The packer defense had a roller coaster of a year. From being a top ranked defense to not being able to stop someone if their lives depended on it, they ended up doing pretty good. Not to mention they lost Rashawn Gary for half the season too. Let’s grade how well each position/position group ended up doing this year.
Defensive Ends: B
When looking at the stats, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reeds may not pop out to you. But if you watched the games, you know both were able to hold their own on the outside. Reed finished the season with 29 solo tackles, 52 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, 5 TFLs and 1 forced fumble while Lowry had 23 solo tackles, 43 total tackles, 1 TFL, 5 QB hits and .5 sacks before hitting season ending IR. As I said, not stats that are going to jump out on paper, but both were able to get good QB pressure when they were out there, and most certainly played a big part in the late resurgence of the Packers defense.
Defensive/Nose Tackles: B-
Kenny Clark had a silent year, finishing with 27 solo tackles, 53 combined tackles, 5 TFLs, and 10 QB hits while adding on 4 sacks. Devonte Wyatt didn’t play much until week 16 when he played 24 snaps and 30+ snaps in the next two weeks, helping his season total get to 8 solo tackles, 15 total tackles, 3 QB hits and 1.5 sacks. With the Packers running a base 3-4 defense, it made sense why Wyatt sat and learned behind Kenny Clark most of the season, and it will be interesting to see if the Packers stay in this 3-4 defense moving into the future. Nonetheless, Clark was doubled a lot this season and that could explain why he didn’t have as big of an impact as he usually does. Or it was Joe Barry’s fault.
Linebackers may be the strongest position in Green Bay if it wasn’t for the RB room. To start, Rashan Gary looked like a potential DPOY before his ACL injury, and while coming off the edge posted stats of 21 solo tackles, 32 total tackles, 7 TFLs, 12 QB hits and 6 sacks while adding on a forced fumble and fumble recovery all in just 9 games. Veteran Preston Smith ended his campaign with 38 solo tackles, 59 total tackles, 9 TFLs, 20 QB hits, and 8.5 sacks. Smith and Rashan were one of the most dynamic duos for the first 9 weeks of the season. MLB 1 De’Vondre Campbell missed the middle of the season with an injury, and it was easy to see there was a huge hole in the Packers defense while he was gone. He ended his season with 56 solo tackles, 96 total tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit and 2 interceptions, including his first pick-6 of his career which was a 63 yarder. He had the biggest impact of the Packers linebackers as he was the field general and the main leader. And finally, Quay Walker. Take away his two high emotion penalties, and he had one of the better seasons for the Packers linebackers. He started off the season slow, and by the end he was one of the main players on a star-studded defense. He finished his season with 75 solo tackles, 121 total tackles, 5 TFL, 4 QB hits, 1.5 sacks and 3 FFs including a 63-yard fumble return. He was a huge bright spot for the Packers this year and has all the talent in the world to be a top linebacker in the next few years. The linebacker core for Green Bay is all coming back next year and when all healthy, are a very scary core.
Defensive Backs: A
A group led by Pro Bowl corner Jaire Alexander was lock-down in the last few weeks of the season. It’s like the corners had stopped listening to Joe Barry and were playing like they loved the game of football again. Jaire, while being selected to his 2nd pro bowl, was able to put up 56 total tackles, 14 passes deflected, and 5 interceptions. While having a slow start and an up and down middle of the season, Jaire locked down when it mattered most. He was the definition of big-time players making big time plays and this helped him make AP All Pro team 2. Rasual Douglas was the same way, most notably his interception against the dolphins to put the game away. Douglas finished with 85 tackles, 13 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble and 4 interceptions. A stellar season for Douglas that he will improve on going into next year. Speaking of improving going into next season, that is exactly what Eric Stokes did this season. He was a great Corner 3 this year before his injuries, as he posted numbers of 26 tackles in 9 games. As the corner 3 in Green Bay, he wasn’t targeted a lot, but it wasn’t just because he was the Corner 3. Stokes was able to hold his own in the 9 games he played and though the stats don’t show it, he was much improved from his rookie year self. And finally, Keisean Nixon. While Nixon may just be considered a KR and PR, he is listed and a DB on the depth chart, so I’ll highlight what he did at all those positions. Nixon finished the year with 23 tackles, 2 passes deflected, 1 FF, 1 interception, as well as 35 returns for 1,009 yards and 1 touchdown which was a 105-yard touchdown return, which helped him make AP All Pro team one as a returner. Nixon was truly a spark plug for Green Bay and was one of the most exciting players to watch.
Rudy Ford was the best safety for the Packers this year, and he was damn good. In his first year in Green Bay, Ford put up 44 tackles, 3 pass deflection, 3 interceptions and a forced fumble. He was a huge spark plug for Green Bay late in the season, choosing to pick off Dak Prescott twice in the game against the Cowboys and rode his hot hands into 6 starts in weeks 10-16. Savage and Amos were both disappointing, with Savage being the most disappointing of the two. Savage looked good coming into the year, but it seems that Joe Barry might’ve been setting him up for failure. Savage was asked to play man against WRs many times, even though he is a zone safety, and Amos had a good season but was disappointing as it fell under what we typically expect for Amos.