The Green Bay Packers need a new defensive coordinator. That much was decided earlier this week when head coach Matt LaFleur fired (or demoted, or otherwise removed) Joe Barry from that post. The team’s primary goal over the next week or two becomes deciding on a backfill for that job, and that individual will come in with their own schematic and strategic preferences.
The Packers also will have several needs on that side of the football, however, which could be a blessing in disguise. Yes, there are certainly a number of key players who will remain, but the team will likely be rebuilding at least the middle part of the defense. Only one safety who played any notable snaps on defense is currently under contract for 2024, and that player was a 7th-round draft pick in 2023 (Anthony Johnson, Jr.). Green Bay will still have Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie at linebacker, but De’Vondre Campbell is a strong candidate for release and questions remain about whether McDuffie is a three-down player. The team also could use some more depth up front on the line and edge, even as the starting groups appear largely solid.
In the months following the DC hire, the Packers will be making a lot of moves to give that person players to work with. And as a result, this spring is an opportunity to help mold a new-look defense to fit that new DC’s approach. It would be wise for GM Brian Gutekunst and his front office team to meet regularly with the new DC in the lead-up to free agency and the draft, learning about the qualities and strengths that the coach’s scheme requires and then putting some priority on them.
The Packers have just a handful of sure-fire starters on defense. It’s a list that probably consists solely of Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, and Preston Smith, with perhaps Walker in the mix as well. Otherwise, this summer should be all about competition and finding the right players at the other six or seven spots. But in the spring, Gutekusnt must figure out how to give the team’s new DC what he needs to execute his vision immediately on day one.
If the team manages to do that, they should have a better chance to hit the ground running in week one and deliver on the high expectations that are now upon them for 2024 and beyond.
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Play it safe or take a big swing? LaFleur will have a tough call, but we should start getting some idea about what he's looking for over the next few days as we learn the names of candidates who have interviewed or will do so.
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As this article states, "pressure is privilege," and the Packers have been privileged for decades at this point.
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After the Panthers made a bit of a surprising move to hire Buccaneers OC Dave Canales, this decision by the Falcons -- passing on Bill Belichick -- now ranks as the biggest surprise of this hiring cycle. But it also opens up another DC position in LA, which could pull a candidate out of the pool for the Packers.
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We really don't have nearly enough duels these days. Let's not use mortal weapons and fight to the death, but a cage match here or there would make for great entertainment.