Three Green Bay Packers Players Whose Potential Is Not Being Maximized In Their Current Defense

The Green Bay Packers defense has been disappointing through the first half of the 2022 NFL season. This unit features six starters who were first-round draft picks and has Pro Bowl or All Pro players in every position group. Despite that pedigree, the team has not been the dominant group that the front office expected. They currently rank 29th in the league in average yards rushing allowed per game and 16th in points allowed per game.

With an offense in transition, the front office went all in on defense this offseason, hoping the strong play on that side of the ball would earn the Pack some wins early in the year before the offense would start to improve and click in the second half. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Here is a look at three players on the Green Bay defense whose potential is not being maximized by the current defensive scheme:

CB Rasul Douglas

Douglas had a career best season last year after the Packers signed him in October off the Cardinals practice squad. He was most effective playing on the perimeter after both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King were injured. Douglas plays his best in zone coverage but also when he can press the receiver at the line of scrimmage.

This season, however defensive coordinator Joe Barry moved Douglas to the team’s primary slot corner. That is a position the former West Virginia star had not played extensively at the NFL level. Because of his lack of flat out speed, Douglas has struggled to keep up receivers over the middle of the field.

Last season, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, opposing quarterbacks completed just 50 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Douglas and their quarterback rating was 44.5.

This year, since the position change, opposing quarterbacks have completed 65 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Douglas and their quarterback rating has improved to 82.4.

Douglas intercepted five passes last season in 12 games and broke up 13. This season, he has just one interception and six pass break ups in eight games.

Douglas is better suited to playing the perimeter where the sideline can limit the options of receivers and his lack of speed is less of an issue. The attempted move to the slot has not worked out as planned thus far.

CB Jaire Alexander

The Packers first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft had his first Pro Bowl season in 2020. At the time, he was considered one of the top cover corners in the league and many scouts felt he still had the potential to get better.

Ja’Money missed most of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury. During this past offseason, GM Brian Gutekunst signed Alexander to a contract extension that made him the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.

But although he is the Packers best cover corner, Alexander has not been matched often enough against opposing team’s top receiver.

In Week 1, Justin Jefferson had a field day against the Packers, making nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. In that game, Alexander lined up on one side of the field and all the Vikings had to do to create a favorable matchup was to line up Jefferson on the opposite side of the formation.

Just last week against the Bills, the same issue continued. The Packers knew that the Bills would target Stefon Diggs, one of the better wideouts in the league and their top offensive weapon. Diggs and Alexander were seen trash talking in the tunnel before the game and the matchup promised to be one of the more interesting games within a game that we’ve seen all year.

Instead, Alexander spent most of the game matched up on Gabriel Davis. Davis was limited to two catches for 35 yards but Diggs was matchup up against the Packers other defensive backs and torched the Packers for six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.

The Packers have the highest paid cornerback in the NFL but they aren’t using him to take away the opposition’s best receivers. Even if Barry prefers to play zone defenses, many teams match their best cover corner in man against the other team’s top receiver and then play zone with the rest of their defensive backs. The Packers are simply not maximizing the talent they have in Alexander.

S Darnell Savage

In the second half of 2020, Savage and Adrian Amos were both playing at Pro Bowl level. Amos was the positionally sound player who allowed Savage to make plays both closer to the line of scrimmage and in coverage.

This week, Barry admitted that Savage’s skill set would be a good fit in the slot but he wasn’t eager to move him there because he is concerned about the team’s lack of depth at safety.

Either way, the more conservative, zone-oriented coverages that Barry usually prefers has not been well suited to Savage’s skill set. His play over the last two seasons has fallen off significantly. While it’s not only due to the new defensive schemes, Savage is not being used properly to play to his former strengths.

The Packers defense will not reach its full potential until the coaching staff plays to the strengths of their players and the players execute more consistently.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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3 points

Comments (40)

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

November 05, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Gil, you are exactly right. Barry is trying to fit a scheme to the wrong type of players.

The general manager, Gute and the coaches are not linked together. It is not the players fault.

This won't be fixed until people are fired at the top and the goofy structure is fixed.

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pack69go's picture

November 05, 2022 at 02:42 pm

This is the most dysfunctional coaching staff currently in the NFL! after we finish this pathetic season, we need a new gm and coaching
staff!

