When the Green Bay Packers hired Joe Barry as defensive coordinator over a year ago despite poor showings at previous stops, they knew he never coached talent like they had on the roster.
That faith was rewarded as Green Bay’s defense consistently performed well despite missing their best pass rusher and best cornerback for most of the season.
One year later, Barry not only has Jaire Alexander back healthy and wealthy thanks to his recent contract extension but Rashan Gary and Preston Smith also made Za’Darius Smith dispensable as a cap cut.
Throw in the athletes the Packers selected in the draft and Barry now has the ingredients to make the best defense not only of his career but one of the best Green Bay has had in over a decade.
The defensive line got beefed up with Devonte Wyatt finally providing Kenny Clark with a powerful friend along the line to disrupt the line of scrimmage.
Inside linebacker (gasp!) has become a strength with Quay Walker joining De’Vondre Campbell, one the players Walker was compared to before the draft.
The pass rush wasn’t addressed as early as some hoped but getting Kingsley Engabare in the fifth was an absolute steal for the Packers who can provide a solid third option behind Gary and Smith.
The cornerback position probably is the strength of this defense with Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Stokes all healthy again and giving Green Bay plenty of flexibility to disguise coverages.
Safety is probably the big question mark with depth behind Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos relatively thin but hey, at least Henry Black is no longer around.
In short, the Packers are prepared to win with defense and this likely sets the mindset of the team post-Aaron Rodgers. There is no better friend for a developing quarterback (whether it be Jordan Love or someone else) than a stout defense.
That said, expectations are going to be much higher. Now it’s up to Barry to deliver.
The Packers have given Barry pretty much anything he’s needed. The fact the Packers were able to keep Douglas and Campbell while extending Alexander is a testament to the front office. Losing Za’Darius Smith is kind of a bummer but Gary appears to be the next superstar pass rusher for Green Bay (some argue he already is).
Don’t be surprised if Romeo Doubs sees snaps on offense right and Samori Toure could contribute on special teams immediately as well. Amari Rodgers is going to have to keep his head on a swivel going into training camp.
The Packers have done a phenomenal job shuffling the offensive line due to injuries and that versatility is going to be emphasized even more with Adam Stenavich now the offensive coordinator. That’s how the Packers have been able to weather a ludicrous storm of injuries.
Tariq Carpenter is not only experience but he’s flexible. He’s listed as a safety but he could move inside as a linebacker as well. A gifted athlete (surprise!), Carpenter will also get his shot on kickoff and punt coverages.
He flew and landed the airplane. Indeed he was serious and please don’t call him Shirley.