The Green Bay Packers entered the season with talks of having one of the best trios at cornerback in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas. Alexander had just inked a massive extension, while Douglas cashed in after an out-of-nowhere exceptional 2021 season. Stokes excelled in his rookie campaign and was expected to take the next steps this season.
It’s all come crashing down for the Packers all over the place. While the players can’t go blameless, defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s lack of aggression with the secondary is burying this defense.
Barry’s scheme when the opposing team has the ball in a two-minute drill scenario at the end of a half is so laissez-faire it’s pathetic. Barry’s method, time and again, in those spots is to have his corners play a mile off the line of scrimmage and give up six or seven yards in chunks to the opposing offense.
Any offense with even a shred of knowledge would accept that trade-off, and it’s burned the Packers this year.
Look at Thursday night.
The Tennessee Titans took over with 3:21 left in the first half while claiming a 7-6 lead. Watch that drive and observe what Barry has the cornerbacks doing.
Alexander is on one side and Douglas on the other, and both are playing nearly 10 yards off the line scrimmage. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had no problem picking it apart, completing passes for gains of six, nine, seven, and six yards on a drive that resulted in a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the first half. Execution at its finest.
Rest assured, if you think this is a standalone case, it is not.
The Packers rallied in the fourth quarter to take out the Dallas Cowboys the week before.
Green Bay was leading 14-7 with 1:37 to go in the first half as the Cowboys took over at their own 34-yard line. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott went 6/7 on the drive, taking the Cowboys down the field with absolutely no resistance from Barry’s secondary. The end result? A Cowboys touchdown and a 14-14 tie at halftime.
The list goes on and on. Before the Dallas game, the Detroit Lions started a possession at their own 39-yard line with 2:35 left until halftime.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff looked like Joe Montana on the drive, carving up a Packers defense willing to bend the knee and give up chunk plays. Detroit scored a touchdown on the drive with 15 seconds left in the half and would win the game 15-9. It was a masterclass by head coach Dan Campbell on how to keep it simple when a defense is willing to give you the yards.
Just for good measure, the week before Detroit, Josh Allen had the ball at his own 20-yard line with 53 seconds left in the half and took the Buffalo Bills right down the field and got them in field goal range. They converted the attempt and tacked on three points as time expired in the first half.
That’s four-straight weeks where Barry still hasn’t gotten the message.
Sure, on the one hand, you don’t want to get torched over the top and give up the big play. But Green Bay isn’t getting the stops with Barry’s method now, and he refuses to adjust.
Alexander is one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league, and Barry has him playing like an undrafted rookie who was just called up from the practice squad.
Perhaps just as frustrating is looking at the teams they just played. The Titans, Lions, and Cowboys don’t have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver that should have Barry quivering in his shoes. Showing respect to the opponent is one thing; trusting your guys and cutting them loose instead of rolling out the red carpet for an opposing offense in the two-minute drill is another.
For as fiery of a personality as Barry has, which is infectious and has proven to play well with the players, it doesn’t carry over to his defensive scheme. The Titans entered Thursday night with the No. 31-ranked pass offense in the league. Tannehill looked like an MVP candidate throwing to guys who you’d have to take a double take at the depth chart. Green Bay made them look like one of the most cohesive units in the league.
Eventually, a spade needs to be called a spade. It’s well past that point with Barry. He’s stuck in his ways and hasn’t shown an ability or even desire to adjust when adjustments need to be made. For four games in a row, the Packers have had offenses chew them up and spit them out without even putting up a fight. They have the talent to compete; certainly, that’s not the problem. The issue stems from a defensive coordinator not playing to the team’s strengths.