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Friday mailbag: Joe Barry and return men

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 Georgia Southern at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Also, do you have any guesses as to what actual schematic tendencies Barry is most likely bringing with him? It seems like no one is getting definitive answers and are mostly leaning on what Staley did even though Barry only worked under him for 1 year, is it just wishful thinking that he’s gonna be a Staley clone?

Honestly, I think Joe Barry got the Packers defensive coordinator job because he said that he’s going to bring some of the Brandon Staley stuff to the table. Even though he’s had experience as a defensive coordinator before, he’s only 50 years old, hardly too old for the dog to learn new tricks.

Something to remember: Andy Reid is 63 years old and is stealing concepts from college football on a weekly basis. Brad Childress is around the same age and has essentially been finding work as a consultant/analyst/assistant doing the same exact thing since 2013. The game changes fast and you’d be surprised how many times a Not Young coach revitalizes his career because he copies notes well.

If you want to know what Staley did in Los Angeles and hopefully what Barry will do in Green Bay, this is the best way I can explain it: Instead of playing straight man or spot drop zone where players are covering grass instead of a route-runner, the philosophy is to mix in more coverages where players essentially play tight coverage like it’s man coverage, but only after sorting which route-runner they have based on the route combinations that they’re seeing to their side of the field.

Here are two good resources on the topic:

Pruitt is a former defensive coordinator for Florida State, Georgia and Alabama who turned his time under Nick Saban into the Tennessee head coaching gig. This clinic explains some of the match concepts you’re likely to see in Green Bay, which really don’t come from Staley but Staley’s adaptation of what college football is already doing.

Seth Galina and Diante Lee are some of my friends in the industry who both have experience coaching football and were able to speak Staley’s language to get him to answer Real Football Questions in their hour with him.


Is there any hope for Josh Jackson on the Packers?

I answered this question a little bit on the APC Podcast last week, but here’s my general thought on this topic: Jackson has started 15 games in Green Bay, including 5 games last season. He can play NFL football. Even in a minicamp presser, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray stood up for Jackson and said the team hasn’t put him in the best positions possible in the past. I believe him. Jackson was really always a zone cornerback coming out of Iowa, a position that doesn’t really exist full-time in the league unless you’re a Cover 3-heavy defense (example: Pete Carroll coaching tree.)

I think Jackson’s best position, outside of Cover 3-heavy defenses, is actually safety. The problem is the Packers are pretty set at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson played safety or zone corner for another franchise on his second contract and vastly outperformed his situation in Green Bay, simply off of scheme and position fit alone. He’s an NFL player who simply needs a better home for his skill set. A tough truth that he’s a potentially wasted return on investment of his draft pick, but I’m just being honest here.


Say Rodgers returns for one final year in GB and once again plays at a top level, the team goes 12-5 and lose in the conference title game. Do they still move on in the 2022 offseason?

This is something I have wondered about for a while. One aspect I think that is being overlooked in all of the Rodgers drama is that whatever feelings he has today, he likely had all of last season. It would be very surprising if whatever he’s feeling just manifested itself moments after the NFC Championship Game loss.

Did Rodgers simply not have enough leverage to pull off a trade in 2020? Does he have enough leverage to do it in 2021? Would he have enough leverage to do it in 2022? I think these are all fair questions. If you’re the Packers, you essentially have an MVP-caliber quarterback who you can pull the rug out from under whenever his decline begins, as you have a first-rounder on the bench waiting in the wings. It probably benefits the team to keep their options open for as long as possible, rather than being leveraged by their active starting quarterback like the Patriots were by Tom Brady when Jimmy Garoppolo was traded. If you’re the Packers organization, the longer the Rodgers-Love drama continues, the more competitive your options at quarterback are.


ST related,,,,, who will return punts and kicks in 2021 with Amari here and Ervin gone?

Of the four Packers who returned a punt last season, only cornerback Josh Jackson (two returns for 13 yards) is still on the roster. Of the three kick returners with multiple returns last season, only Malik Taylor (who also saw reps as the team’s top punt gunner in minicamp) returns.

Amari Rodgers makes a lot of sense as a punter returner, as he had 68 punt returns in college, but he only had two kick returns in his time at Clemson. Here’s an interesting video on kick returns by SB Nation’s Secret Base that helps explain the difference between the two versions of being a return man:

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like an A.J. Dillon, or whoever wins the RB3 job, also contributes as a kick returner.


Who will have a cringier post-playing career: Rodgers or Brady?

It seems like Rodgers’ end game is to get into the mindfulness field, while Brady is trying to establish himself in the health and wellness field. There’s a lot more potential for Brady to walk on a landmine post-playing career.