Cory's Corner: Pressure And Trust Are Defensive Gamechangers

Making an opposing defense uncomfortable is the blueprint to winning. The Packers defense is on the right track. 

Pressure, pressure and more pressure. 

That’s the way to play defense in today’s NFL. You cannot sit back and allow quarterbacks to read the latest James Patterson novel while downing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You have to make quarterbacks feel as uncomfortable as possible.

The Packers generated 149 pressures last year, which was 11th in the league last year. The Chiefs were second with 181 and the Eagles were fifth with 165. That’s the formula: create as many problems in the offensive backfield as you can.

“It’s about TFLs and sacks,” said Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. “We’re going to look to create havoc in the backfield. Every down, we’re looking to penetrate and make something big happen.”

How can you not love this? The Packers are willing to roll the dice and do whatever it takes on defense. If that means getting into the backfield on an all-out blitz, so be it. If that means using the new athletic safeties to make the quarterback think twice, so be it. 

And there is always a risk. That’s why the former Packers defensive coordinator would’ve rather walked up a snow hill backwards than put pressure on the opposing team. He was also the one that was so worried about the big play that he had his defensive backs play seven yards deep on third-and-4. Makes complete sense in the year — never. Even in a non-passing league that is the most mind-bending thing ever. 

You can play the “What if” game all season long. But what percentage of those ifs actually come true? That’s why it makes more sense to just put the pressure on the quarterback and get in the backfield as quickly as possible. Know going in that there will be failure. That could come in the slick look of a 45-yard reverse or a 32-yard post touchdown that finds the receiver wide open. 

But this philosophy doesn’t work as a solo act. It must be done in packs, or else it will fail. 

“Anytime you’re trying to create things in the backfield, you’ve got to have the whole group swarm to make the play,”  said Packers defensive line coach Brian Rebrovich. “Can’t just be one guy making the tackle. So, you’ve got to make sure when you are creating a new line of scrimmage, when you are working to get in the backfield, there’s other guys that are going to converge. You can’t just sit there and watch one guy try and work to make one play.”

The Packers have a few guys that can make defensive plays on their own, but team defense comes first and is always the best option. 

So pressure plus roaming in packs equals a pretty solid defensive equation. Hafley isn’t just preaching a new defense, he’s preaching a new team philosophy. He needs this unit to trust each other and know that it won’t be nearly as good of a defense without the person next to them. 

No matter how many pressures the Packers get next season, they already have a victory on defense simply because of the word trust. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (38)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
TKWorldWide's picture

May 11, 2024 at 07:23 am

How in the blue (or green) hell did Barry’s D generate the 11th most pressures in the league last year?
In addition, I think most of us are willing to tolerate giving up an occasional big play in exchange for wreaking havoc, rather than watching a methodical, unmolested march down the field led by Baker Mayfield or Tommy Cutlets.

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Guam's picture

May 11, 2024 at 07:50 am

I never did understand Barry's defensive philosophy. How giving up long, time consuming drives that usually ended up in points scored was better than giving up occasional big plays in exchange for three and outs or turnovers was beyond me. I guess Barry preferred death by a thousand cuts.

I am really looking forward to this change in philosophy. I just wish Lafleur had seen the light at least a year earlier if not three years earlier.

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Coldworld's picture

May 11, 2024 at 08:46 am

The few Barry defenders will point out we didn’t actually give up that many points: we were in the bottom quartile of points allowed last year.

There is little doubt that the Barry D slowed scoring for most of the majority games (the exceptions being blowouts typically led by unfettered rushing). The problem is that, as you rightly point out, there was an air of inevitability: I’d love to know how we did in terms of the percentage of opposing drives without a score.

Green Bay allowed the chains to be moved at near the highest rate overall, and for each down. Perhaps that’s a reason why we got so many pressures: so many opportunities through new sets of downs.

Another problem that this stat masks, in my view, is that teams were allowed by our passivity to take low risk approaches to moving. Too often we didn’t make regular short gains challenging: if you like teams just took what we gave them.

The icing on the cake of course was the end of half meltdowns where we got even more defensive minded and teams used that to march down the field and fast.