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LLCHESTY's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:45 pm

I think he's pretty wrong, especially on Savage. The fact is the coverages they are playing now are very close to what they played in 2020. I don't think Gray forgot how to coach DBs, I think it's more a matter of Savage and Stokes not playing well this year. They certainly don't want to tackle RBs.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 06, 2022 at 01:14 am

Savage has a bad case of doesn't want to tackle.

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splitpea1's picture

November 05, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Who knows what Barry is thinking? Here's where another layer of oversight is needed, but it doesn't seem to be coming from management or the demure MLF.

Savage has experience playing the slot in his college days, so why not give it a try? And what's wrong with Ford, or even Abernathy, in Savage's normal role?

I thought Gute made a mistake by not taking a safety at least by the fourth round of the draft. As a matter of fact, he could have taken the Lions' Kerby Joseph late in the third round instead of a project guard. Joseph has played well for a rookie and is now starting.

And what on earth is Stokes doing back there other than showcasing a terrible sophomore slump? It's kind of ridiculous for him not have a single PD halfway through the season.

8 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 05, 2022 at 12:49 pm

He’s another being played against type. He needs to play man or press at least.

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LLCHESTY's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:40 pm

I wouldn't mind seeing Savage get some snaps at slot but on passing downs only. In this system the nickel is asked to fill in the run game, that was the idea of moving the larger Rasul there. Let's not ask Savage to do that. I charted the coverages for 2020 and this year and averaged them in my comment below. I think it's simply a matter of for whatever reason in the 2nd half of 2020 Savage decided to cover. Before and after that he hasn't.

Totally agree with you on drafting a safety, been asking for a guy that could cover deep for a few years now. They're stuck with Savage for next year but that doesn't mean he has to play. Probably have to draft or sign a replacement for Amos too.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 06, 2022 at 01:19 am

LOL. We asked for Tre Boston as a cheap deep cover guy at least as far back ago as 2018. Boston won't tackle either but he was a pretty good in coverage. Out of the league now, I guess.

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Packerpasty's picture

November 06, 2022 at 09:41 am

"demure MLF"...spot on!!!!

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Gee's picture

November 05, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Put Savage in the slot and line up 23 on anybody they think, is a problem. I get most D play a lot of zone, but screw it, play to your strengths. Also can Lowery just play pass down please.

7 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:17 pm

Yes, agree on all matters. I want more Wyatt and TJ Slaton

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Ahgreen30's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:05 pm

FIRE Joe Barry NOW!!!!!!

8 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:40 pm

I would agree if they could fill it with better....This should be interesting.

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Packerlifer's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:15 pm

It’s the same thing we’ve seen with Capers and Pettine. The coordinator thinks it’s his scheme not the players that are the defense so no give on where players are positioned and played. And the head coach won’t assert his authority and responsibility to make changes. I think it was 2014 when capers dismissed the idea of moving Clay Matthews inside to shore up the run defense. Finally, at the bye, McCarthy insisted he do so. The run defense did get better and the Packers got to the championship game for the first time in four years. So there’s some in house precedent for the boss to be one.

6 points
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CheesedDeadHead's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:23 pm

What I said about Pettine before his dismissal applies to Barry:

The only successful scheme they have is the one that has convinced a team to pay them as a DC.

4 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:34 pm

The Primary problem at 1265 starts with Gute: It seems players are drafted for: RAS score solely, when the first box to check should be tackling ability, then ability to decipher where the ball is going and being in position to make the play behind the LOS or with minimal gain, ability to shed blockers, Intelligence, ball tracking, hands, speed. It's as if Packers believe they can teach tackling and some sort of sense of where the ball is going...but they can't. A good Coach puts his players in position to excel...we have some poor Coaching, Poor oversight and zero changes. We lost a lot of coaches at the end of the season and then tries to make coaches that remained fit a round peg in a square hole. There is no way ML should have made many of the changes he did without the ability to teach these positions himself on the fly.

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NickPerry's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:50 pm

On the positive side I believe the Packers have MANY of the right pieces for a Championship Defense. BUT, we have a DC who refuses to utilize their talents to teams advantage.

1.) Rasul Douglas is a boundry CB...Period! He's to big, and not quick enough for the slot. He's the CB you put on the bigger physical WRs on the opposing team.

2.) Jarie Alexander can play anywhere. He can play the slot, outside, and IMO should follow the opposing teams #1 most of the time.

3.) Stokes is a boundry guy that has taken a step back. I still believe in Stokes regardless of what he's done this season.

