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Wednesday Cheese Curds: Will a new scheme net the Packers new results on defense?

The scheme is the shiny object, but the players and how they’re used matter more.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Packers’ scheme is probably going to be different in 2024, but will the defense itself actually look different? And more importantly, will the results be any different?

Since Jeff Hafley was hired as the Packers’ new coordinator, we’ve had a lot of discourse about the potential switch to a 4-3 scheme, which seems to be all but a done deal. But anybody who has followed football for a while knows that your base defense barely matters in 2024, if it matters at all. A team will be in their base defense for, what, a dozen plays a game? Maybe a bit more?

That’s not really that noteworthy of a change, especially since the personnel isn’t going to change that much this offseason or into next season. Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Lukas Van Ness, and other outside linebackers will be called defensive ends instead, but their responsibilities won’t be wildly different. Kenny Clark might line up as an end or three-technique defensive tackle instead of a nose tackle more than he has in the past, but he’s been trending that way for years. Joe Barry himself made that change. De’Vondre Campbell will probably lose playing time to Isaiah McDuffie, but anybody with eyes knew that was likely, regardless of the scheme. Campbell is aging and doesn’t seem to want to be in Green Bay anyway. Of course the Packers were going to look to upgrade. They’d have to no matter what they ran in 2024.

And besides, all the scheme wizardry in the world won’t matter if the Packers don’t use it properly. Plenty of defenses around the league succeed with the scheme approach the Packers used in 2023, but the scheme doesn’t matter if you’re lining up your defense in the wrong call for the situation — an occurrence so common under Barry that you’d practically expect the Packers to give up a key conversion just because they had the wrong look for the situation.

A scheme is important. It’s your base philosophy for the defense. But regardless of what scheme the Packers are running, who’s calling it, and what assistants are helping him implement it, it’s the players and the execution of that scheme that are going to matter more, and most of them will be in pretty similar positions to what they were in 2023. Can they get better results?

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