Ultimately Barry had become so scared of defeat he put himself in a position from which it was hard to win unless our front dominated to the extent of havoc. He was trying to delay defeat, but in doing so in football, keeping our offense sitting for far too long far too often while grinding our defensive players down from time in the field.

To my mind the flaw was the general not the type of system employed. He undermined his players strengths and stamina. It had to end. It won’t always be pretty, but I’d rather give up a 40 yard play than ten six yard ones. With a strong O, I’d rather concede a field goal scored in 5 minutes than 20 if I can’t stop one and have my O out there looking for TD. A Barry D was never going to win consistently and nor was an offense waiting for it to get off the field.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 11, 2024 at 10:01 am

Barry never succeeded as a DC after going 0-7 at the plate. There comes a time when you have to realize the job is just a bad fit for you.

I have no ill will toward Joe Barry. It seems he is a very nice man. But as a DC, he was extraordinarily exasperating.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:07 am

I guess I'm one of the few. This stuff about "Barry.....scared ..." is just nonsense supported by nothing except your imagination, just like your general condemnation of everybody last year.

I have just one question: If this 'attacking, pressuring, gap-splitting' defense is such a good idea, then why doesn't everybody go with that? And if they do, then why do so many of them give up more points than the Packers.

THE DATA says that the average drive against the Packers covered 32.9 yards and took 6.4 plays. Let's divide. 5.14 yards/play. The league median would be about 30 yards in 5.8 plays. Let's divide. 5.17 yards per/play.

I think that there is a tendency to fixate on things so that you see what you expect to see.

The DATA also denies this "sitting for far too long" narrative. The average drive against the Packers was 10 seconds longer than the average drive against KC or SF.

But this is minutiae, because as I continually point out, it's about points, because points are who determines the winners and loser. We were 10th last year, and I'm hoping we'll be as good or better this year. All this "attacking, gambling, pressuring, gap-shooting" stuff has me concerned, because although it sounds great and makes pretty pictures in our heads, I've seen this in action and it fails often enough that it costs you games. I also know that players get hurt and they're replaced with players who aren't as good.

My life experience has convinced me that the best defenses don't rely on gimmicks. They keep the play in front of them and make teams work it down the field. Nothing will get a coach, or DC, fired faster than giving up big plays.

We're going to see how this works this year. It'll be interesting.

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greengold's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:15 am

No one told me there was going to be math today.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 11, 2024 at 05:14 pm

Name one of the best defenses of all-time that played Barry ball. You can't because they were all physical, attacking defenses.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:31 am

I could see points allowed going up a bit this year, mainly because they won't be playing almost half their games against below average QBs. They played 10 games against QBs no longer on the same team, looking at the 2024 slate I see three possible games like that.

There's always the chance of injury but there doesn't look to be many Rypiens or DeVitos this season.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 11, 2024 at 12:31 pm

If almost half the QBs, were below average, is that the same thing as saying more than half were average or better? Do you know what average means? How did Mahomes and Prescott do against the Packers?

These guys like Mayfield had good days against our 2nd string defensive backfield.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 12, 2024 at 02:07 pm

I guess he just gets a pass for DeVito, Ridder, Pickett and Young.

Your defending of Barry has reached the ridiculous level.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 12, 2024 at 09:48 pm

Again, you don't seem to understand what average means.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 11, 2024 at 10:46 am

TK.....there were lots of good things about Barry's defense that people didn't notice.

An "occasional" big play. We're going to see how occasional "occasional" is. I know that if 24 points wins most games, one big play gets them 1/3 of the way.

Since you mentioned Baker Mayfield and Tommy Cutlets........Do you know who we had available on defense in those games? We're out there with Owens, Ford, Ballantine, Valentine and Nixon. I was pretty unhappy with the defense against Tampa Bay, especially, until I re-watched the game and noticed who was on the field for us on defense. And who wasn't.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 12, 2024 at 02:09 pm

So giving up explosive plays on defense matters but having explosive plays doesn't. 🤔

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 12, 2024 at 10:41 pm

What matters is points. If you weren't so deep in the intrapersonal you'd see the repeated message.

Barry wasn't all awful. The defense was top ten in points allowed. Many of the failures were offensive. There is going to be a LOT of pressure on Hafley (I'm still unclear why that same pressure isn't on LaFleur), but attacking defense isn't the be all end all. We handed Minnesota their asses as they attacked repeatedly. Despite their all or nothing defense, they still sucked at the end of the year.

