It did not take too fine a reading of Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s quotes on the day after the 34-20 slobberknocking the team took on its home field in Week 4 to divine that LaFleur, like many in and around Green Bay, is not a fan of where defensive coordinator Joe Barry has left the Packers’ defense.
Specifically, the run defense. Considering the Packers have allowed 211 yards on the ground to two of their last three opponents, it behooves Barry and the D to come up with some ways to slow down opposing rushers. LaFleur appeared to put much of the burden for the Packers’ shortcomings squarely on Barry, a rare instance of a head coach passing the buck to a coordinator.
LaFleur pointed to the Packers’ run-stopping scheme, and last we checked, it is the defensive coordinator who establishes a scheme.
“I think a lot of it can be solved schematically, I really do,” LaFleur said when meeting with the media. “We’ve got enough players. I thought there were displays of some really good defense, and then there was some that you want to take the tape and chuck it at the wall.”
In other words, don’t blame GM Brian Gutekunst, and don’t blame LaFleur—blame Barry.
Packers’ Opponents Showing How to Stop the Run
LaFleur also offered a helpful note on establishing ways to defend the run: Have a look at what other teams are doing to us.
“Trust me, we’re looking at everything,” he said. “It’s all of us in it together – myself, our defensive staff, just looking at, shoot, some of the opponents we play, how are they trying to stop the run? You’ve always got to look at different ways.”
That’s good advice because while the Packers’ defense yields 4.5 yards per carry, 23rd in the NFL, the Green Bay running backs have (since Week 1, at least) been offering something close to a clinic on how to get stopped without gaining very many yards—they’re averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, which is 28th.
The Packers got back leading rusher Aaron Jones this week after a hamstring injury, but he carried just five times for 18 yards. Second-stringer A.J. Dillon had 11 yards on five carries.
Are the Packers Being too Cautious Defensively?
One thing that did seem to annoy LaFleur on Friday was that his defense often seems more concerned with keeping the lid—a “shell” as LaFleur calls it—on big plays than aggressively going after stops. That’s allowing too many long drives as teams pick apart the Packers underneath.
Going into Week 5, that is at least one adjustment to look for.
“It’s more the philosophy of some of the things we’re trying to get done, different ways, especially when you know teams are going to run the ball,” LaFleur said. “I know we’d like to keep a shell on our defense, but there may be times we have to break that.”