Improved Tackling a Catalyst Behind Success on Defense

Through 10 games, the Green Bay Packers have been one of the best tackling teams in football, and that is one of the big reasons behind their early-season success.

Since Week 1, we've seen this Green Bay Packers defense improve with each passing week. And over the last three games, against the likes of Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson, Green Bay has been downright dominant--allowing just 34 combined points during that span.
 
As is always the case, there are a myriad of reasons behind the Packers' defensive success, but a big one -- and a much-improved one -- has been the reliability of their tackling. 
 
By PFF's metrics, the Green Bay Packers have an overall tackling grade of 80.1, which is the best in football through 10 games. For reference, this is a defense that never ranked better than 18th in this category over the last three seasons and was as low as 25th in 2018. 
 
The Packers' 51 missed tackles this season are the fewest in football, and they're allowing on average 6.3 yards after the catch, according to Statmuse, which is the second-fewest in the NFL, behind only Buffalo. 
 
As Matt LaFleur told reporters, "it helps to have really good players but also the emphasis that's placed on that (tackling). You have to drill it." Joe Barry belives that sound tackling is something that must be preached with the hope that it becomes a mentality within the defense. With live tackling in practice a thing of the past, Barry has had to get creative with some of the drills that the team works on and most importantly, making sure that what they're practicing benefits them in a live game setting. 
 
"I think the biggest thing when you practice tackling, you've got to practice tackling on a moving target," said Barry via Sports Illustrated. "I think the biggest mistake guys make when they say, 'Oh, yeah, we tackled this week.' Well, if you tackle a bag that's just stationary or you tackle a sled that's not moving, a ball-carrier moves. you can create a realistic live tackle in the practice setting, where they're actually physically tackling something that's moving, they're wrapping it, they're taking it to the ground, they're finishing it like a real game tackle. I'm a firm believer you get what you emphasize and, if you emphasize tackling every single day and every single week, hopefully it pays off on Sunday."
 
But in addition to the added emphasis on tackling and the drills done in practice, Barry's scheme deserves some of the credit as well. Despite not having Jaire Alexander or Za'Darius Smith for much of the season, this defense is finding success with players like Dean Lowry, Chandon Sullivan, De'Vondre Campbell, Kevin King, and others all playing at a relatively high level. It's not a coincidence that this many players are all having one of their better NFL seasons--it's also the system.
 
Under Barry, the heavy defensive fronts and cover-2 scheme have put players in better positions to make plays. The same goes for tackling with more players around the ball, those players are in a better position, and they're taking better angles to make those tackles. Not to mention that with the way this defense flies around the field, there is a vast understanding of their responsibilities--when you couple speed and an understanding of where you need to be, you're going to see sound tackling as a result.
 
"Tackling is getting 11 guys to the ball so it's hustle, it's effort," said Barry via Sports Illustrated. "I think it's educating guys with where their help is so they know where their leverage and what shoulder they can tackle with. So, if you do miss a tackle, you miss a tackle to a buddy. So, I think those are all things in the process that you have to teach, you have to emphasize. But the biggest thing is you have to find creative ways to practice it. Our guys have done that."
 
Having a group of reliable tacklers, of course, is going to benefit any defense, but it really allows us to see the full effect of Barry's system that often plays with lightboxes. If Green Bay were struggling with tackling and giving up big run plays, struggling against screens, or not limiting the quick passing game, Barry would need to commit more defenders to the box.        
 
However, that hasn't been necessary, and the Packers have been able to have those extra defenders in the secondary, which has allowed this passing defense to be quite dominant. In addition to giving up just 601 total passing yards and one touchdown to Murray, Mahomes, and Wilson, the Packers are allowing only 202.7 passing yards per game and 5.8 yards per pass attempt--both of which are the third-fewest this season.
 
Missed tackles have certainly been a problem here in Green Bay for a few years now, but that does not apply to 2021. This defensive unit hasn't just been good at tackling, but they've been the best in football, and that's one of the big reasons why this group is flourishing.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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11 points

Comments (22)

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

November 19, 2021 at 11:38 am

Excellent analysis. Thanks.

7 points
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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

November 19, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Correct ! The past few years tackling has been weak, and that's being nice. I wonder how many others have broken the number of table tops that I have while watching whimpy arm-tackles that failed. It started again this year in weeks 1 and 2. But then the change began to take shape with the exception of Kevin King (he is still a lightweight arm tackler). My white-knuckeled fist pounding over whimpy missed tackles is down 90%. The boys are hitting again, putting their shoulder into it with some hot pursuit. It's fun watching the Defense again, and best of all I'm allowed to sit at a crowded bar again...

5 points
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HawkPacker's picture

November 19, 2021 at 01:20 pm

Hey Nitschke, I have seen some improvement with King. He is playing better, mainly because he is healthy.

