft wise, what damaged this team was the season and in more cases than we fans would like to admit career ending injuries on the defensive side of the ball. The God of Injury has not been kind to this team. We saw it again last year, when in the second half of the season much of the young secondary went down in two games. Wiping out any chance of getting into the post season. I like IAMGUTE drafts the past couple of years for the depth alone. But like what happened to Ted Thompson, none of that matters if your draft choices can't get on the field. We all saw what happened last season when a good but thin Packer team got hit with an another wave of injuries. Let us all hope that this years team can stay healthy (for football players) this year.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

King hurt yet?

Tarynfor12's picture

The problem with so many is they believe what's on paper is what will be the outcome. Because I and a few others don't buy the paper version as the sole reasoning as to success,we are not fans. We've been reading the paper versions for many a year now and they have all been wrong as are those who believe and but into it to be the version that counts.

Rak47's picture

So please explain how a fan going by what he's seen on paper is any different than you going by what you've seen in previous years considering this is a new year and all and things change rather rapidly year to year in the NFL. And yet you spout your Pious nonsense about what YOU believe will be the outcome of all things Packers based on what, other than what is in the past, Oh great hypocritical one! Just like any other fan will speak what they believe will be the defenses outcome based on what they've seen from the said players on paper previously, and said players coaches.

fastmoving's picture

this taryn something thinks he is smart because he sees always everything bad and there is no hope for anything.
hmmmmm, and that he thinks is smart????!!! At least in his world, but even there he is the only one. Drama and crying and nothing behind it. sounds more like trumpsmart or stuff like that. I guess if your wig is too big you cant see anymore.

porupack's picture

>>>>ith so many is they believe what's on paper is what will be the outcome.<<<<

That is where you are wrong. No one believes that what is on paper will be the outcome. No one posted that. We do believe that there is evidence that what is on paper is likely to be improvements, and hope in what we see at the time, until proven otherwise.
Any investor, personnel manager....well, everyone knows you stack up evidence to make your plan. That's all. That's all Gute did. That's what CHTV reporters tell us what evidence drove Gute to the decisions.

And just because you're so adverse to dashed hopes, you can't entertain optimism. Have a little hope, its pragmatic afterall to believe and have positive energy. All coaches, clergy, counselors, teachers, club presidents, exercise trainers, music teachers and karate instructors understand positive is better than negative, and evidence supports forget the idea that negativism is somehow "realistic" or "pragmatic" as you like to think of the 'tough as nails, prove it to me, cigar chewing, sargent. Have a little fun with faith and enjoy the ride, not just the ultimate game of the year.

Lphill's picture

2 players among others the Packers parted with , Charles Woodson and Cullen Jenkins still could have contributed to success but the Packers did not want to pay them , money was more important than winning , now they have no problem spending .

porupack's picture

The "better a year too early than a year too late" section in the bleachers are so averse to risk of a declining player. They'll cut players soon as any stat is in decline. They already cut Daniels, King, MAdams, ARodgers, Bulaga, MVS, JGraham, and a couple other Oline guys, and then another whole section will cut players who don't make it in year one. We'd probably not have much of a team out there on any given sunday, that has any cohesiveness. Yeah, but that would clean house alright.

dobber's picture

Nothing wrong with cutting a player who can't stay healthy or costs too much for what he does or is in serious decline IF you've got a capable player waiting to take his place. It's when you cut players without a concrete replacement plan that you're shooting yourself in the foot.

Community Guy's picture

yes.. this analysis includes a lot of my thinking too. i think the Packers D can get back to top 10; however, it may require luck.. it may require a below average year of injuries. let it be so.

marpag1's picture

At the beginning of last season, Vegas gave the Steelers (who later finished 9-6-1) the fourth highest super bowl odds, the Vikings (8-7-1) were fifth, the Packers (6-9-1) were seventh, the Falcons (7-9) were eighth, and the Jags (Yikes! 5-11) were ninth.

The deafening combined roar of these five paper tigers - all of which missed the playoffs - still makes my ears hurt.

I'll get excited - or perhaps not - one win at a time.

PAPackerbacker's picture

The defense could be a top 10 defense. The personnel is there to support the idea. Now to get everybody on the same page and stay healthy, that's the key to success. A great roster does not guarantee success. You have to earn it.

stockholder's picture

I see lots of improvement on paper. The write ups are very encouraging. But can we just have 1 year, where we don't see the "players" go down with a injury. One step forward is what makes everything right. But in years past, we took two steps back when players got injured. Thats what has to change in Green Bay. The two steps back. Here's hoping the packers don't get bit by the injury bug this year. We need are players to stay on the field. Stability and mobility will only then happen.

