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Packers’ 2016 Injuries: A battered secondary dragged down the entire defense

While the Packers overall were in the middle of the pack in terms of overall injuries, they were among the hardest-hit in the defensive secondary.

NFL: Preseason-Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, I wrote about how in the aggregate, the Green Bay Packers were not particularly unlucky when it came to injuries last year, but I speculated that the concentration of injuries in the secondary was still debilitating. Since that article, Football Outsiders released their breakdown of AGL by unit, and it confirms exactly what you thought about the Packers.

Here is the breakdown by position, along with the ranking within the league of that position group’s AGL number (1st is fewest AGL, 32nd is most):

AGL by Position

Position AGL Rank
Position AGL Rank
QB 0.7 17th
RB 14.9 29th
WR 2.1 7th
TE 6.3 18th
OL 11.3 12th
DL 0.7 2nd
LB 8.7 15th
DB 26.0 28th

The QB ranking may stick out to you as odd, but pay it no attention. The difference between the healthiest teams here and the Packers is miniscule. The 0.7 AGL indicates that Rodgers played while listed with an injury designation at some point, and the 17th overall ranking just means that there were 16 extremely healthy quarterbacks last season. The QB number really only starts to hurt after 2.0 or so, and 4 teams (NYJ, MIN, CHI, CLE) lost 10 or more quarterback games last season.

At RB, the Packers lost a huge amount of Eddie Lacy, but were fortunate to have a more than capable backup on the roster in Ty Montgomery. The team’s health at receiver helped them offset some of Jared Cook’s injury issues, and offensive line was deep enough to weather a few lost games here and there. On defense though, the secondary sticks out. While the linebackers took a few lumps as well, the Packer DBs were among the 5 most injured units in the league, and it certainly showed in their play. It would be nice to see a rebound next season, but it’s worth keeping in mind that one of the injuries that contributed to this number - Sam Shields’ concussions - is likely to be permanent. The addition of Davon House should help to solidify things, but in this instance, a 2016 injury will have long-lasting effects.

Dom Capers has put many good defenses on the field with the pass defense leading the way, and when things break down in that pass defense, he doesn’t have a lot to fall back on.

Packers DVOA Rankings

Years Defensive DVOA Rank Pass D-DVOA Rank
Years Defensive DVOA Rank Pass D-DVOA Rank
2016 20 22
2015 9 6
2014 16 11
2013 31 28
2012 8 7

When the Packer secondary and pass rush are right, a typical Capers defense is excellent, but when things go south, like they did last year, they go south in a big way. Hopefully, with more equitable distribution of injuries next year, the defense raises itself to at least average, which is more than enough to support what should be a stellar offense.