Green Bay Packers

Packers' 2024 Offense Needs To Do What The 2023 Defense Couldn't

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

New defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley may not have coordinated a game for the Green Bay Packers yet. Still, he’s already building hype thanks to his passionate and thoughtful media appearances and aggressive defense approach.

By all accounts, Hafley is offering a style of defense not seen in Green Bay for some time. One filled with aggression, speed, instinct, and a willingness to put players in the best position to succeed.

However, he’s implementing a playstyle that is much different from the previous regime’s. With so many new pieces on the defense, the unit could take some time to find its footing.

Thankfully, the Packers have an ascending offense to shoulder some of the burden. Jordan Love and his weapons combined to form one of the best offenses to end the 2023 season; they’ll look to build on that performance.

It’s a fun reversal of the 2023 season, where Joe Barry’s veteran defense, coming off of a mostly strong end to the 2022 season, was expected to carry the young offense through its early trials and tribulations. That didn’t really work, but there are some interesting parallels. Can Green Bay’s offense carry the new defense in this year’s paradigm shift?

With Aaron Rodgers in New York and the Packers relying on first- and second-year players at wide receiver, Green Bay’s offense had a lot of uncertainty entering 2023.

Jordan Love was still almost a totally unknown quantity, and we’d only seen brief flashes from Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson. The Packers offense had Aaron Jones and a mostly solid offensive line, and injuries hampered both throughout the season. Otherwise, they faced an uphill battle.

The Packers believed at the time Joe Barry’s defense was enough to hold the line while the offense worked itself out. Barry’s unit ended the 2022 season strong, playing a significant role in Green Bay’s four-game winning streak in the final quarter of the season. Barry’s defense never gave up more than 20 points from Week 13 on. That win streak put the Packers in a position to make the playoffs. However, the team fell short in the final game.

Still, a defense that ended the season well and with experienced players seemed like it had the potential to grow and be a top-10 defense in 2023, at the very least. Surely, they would help Love and the offense win some early games.

Nope.

The Packers had only two wins until Week 9 of the 2023 season. One was against the Chicago Bears, who were bad. The other was against the New Orleans Saints, where it took Jordan Love leading a major comeback and a Saints missed field goal for the Packers to end up on top.

The offense couldn’t get it together in the other five early losses, but the defense didn’t do much to help. Barry’s defense looks better on paper than on film, with only one of those losses involving an opposing team scoring over 25.

Still, we all know how Barry’s defense played — soft, unprepared, and unflexible. They couldn’t hold up. Even in wins, like Green Bay’s Week 11 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, the opponent’s mistakes helped the Packers more than defensive plays.

But there’s no need to keep beating a dead horse. The Packers moved on and hired an exciting new coordinator.

Hafley will face his own challenges. He’s undergoing a complete scheme change, converting to a base 4-3 defense. His safety and linebacker rooms are completely different from last season’s, and he must rely on rookies early. Depth at some spots is unproven.

But while the dynamic has flipped in 2024, there are reasons to believe the offense can carry the defense this time.

The Packers have one of the more challenging schedules on paper. However, team strength is so volatile from year to year that it doesn’t matter that much. Hafley’s defense will face challenges in mobile quarterbacks the first two weeks in Jalen Hurts and Anthony Richardson. But later, it faces offenses led by Will Levis and whoever Minnesota is starting by that point. That isn’t a terrible early stretch for a new defense.

The league is also much more offensive-oriented. The rules favor the offense, and it’s difficult for a defense to completely control a game. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Aaron Rodgers lead a bottom-10 Packers defense to a deep postseason run multiple times. If Jordan Love and the offense prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and can keep controlling games the way they did in the back half of last season, it’s fair to believe he can keep that tradition alive if needed.

Of course, no team wants one phase of the game to carry another. The best teams play situational football; all three phases contribute to a win. Still, the dynamic between the offense and the defense shifting dramatically over the past two seasons paints an interesting parallel. We’ll see if the offense can handle the additional responsibility this season.

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