Since &#039;61's picture

The difference for 2019 is that we have had 2 years of draft picks earlier in each round resulting in what should be better talent on the field. Plus Gute has actually gone out and signed some quality FAs. It's all on paper for now but the paper looks better than it has since 2014 and maybe even as far back as 2010.

There is reason for optimism but that optimism can become blind faith when nothing but hype is heaped upon it. We look good for now but we always do at this time of the year. Let's see where we are at the end of TC, our next check point. Thanks, Since '61

ILPackerBacker's picture

If you remotely believe this then go look at who the queens took in 2015 after we passed TWICE on him

Don't use the total BS of draft position as a constant excuse of people failing at their jobs

I will not even point you at NE. Just one guy with 40 sacks instead of randall and rollins.

There are plenty more as well, it was not cherry picking by me. it was crap picking by the GM

DThomas's picture

I think there are objective reasons to be more optimistic about the D this season than any since Dom Capers arrived in Green Bay and Ted Thompson added two first rounders for the new 3-4 D. The Packers finished 7th in points allowed and 2nd in yards surrendered in Capers’ first season as DC in Green Bay. In just his second season his 2010 Super Bowl winning D finished 2nd and 5th respectively. Go back to 1995 and the Packers D finished 4th in points allowed and 14th in yards surrendered under Fritz Shurmur. The next year the Shurmur’s Super Bowl winning D was historically good, finishing first in both categories. Compare that D to the 1985 Bears’ D: While the ‘96 Packers D gave up 12 more points than the ’85 Bears during their regular seasons, the Packers D gave up 3 fewer TDs than the Bears great D. The lesson is over the past quarter century the Packers D has to be near the top of the league to make, and win the Super Bowl. (The ’97 Packers D finished 5th and 7th respectively.)

At my most optimistic, I think the Packers can legitimately challenge for a title during the 2020 season. I think the expectation of making the playoffs this season is realistic, but next season Pettine’s D should be executing on all cylinders and LaFleur’s entire offense should be installed by TC 2020. I think the first indicator the Packers are on their way is if we see Pettine's D finish within the top 15 in both categories, hopefully in the top 10 this season.

flackcatcher's picture

That's all true....BUT in professional football a team is only play away from ruin for that season. (See 61 comment above) We just had one of the best defensive minds in the league defense get destroyed in the last 6 games of the season last year. Bottom line, without quality players who can play in a teams defensive scheme. You lose period, end of story. Quality drafts, good FA picks all are well and good. But without healthy players, none of that matters.

fastmoving's picture

funny story, but just as life gos...we won our last SB with a record long IR list. But you probabbly forgot. And with some healthy teams, we did not.
Its never that simple with your wisdom. No easy truths. Always a lot of luck involved,picking up momentun at the right time and a hot QB helps too.

period. end of story

flackcatcher's picture

2010 defense was hit at positions that were deep with players who were seasoned from two years in the league. Good drafts, young talent under contract. With a defense that came of age in the second half of the season. Sorry to ruin your narrative . Period. End of Story.

Mark S's picture

This is for the gloomy gusses. Ok let's take last year as the bench mark. Clark will increase his sack total by 2 as he did last year (total +2). Fackrel & Martinez sack totals stay the same. Z Smith adds his 8.5 from previous year as does P Smith (total +19). Now subtract Perry & Mathews 3 sacks (new total + 16). Now add just the same underachieving 5 sacks for Gary (total 21 now). Then add just the 80ish QB hurries/hits just the Smith's got last year. Now let Amos just be the Amos of last year. Savage a huge upgrade over any safety playing last year. This backward looking front will make the back end signicantly better just with natural v manufactured pressure. Reasonable health & normal progress by the Corners and Burks, and there is no argument either on paper or looking back that this D should not be a top 10 D. Best news is the quality isn't thin. We have quality backups at virtually every position save safety. That should even mitigate the effect of the seeming inevitable injury bug. Of all Guty's improvements the most needed & important was upgrading the depth. No more UGA as our fall back at almost every position. I expect a Bucks'esq jump this year.

Jamie_F's picture

I was sad to see defensive players like Clinton-Dix go but the additions we've made for the upcoming season are all positive. I expect big things to come with the newly formed D and 12 being healthy. I'll be watching intently from the east coast of Scotland! Go pack go!

Jamie_F's picture

I was sad to see defensive players like Clinton-Dix go but the additions we've made for the upcoming season are all positive. I expect big things to come with the newly formed D and 12 being healthy. I'll be watching intently from the east coast of Scotland! Go pack go!

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