Green Bay Packers

Breaking Down Big Joe Barry’s Backstory

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea (USA TODAY Sports)

I’ve never heard anyone call Joe Barry “Big Barry” or “Big Joe Barry,” but I’m hoping to start something special today.

After spending every Sunday for the last two seasons screaming at the television, the Green Bay Packers finally took my advice and moved on from Mike Pettine. In comes new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Brian Gutekunst hired him from the Los Angeles Rams, where he has spent the last three seasons working as the assistant head coach to Sean McVay and coached the linebackers.

New things we acquire often possess a certain shimmer and shine that will help stabilize even the most pessimistic moods. That’s retail therapy, baby! Joe Barry is that brand-new jersey that just came in the mail — a real one, not a replica — and you can’t wait to try it on and impress all of your friends at Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday.

Rest assured, this metaphorical jersey of ours is going to fit just right and make you look like you’ve been working hard at shedding that COVID-15.

Who is this guy?

Big Joe Barry has a track record of coaching successful defenses. He worked as a defensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team in 2015 and was quickly picked up by McVay and the Rams when he was let go in 2017. In case you haven’t paid much attention to the Rams in recent years, their defense has been one of the best in the league. While Barry wasn’t the defensive coordinator in L.A., his presence on their staff surely played a role in their massive success.

When I say the Rams defense has been good, I mean they’ve been good good. We’re talking about the squad of players that carried Jared Goff to the playoffs last year — surely a herculean effort by all involved. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips deserves credit for elevating the play of this group. It would be remiss, though, to not acknowledge the team’s assistant head coach during this time, who played a role in shaping what would eventually become the No. 1 PFR-ranked scoring and yards against defense last year.

I thought a side-by-side personnel comparison would help ease some of the fanbase’s concerns about Barry’s qualifications for the job. Much of the personnel right here at home in Green Bay will serve many of the same defensive roles and assignments that Barry has become accustomed to in Los Angeles. If he has learned anything from working with defensive guru Wade Phillips, Barry should be able to bring the absolute best out of the Packers’ defense.

I will compare the three major defensive groups between the two squads: defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. For Green Bay, I will use the most current player roster. For Los Angeles, I will use the 2020 squad, as it is the most recent group that Barry coached before he arrived at Lambeau. Both teams will primarily line up in the 3-4 to create parity between the positional comparisons.

I will line up the names of notable players on each team and, using my highly touted scientific score of TO (Troy’s Opinion), will determine which group has the advantage. This measurement and comparisons should ultimately clarify the expectations of Big Barry’s Blitz Bonanza this upcoming season.

Defensive Line

2020 LAR: Michael Brockers (DE), Sebastian Joseph-Day (NT), Aaron Donald (DE)

2021 GB: Dean Lowry (DE), Kenny Clark (NT), Tyler Lancaster/Kingsley Keke (DE)

TO Advantage: Los Angeles Rams

Any personnel group that has Aaron Donald is going to win a head-to-head matchup. Michael Brockers has been a steady presence throughout his tenure with the Rams, and 2018 sixth-round pick Sebastian Joseph-Day has shown great potential as well. When you put it all together, the Los Angeles defensive line is one of the most formidable in the league.

Hopefully, Big Joe can transfer some of that tenacity onto the Green Bay line. While the recent resigning of Tyler Lancaster raised some eyebrows, many are looking to reserve Kingsley Keke to take a leap this year and establish himself as a dominant presence for the Packers. We know what we are getting out of Kenny Clark if he can stay healthy, and Dean Lowry has also shown flashes of competence. It will be on this group of players to step up and ensure that teams do not run all over the Pack again next year.

Linebackers

2020 LAR: Samson Ebukam (OLB), Micah Kiser (ILB), Troy Reeder (ILB), Leonard Floyd (OLB)

2021 GB: Rashan Gary (OLB), Krys Barnes (ILB), Kamal Martin (ILB), Za’Darius Smith (OLB)

TO Advantage: Green Bay Packers

Outside of Floyd and Ebukam, the Rams’ linebacker corps does not appear to move the needle. They lack depth beyond the starters, though they do enough behind Aaron Donald to get the job done. This group was part of the No. 1-overall defense last year, after all.

However, this Green Bay linebacking group is one worth getting excited about. You’ve already heard me rave about Za’Darius Smith. Rashan Gary has all of the physical tools necessary to dominate on the outside pass rush, and a return to form by Preston Smith would surely be welcome if Gary cannot get the job done. It is also looking like a wise decision by Gutekunst to place his trust in a young ILB core of Martin and Barnes, both of whom have shown massive upside after their rookie seasons.

Defensive Backs

2020 LAR: Troy Hill (CB), Jordan Fuller (S), John Johnson (S), Jalen Ramsey (CB)

2021 GB: Kevin King (CB), Adrian Amos (S), Darnell Savage Jr (S), Jaire Alexander (CB)

TO Advantage: Push

These are both extremely talented groups of players. You could make the case that either Jalen Ramsey or Jaire Alexander is the best CB in the league on any given Sunday, though the same cannot be said about the CBs working on the opposite side of the field for the Packers.

I am fully aware that Kevin King was playing through injuries last year, though the memories of him getting toasted by Mike Evans are still fresh. Josh Jackson filled in admirably for King at times, but this is certainly a position that will need to be addressed. While I do particularly enjoy Green Bay’s propensity to stand by their players through trying times — most notably that one horrendous season from Mason Crosby a while back — their decision to bring back King on a team-friendly deal is placing a great deal of trust in a player who played a large role in the Packers’ defeat in the NFC Championship.

Regardless, the safety tandem of Amos and Savage is trustworthy and reliable. If Big Joe can adequately scheme around whatever deficiencies may be lurking at the CB2 position, Green Bay fans will once again be able to breathe easy knowing that the pass defense is taken care of.

The Verdict

TO Advantage: 2021 Green Bay Packers

Call me a homer. Whatever. It’s Barry’s time to shine.

This is the most talented the Packers have had on defense since the 2010 title run and Dom Capers’ heyday. While a few individual matchups and poor performances have doomed Green Bay in key moments over the past few seasons (Brandon Bostick, anyone?), Joe Barry will be able to provide a breath of fresh air for a defense that has been routinely out-coached during previous defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s tenure.

To those who have questioned Barry’s hire’s legitimacy based on previous work experience and credibility: I get that. I felt the same way when they brought Matt LaFleur onboard. Some young upstart offensive mind with no head coaching experience was not how I felt the Packers should close out the championship window of Aaron Rodgers. However, I will happily admit I was wrong. Gutekunst has done nothing to make my faith in him waver, and I will willingly choose to place my trust in the hire of Joe Barry until further notice.

Big Joe Barry has big-time talent waiting for him on Green Bay’s sidelines. I can’t wait for Big Joe Barry’s Blitz Bonanza Bash to prove the naysayers wrong.

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