A season-opening blowout loss was apparently enough to persuade the Green Bay Packers to start looking for a defensive upgrade in the middle.
According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the Packers were calling around to other NFL teams early in Week 2 about getting “some linebacker help” after the New Orleans Saints sent them home with an embarrassing 38-3 loss in the first week. From the sounds of things, though, the Packers might have missed their window now that the regular season has begun and teams are less inclined to deal away a difference-maker.
Here’s what Jones reported on September 17 about the Packers’ trade interest:
I’ve heard the Green Bay Packers were working the phones early in the week to get some linebacker help for their defense following the 38-3 drubbing by the Saints. Green Bay (obviously) didn’t get much in the way of help, though, as teams who may have been willing to part with linebackers two weeks ago didn’t want to do it now that the season has begun and injuries have already taken place.
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Middle of Packers Defense a Weak Spot Again?
The Packers’ outlook at inside linebacker for this season was once hopeful. They were welcoming back rookie contributors in Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin and had signed veteran free agent De’Vondre Campbell to provide their ranks with a more experienced presence, seemingly setting them up to take a step forward in 2021 despite only adding one rookie — sixth-rounder Isaiah McDuffie — during the draft.
Fast-forward to mid-September and things are looking considerably more flimsy for the Packers. Martin, after failing to stand out during the offseason and early parts of training camp, was cut loose before the summer’s final roster cuts and is now a member of the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. Meanwhile, Barnes still looks to have a ways to go before being considered a dependable starter.
Barnes earned the Packers’ second-worst defensive grade against the Saints from Pro Football Focus (42.2), chipping in for a team-high nine tackles but struggling at times to diagnose and shut down certain plays. He allowed receptions on all three of the passes thrown into his coverage and saw his lack of aggressiveness give way to numerous first downs, falling victim to the Saints’ offensive line on more than one occasion.
Now, some of Barnes’ passivity can be blamed on the generally poor execution and energy of the Packers defense in Week 1, but it does give early cause for concern — especially after hearing the Packers are searching around for an upgrade. It will be interesting to see how Barnes and the Packers defense as a whole respond in Week 2 after getting popped in the mouth right out of the gates.