Attacking defense can get gashed, be careful what you wish for. The one true thing that I'm excited about is that we are going to be faster and younger, and speed matters and not just on defense.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 13, 2024 at 10:25 am

God, you are a bickering twit!!. You're the guy getting all steamed up over 0.4 yards/rush!! Make up your mind, and until you do,please just ignore me.

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Mike Rossmeier's picture

May 14, 2024 at 03:05 pm

I'll reserve judgement until I see the results. Wasn't it Bob Slowik in 2004, who as DC came up with a pressure defense. The Pack got smoked and he was out after one year.

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2024 at 07:42 am

It's been a long, long, long time since the Packers defense has made a QB uncomfortable in the backfield. If Hafley can pull it off it will be a long overdue but most welcome change. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the change in attitude and the aggressiveness with the new defense. Thanks, Since '61

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Leatherhead's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:10 am

In the 2020 Championship game, Brady got sacked several times and pressured into 3 picks and a passer rating of under 80. Then we fired the DC and replaced him with Barry.

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CentralPA_PackFan's picture

May 11, 2024 at 07:48 am

Paraphrasing one of the few intelligent things Buddy Ryan ever said to the press: "A QB can't hurt you when he's on his back." GPG

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LeotisHarris's picture

May 11, 2024 at 08:49 am

Joe Barry's Packer Defenses did a stellar job of making me uncomfortable.

Now you're telling me you're not nostalgic. And if you're offering me pressure and trust, I've already paid.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:00 am

Paraphrasing Joan Baez via Rob Halford?👍

I just hope a bunch of Packer fans aren't stuck in Brazil thinking they should not have got on this flight tonight!

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barutanseijin's picture

May 11, 2024 at 01:22 pm

That’s Joni Mitchell, not Joan Baez.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 11, 2024 at 02:03 pm

Diamonds and Rust is Joan Baez, This Flight Tonight is Joni.

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 12, 2024 at 10:42 pm

it's math, really.

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Coldworld's picture

May 11, 2024 at 09:03 am

I’m looking forward to actually enjoying watching us on defense again. I’m looking forward to seeing us battle and contest and try to make plays. Yes it won’t always be successful but it might actually be interesting more often, at all levels of the D. Certainly it will be less predictable.

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NickPerry's picture

May 11, 2024 at 09:21 am

"The Packers are willing to roll the dice and do whatever it takes on defense. If that means getting into the backfield on an all-out blitz, so be it. If that means using the new athletic safeties to make the quarterback think twice, so be it."

This is music to my ears... Doing whatever it takes. With Barry there was very, VERY, little of whatever it takes. It seems now the Packers are finally willing to do just that. This is a very athletic defense. Whether the players have been here or have just recently been added, this team HAS the players to do this.

How awesome would it be the first time we play the Bears, this Defense is living in the backfield, pounding the HELL out of the new prince of Chicago. First though, I'll settle for pounding the hell out of Jalen Hurts in Brazil.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 11, 2024 at 09:54 am

Packers led the NFL drafting 8 Senior Bowl invitees. Makes sense. Team Gute likes athletic prospects with a thick resume of college production, are leaders/captains, solid character, no red flags.

The Rookies will be joining a Locker Room of veterans with similar characteristics.

The players on D were a talented group before the draft...the talent swelled after the draft. So many fast, hard hitting, disruptors.

How this develops, after so many years of subpar defense, is going to make TC fun for both the players and fans!

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 11, 2024 at 09:36 am

Takeaways from Hafley's Fundamentals to Dominate:

Relentless, creative pressure on the QB.

Vision and Break.

Simplify the weekly game plan customized for the next opponent.

Play fast...do not overthink, DO!

Coach what the defense is good at, practice it over and over to make it habit. (Think Lombardi's Sweep)

Move players around to exploit matchups with the next opponent, create confusion.

Position guys with "what and where" to maximize their strengths, minimize weaknesses.

ACE...Attitude, Commitment, Effort.

I do not know if the Packers will once again have a dominant defense...but the only way not to succeed is not to try.

