Following the overtime win against New England yesterday, the first quarter of the Packers season is already over with. Now I know there is no easy marker to determine the quarter mark with the 17 game season now, so I have chosen to divide the season into sets of four games, five games, four and four. Following each of these sets of games I will be doing a review of the Packers to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly as well as give my overall grade for the team.
Starting off with a little positivity is always nice. Leading this off is the continued breakout of edge rusher Rashan Gary. After being a controversial draft pick by the Packers in 2019, Gary sat behind the Smith brothers and learned from them his first two seasons. Then when Za’Darius Smith went down in 2021 Gary stepped in as a full time starter and looked great, recording 47 tackles, including 8 for a loss, as well as 9.5 sacks. He also recorded 87 pressures (a much better judgment of a pass rushers performance.) Gary’s 87 pressures in 2021 was enough to tie for fourth among all NFL players, third among edge rushers. Now enter 2022. Through four games Gary has 16 pressures and 5 sacks. He has been absolutely dominant off the edge and should he continue, Gary will be contending with Cowboys hybrid player Micah Parsons for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Also among the good for the Packers is the return of LT David Bakhtiari, the continued presence of De’Vondre Campbell in the middle of the Packers defense as well as the fact that through whatever means possible the team is 3-1 to this point.
Unfortunately there are many other bad things to discuss for the Packers. The ugly will definitely address what I believe is the biggest issue for the team, but the rest of the problems will reside here. Starting off with the worst of the bad and the piece to breakdown we have the wide receivers. Sammy Watkins has already been placed on injured reserve and it is unknown when he will return. In his absence the team has asked a lot of veterans Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, as well as rookie draftees Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson. So far the two veterans have played their roles as reliable targets for Rodgers, especially Cobb who continues to play well from the slot. The problem is this team is depending on the two rookies to stand out, and so far we have seen nothing but inconsistency. Watson has been dealing with some injuries so he did miss the Packers week three matchup against Tampa Bay. Week one, Watson dropped a wide open touchdown pass on the first play of the game, a potential game changer if he had caught that. Since then he has seen few targets, recording his first career touchdown against the Patriots off a jet motion run play. Meanwhile Doubs has been incredibly frustrating so far. He has fumbled in both of the last two games, losing his fumble against the Pats. This ball security problem must be sorted out fast if he wants to remain a real weapon for a team in desperate need of them. The other bad parts for this team so far include Aaron Rodgers accuracy, Elgton Jenkins performance at right tackle, the conservative coaching following a problem on offense, as well as the injuries to corner Jaire Alexander and safety Adrian Amos.
I think we all know where this one is going. Easily the most ugly part about this Packers team has been the defensive coaching thanks to Joe Barry. For a team that spent both of its first round picks on defense, that has a great defensive line, an elite edge rusher, elite linebacker and one of the best secondaries in the entire league they have struggled mightily out of the gate. Look no further than week one where Justin Jefferson notched 9 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns against them. If we go back and review the tape it is easy to see the reason the team struggled so much was because of the almost exclusive zone coverage they ran, allowing Jefferson to work against anyone not named Jaire Alexander. Afterwards the team talked about the zone scheme saying you can’t simply change that for a game. That alone should be a concern for everyone. This is the NFL. You only survive by adapting to your opponents. The week 1 performance alone was a fire worthy offense for Barry. The defense did its job the following two weeks against a Chicago offense that appeared to be nonexistent and a Buccaneers team that was missing its top three receivers. In addition this defense has struggled on opening drives. But then we have the Patriots game. Brian Hoyer goes down almost immediately and in steps rookie fourth round pick Bailey Zappe. While not perfect, Zappe did look good against what is supposed to be an elite defense. How could that be? Well quite simply it’s because Joe Barry is running a stale version of the cover four system most teams are running these days, while also not being able to adapt his scheme as needed. Very easily Barry could remain the ugly for this Packers team throughout the season and if he continues to struggle at the halfway mark of the season the Packers need to fire him before he costs this team a championship.
The Grade: C-
I will be honest my expectations were higher than this team has achieved. The biggest problem is dragging this team down in the worst kind of way. Hopefully in the next quarter of the season we can see the Packers start to piece it all together but if not, then I fully expect a repeat of the 2021 season where we are booted out of the playoffs in our first game.