Ah, Joe Barry, when will you listen? Week 8 of the NFL is now in the books, with a fourth straight loss getting tallied into the Green Bay Packers record, as they lose 17-27 against an albeit near-perfect Buffalo Bills team. A lot of fans of the Packers may be complaining about the officiating, which was admittedly mediocre for both teams at times, but that is just the league now so you won’t catch me critiquing the officiating. Instead, I’M here to revisit an old friend (or foe depending on your stance) in Joe Barry, Green Bay’s Defensive Coordinator. Barry has maybe a Top 5 roster in the league defensively to work with, however he either can’t seem to get them on the same page, or is simply not calling the correct defensive schemes to maximize their potential. Either way something isn’t lining up, and it is certainly playing a significant role in the 3-5 record that the Packers currently hold. I will be taking a look at what kind of adjustments Barry has made in order to improve this defense, what steps back he has taken, and whether or not he should be considered fit for the role at this point in the season.
No Fly Zone
Joe Barry has admittedly done a much better job scheming the secondary in recent weeks. As of Week 8, the Packers hold the 2nd ranked defense in terms of passing yards allowed, and are tied for 3rd in passing touchdowns allowed, with 1182 Passing Yards and only 6 Passing Touchdowns allowed through 8 weeks of football. Ever since my early season gripes
about Barry’s inability to play the receivers man-to-man, he has gotten a lot better at trusting his stacked secondary to stick with a guy for a whole game. Of course, players are bound to get beaten every couple of reps, which will lead to big plays and scoring. For the most part though, it has been nothing but lockdown for players like Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas, who both had interceptions against Bills Quarterback, Josh Allen.
Joe Barry still does tend to struggle with playing the receivers 10-15 yards off of the line of scrimmage. This becomes problematic because the majority of passing yards that teams do get against the Packers are either through checkdowns, or on quick Outs and In routes that cross the field, taking away leverage from DBs that are playing far off the receiver. I also do understand that with as much technical skill the secondary has, speed and reaction has been shown to be a weakness, with even players like Eric Stokes finding himself passed by WR2s for large gains. The frustration comes more so from the fact that even mid-game, when Barry has time to analyze the offensive gameplan, he often fails to adapt, forcing the players to make up for bad scheming with big plays and excessive effort. As previously stated, there have been improvements, especially as seen against the powerhouse Bills, but there isn’t enough evidence of consistent change to sway me away from the topic.
However, what Joe Barry has yet to do, is keep Jaire Alexander on a WR1 for a whole game. Week 7 came fairly close, with Alexander covering Commanders receiver “Scary” Terry McLaurin, where McLaurin caught a touchdown pass and a pivotal first down with Alexander in coverage. McLaurin would have done far more damage if his quarterback was not Taylor Heinike for certain, however Alexander did a solid job of keeping McLaurin from having his way with the Packers defense entirely, so why would Joe Barry not want to do the same with Stefon Diggs the following week? Diggs had 6 Catches for 108 Yards and 1 Touchdown in the game, none of which were on Alexander at all. In fact, Alexander spent his time covering a similarly potent weapon in Gabe Davis for the majority of the game, lining up across from Davis on 14 of 23 routes per Next Gen Stats, and allowing 0 Catches on his 4 Targets during that time. With so much pre-game chatter between Diggs and Alexander writing headlines, it came as a surprise to most that the two almost never met on the field. This is entirely to the fault of Joe Barry not knowing his personnel as well as he should. As skilled as Davis is, Douglas would have been able to handle him just fine in my opinion at least, leaving Diggs to be put on Jaire Island. If this type of match up continues through the season we will see similar results from opposing WR1s.
The Running Joke
As much as the secondary may be elite, the front four and linebackers have been unable to put together a solid run defense. As of Week 8, the Packers currently rank 27th in rushing yards allowed with 977, and have allowed 7 rushing touchdowns thus far. It shouldn’t be for lack of talent either. With 2x Pro Bowler Kenny Clark and Chiefs Star Jarran Reed at defensive tackle, there should be more than enough push at the line even against some of the better fronts in the league. Not to mention the ability of outside linebacker Preston Smith to play the run and All-Pro linebacker De’vondre Campbell’s general tenacity at the second level, there is no excuse for Barry to not be scheming these guys against the run and taking away that aspect of the game. There is not much else to be said, as it has been a complaint through the entirety of this 2022 season that the Packers cannot stop the run. The front office even tried to address this issue in the draft by acquiring two defensive studs from Georgia in Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker. The fact of the matter is Joe Barry has all the talent in the world to work with, and he simply refuses to make in-game adjustments to counter offensive gameplans, much less if the offense changes mid game as well.
The most critical part of the run defense being so bad however, is that it is a glaring weakness that teams can easily expose, and have exposed, during games. An important statistic that showcases this point, is that the Packers rank 5th in times rushed against with 204 attempts; this the same ranking as their rushing yards allowed. This indicates that not only are they an easy target for running the ball, but opposing offenses have identified that and seek to exploit it in their gameplan. This all goes back to the fact that Joe Barry is unable to recognize statistics like these and make adjustments that would put our defensive playmakers in the tackle box more often in order to make teams hesitate at the least.
Does Barry Deserve the Job?
There are several aspects of this defense that need work, and just as every other team in the league does, this team has talent and lots of it. The Packers have 7 first-round draft picks on the defense, as well as an All-Pro linebacker, yet seem to be inept against the run, and allow WR1s to run all around the field without consequence. It is not a problem with personnel, or player effort, it is a problem with coaching. Cut and dry, Joe Barry is not the man that can lead this group to Legion of Boom levels of defense, much less a defense that can even hold back Taylor Heinicke or Daniel Jones. He has been out coached the entire year and was most of last season as well, and I wholeheartedly believe he needs to go as soon as possible. That isn’t to say I hope I am wrong and he does indeed find a way, but I am quickly losing faith in his ability to call correct schemes and close games.