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PackerBackerAZ's picture

May 11, 2024 at 10:45 am

I hope there will be some in-game adjustments that can stymie an offense that is being successful as well.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

May 11, 2024 at 10:32 am

Cory: "Making an opposing defense uncomfortable is the blueprint to winning. The Packers defense is on the right track."

I can see where making an opposing defense uncomfortable is a good thing, but in the context of the topic, did you mean to say "Making an opposing offense uncomfortable..."

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brenner's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:11 pm

Maybe making opposing defense uncomfortable by getting off the field quickly and getting the offense back on the field..

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GB@Germany's picture

May 11, 2024 at 10:49 am

Absolutely looking forward to the new attitude on D.
Still I expect more points against us, especially in the first half of the season.
It will take some time, to get the D in sync.
My major concern is missed takles, which seem to be an issue for some of our draft picks.
In the new system with much more 1 on 1 matchups it becomes more critical.

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splitpea1's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:10 am

"It's about TFLs and sacks." I'm all for the splash plays (and that includes creating turnovers), but I'm also for fundamental things like gap integrity, sealing running lanes, and sure tackling, whether we're swarming or just demonstrating individual excellence in the open field. I'm also looking forward to seeing some unpredictability when it comes to blitzing.

The new philosophy needs to be intelligent and all-encompassing, and hopefully the end result will be visibly trained/coached defenders who get the job done on the field, especially when it matters most.

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stockholder's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:14 am

Well again, I just don't agree with anybody.
KCs Defense wins; because they know how to use:
Position Versatility.-
Bigger and Stronger - On the DL
And you can see the Coverage Zero.!!
Which was never taught in GB.
So while KC keeps winning with
Power Versatility.
We teach old ways.
With lighter and faster.

It just sounds like a flip in the box,
and the charge of the life Brigade!

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Packer_Fan's picture

May 11, 2024 at 11:20 am

You are on to something Cory. Pressure is the right idea. But specifically at the end of games. Good defense gets stops at the end of games. SF did and beat us. Barry had to only stop SF from scoring a TD. And the year before stop Detroit to give the Packers and Rodgers a chance. And the year before again against SF, they ran out the clock. KC defense twice held SF to a field goal and gave Holmes a chance to win.

I probably can't describe exactly what is needed, Barry NEVER had it. Hope that Hafley has the guts to close out the game

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Matt's picture

May 11, 2024 at 03:05 pm

I just want to remind that the game of "what ifs" has never been 100% free of big plays. Of course they didn't happen every drive but unfortunately they happened mostly in critical moments (look no further than 49ers game - one freaking play by CMC).

Long sets of 5-10 rushing plays our opponents performed, sometimes made me want the big play which would end our pain. I knew it's going to end up as a score, I just wanted our offense to have one more chance to be on top. I will never understand the logic behind allowing for long drives and putting DBs 10 yds off the line on 3rd and short. It was bend AND break philosophy.

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GregC's picture

May 11, 2024 at 05:12 pm

I don't see how Hafley's defense is based on" trust" any more than any other defense. The pressure thing is real, though. You can tell by the kind of defensive players they just drafted. I can't wait to see how it all plays out. I am hoping for the best, although I think there is a decent chance that it all blows up in our faces. I remember Bob Slowik's blitz-happy defense in 2004. They started off great, then got burned repeatedly and the whole thing was quickly abandoned. Slowik was fired after one season. Could a similar thing happen with Hafley? Why not? It's not like Hafley has an impressive resume. We really don't know what his defense is going to look like. My guess is that he will not be as aggressive as he suggests he will be. He will need to rein it in somewhat so it won't be too predictable. I still like the attitude though. The Packers needed to try a fresh approach on defense. They've significantly upgraded their personnel, especially if a couple of these rookies are good right out of the gate. That's most of the battle right there. Hafley just needs to put all the pieces together. Easier said than done.

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marpag1's picture

May 12, 2024 at 11:29 am

"The Packers are willing to roll the dice and do whatever it takes on defense."

It's pretty stupid to equate "rolling the dice" with "doing whatever it takes."

In these difficult economic times, let's encourage everyone to literally roll the dice and gamble with their money in Vegas, because if they're not taking huge risks, they're not doing whatever it takes to succeed, right?

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