The Green Bay Packers have another winnable matchup in Week 5, this time in London against the New York Giants. However, if the Packers are going to be able to control this game, then they’re going to need to figure out how to defend the run and slow down star running back Saquon Barkley.
Run defense has been one of the bigger weaknesses for the Packers this season. According to Football Outsiders, the Packers rank just 28th in the league in run defense DVOA, ahead of only Houston, Cleveland, New England, and Detroit.
On the other side of the football, the Giants rank seventh in the league in run offense DVOA. They are also tied for first for the most explosive runs (10-plus yards) in the NFL with 25, compared to only four explosive passing plays of 20 yards or more.
Most big plays through Week 4: pic.twitter.com/KmZcP4bycR— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 4, 2022
Barkley is having a resurgent season. Through four games he’s averaging a career-high 5.5 yards per carry with 463 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, along with another 107 yards on 15 receptions.
As difficult as it has been for teams to contain Barkley, the rushing threat of quarterback Daniel Jones has also made it difficult on opposing defenses. The 25-year-old is averaging 6.2 yards per rushing attempt with two touchdowns on the ground.
The Packers will get a bit of a break with Jones. Although he doesn’t have a designation on the final Giants injury report, Jones has been limited in practice most of the week with an ankle injury. He’ll likely still be able to run around a bit, but that ankle will keep him from being as effective as possible as a runner.
Considering how many of New York’s wide receivers won’t be playing on Sunday, defensive coordinator Joe Barry has to find a way to stop the run. That will include a need to avoid certain personnel packages, and an emphasis by the defensive line and inside linebackers to effectively fit the run.
The inside linebackers in Quay Walker and De’Vondre Campbell will especially need to have their best game of the season. Campbell’s dip in play has been particularly surprising after coming off of a first-team All-Pro selection in 2021. Even on film, Campbell is looking a half-step slower than he was just last season.
This feels like a play De'Vondre Campbell makes in 2021.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 3, 2022
Not seeing the same explosiveness/aggressiveness so far this season. pic.twitter.com/LI8Qqv5nIT
For Walker, the rookie has already shown an ability to stonewall ball carriers, making contact with violence and strength to prevent yards after contact. However, he’s still working on perfecting his technique and angles to the ball to make him a truly dominant off-ball linebacker.
The more I learn about LB play, the more I think we unfairly go after Gary for *some* of his outside contain issues vs the run.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 3, 2022
Gary does a good job blowing up the pullers on this play with Quay Walker scraping outside. Walker is freed up and needs to make this play. pic.twitter.com/WqpofE6KIi
The angles that Walker takes when scraping to the outside need to be better. While Walker is strong and explosive, NFL running backs can still get outside of him if he takes too tight of an angle to the end of the offensive line.
Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry will also need to step their games up this week. Kenny Clark is still a menace on the defensive line, but the Packers need help from other players in that unit to plug rushing lanes and create penetration to blow up plays in the backfield.
If Green Bay’s front seven can stay disciplined and play at a high level and Barry can run a gameplan focused on stopping the run, then the Packers should be able to win Sunday’s game comfortably.