6 points
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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

November 19, 2021 at 05:31 pm

Maybe, tides usually raise all boats. It would be hard for him to get worse. I think even Mason Crosby (kicker) could even hit with more authority..... LOL

2 points
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CoachDino's picture

November 19, 2021 at 07:47 pm

i wonder with king if injuries or fear of them isnt a factor. no use driving a bum shoulder but lack of it will impact tackles. do we want ja to use his recovered shoulder?

-1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 19, 2021 at 05:04 pm

Maybe King learned that arm-tackling leads to separated shoulders or the waiver wire.

4 points
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Lphill's picture

November 19, 2021 at 02:09 pm

King is not gonna commit his body for a tackle , look what happened to Alexander, but he is playing better at the line of scrimmage and playing in the slot .

2 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

November 19, 2021 at 02:50 pm

I beg to differ. From another website:

Kevin King isn’t exactly known for tackling. In his past three seasons, King has a missed tackle rate of 16.6%. Which, let’s just say, is… not good. Since Joe Barry has come along, the Packers have become one of the best tackling teams in the NFL. The improvement in tackling has reached even as long and as far as Kevin King. This year, his missed tackle rate has dropped to just 5.6%.

8 points
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4thdown's picture

November 19, 2021 at 02:35 pm

I wonder what Barry is using for the tackling drills. If hes says it helps to hit a moving target and its not a player then is he using those tackling dummies that Ive seen that are remote controlled?. The operator with the joy stick can stop on a dime ..juke..cut... and all that. Has anybody have info on that? I think the players would have fun with that and the guy with the joy stick would have a blast!. I could just see them ribbing each other about getting juked by a bag! Its alot easier to learn anything when your enjoying it. Kudos to Barry, hes got me loving to watch the D again!!

5 points
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Oppy's picture

November 19, 2021 at 05:14 pm

I hope it's well-greased hogs.

4 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

November 19, 2021 at 05:22 pm

Perhaps hogs for the big fellas. Chickens for the DBs.

2 points
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Oppy's picture

November 20, 2021 at 09:54 am

Mickey Goldmill hired as Packers new Secondary strength and conditioning coach? I'm in.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 19, 2021 at 05:34 pm

As a rugby player not a football one, I can only say that tackling a stationary object or person is as easy as it is rare. If that is indeed what his predecessors taught, I’d be shocked. For one thing, it’s the movement that causes the most injuries, especially if not trained to adjust. The second thing, the movement is the source of the difficulty both in form and positioning.

3 points
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BruceIrons's picture

November 19, 2021 at 03:00 pm

Joe Barry has taken this group to a new level and it's even more impressive considering how many key players have been out.

When you break the game down to it's simplest terms, tackling is what defense is all about and Joe Barry has this team doing it better than it has in ages.

10 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

November 19, 2021 at 06:15 pm

I also see it as addition by subtraction. Campbell a good tackler - replaces his predecessor(s) - who were not (Martin, Burks, Summers etc.) Also Douglas a good and aggressive tackler - has replaced King (for the most part) - who is not. Even Henry Black is a vast improvement over Redmond. Plus Stokes, for a rookie, rarely whiffs on a tackle. So +,+,+,+...

5 points
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jont's picture

November 19, 2021 at 06:23 pm

When the schedule came out the Murray-Mahomes-Wilson run looked like a big mid-season obstacle. Allowing 203 passing yards per game and coming out 2-1 will prove to be a key achievement when this season's story is written.

6 points
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CoachDino's picture

November 19, 2021 at 07:31 pm

dead on about tackling. it started last year, along with swarming to the ball and assignment discipline and led to the jump in performance and ranking down the stretch. the addition of stokes, douglas and cambell is huge. id also point to less lighter personnel due imo to much closer games this year, meaning less prevent. im sure they all know how by the time they reach the nfl, theres no secrets to form/tech or even noncontact drills. willigness and effort to be in position and use it is the key. no redmen and less king cant hurt. though king seemed improved. no question zm can play at ahigh level but he so often was undisciplined leading to teammates being in less optimal tackling positions. could it of been a factor in not being voted captain? even helped team tackling?

0 points
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4thand1's picture

November 19, 2021 at 10:28 pm

Tackling whoda thunk? Pad level lol, sorry folks. What I see is energy and flying to the ball, and an ILBer!!

3 points
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Starrbrite's picture

November 19, 2021 at 11:26 pm

What the hell is going on out there, grab, grab, grab, nobody’s tackling, er, I mean, everyone’s tackling—-good job men! Keep it up.

0 points
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Bure9620's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:00 am

They are actually now the best tackling team in the league.....I'm not dreaming

0 points
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Gman1976's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:41 am

Count me as one of the doubters when Barry was hired, but I'm believer now. Wow, this defense is the best we have had in long time. Barry even has our replacement players doing well! The only question now is whether or not we can continue to survive and thrive with all these injuries.

0 points
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