4.) Savage HAS to be used around the LOS exactly the way Pettine used him at the end of 2020. My hope is they get rid of Barry after this week and SOMEONE who's promoted (Probably Jerry Gray) uses him the way he should be used. Hey, maybe 2020 was an anomoly but I'd rather give it a try and see for sure. IF he was to look like he did in 2020 again, it's one less peice they'll need moving forward.

I know Jerry Gray is in charge of the secondary, but I also think he stuck playing Barry's "System". Coaching only goes so far when the scheme is shit. I believe Gray is a hell of a defensive coach.

The Lions average 35.75 points a game at home. Amon St. Brown is healthy again. Swift will play and Williams has been fantastic this weekend. IF the Lions score 35 points I think the Packers offense will have a hard time keeping up. Barry hasn't shown me shit this year, especially for 4 quarters in a game. IF, the Lions score 35, then Barry MUST go this week.

8 points
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pack69go's picture

November 05, 2022 at 02:48 pm

I agree with you, Barry has to go, Give Gray a shot. If I recall Gray filled in for Barry once last year and did a heck of a job!

1 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:16 pm

It was the Cardinals game, one of the most impressive performances from the Packers in recent memory. They were down MVS, Lazard, and Davante in that game.

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NickPerry's picture

November 05, 2022 at 05:13 pm

Wasn't that the Seattle game? They shut them OUT!

Yes, yes, yes, I know it was Wilsons first game back. But WHO CARES. This defense under Barry had to go to OT to be Zappe, lost to Heinike, Wilson, and Jones, and HASN'T played 4 quarters of good football all on the same Sunday afternoon since last January.

2 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:17 pm

YES YES YES

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PhantomII's picture

November 05, 2022 at 05:52 pm

Savage is suppose to be a FS but has -0-anticipation and has tackling issues bad angles and bad hands. AMOS is the guy you want close to the LOS because he is a good tackler. Start drafting (S) with anticipation/ football skills/ plus tackler/.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 06, 2022 at 09:49 am

I don't believe he can even play corner, maybe put him on punt returns. The guy has no instincts for the Pro Game. A 4.3 free safety should be in in constant motion creating trouble for the opponent. He's flat-footed , reading something, I don't know what?

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LLCHESTY's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:34 pm

You want Savage around the LOS with his tackling ability?? Why? So in that scenario you think the 214 lb Amos should be playing deep? Once again, why?

2 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:05 pm

Amos LOS. Savage-Bench.

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CheesedDeadHead's picture

November 05, 2022 at 01:59 pm

"The Packers are simply not maximizing the talent they have"

That's it. Game after game.

7 points
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vin0770's picture

November 05, 2022 at 02:51 pm

New definition of insanity…expecting the same coaches that designed how to get here now have an epiphany and change their philosophy and become different people?

6 points
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Fubared's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:32 pm

Good article but it failed to discuss why Barry is doing what he is doing. The fact is Stokes is lost out there. He can't cover, he isn't much of a tackler and he doesn't challenge receivers. Thus others are moving around to assist Stokes lack of skills.
If Stokes could cover and use his speed to contend for the ball, this defensive scheme would be way different. Benching stokes would make Gutt look real bad considering he was a 1 pick.
I was on to Stokes from day one reading how Adams was making him look foolish and Stokes kept making the same mental mistakes daily.
He was why they created the current scheme, he couldn't be another jairre like they planned.

-4 points
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Fubared's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:36 pm

Good article but it failed to discuss why Barry is doing what he is doing. The fact is Stokes is lost out there. He can't cover, he isn't much of a tackler and he doesn't challenge receivers. Thus others are moving around to assist Stokes lack of skills.
If Stokes could cover and use his speed to contend for the ball, this defensive scheme would be way different. Benching stokes would make Gutt look real bad considering he was a 1 pick.
I was on to Stokes from day one reading how Adams was making him look foolish and Stokes kept making the same mental mistakes daily.
He was why they created the current scheme, he couldn't be another jairre like they planned.
I heard a receiver say that Stokes couldn't cover him in college and he had a field days against him

-3 points
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Fubared's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:36 pm

Good article but it failed to discuss why Barry is doing what he is doing. The fact is Stokes is lost out there. He can't cover, he isn't much of a tackler and he doesn't challenge receivers. Thus others are moving around to assist Stokes lack of skills.
If Stokes could cover and use his speed to contend for the ball, this defensive scheme would be way different. Benching stokes would make Gutt look real bad considering he was a 1 pick.
I was on to Stokes from day one reading how Adams was making him look foolish and Stokes kept making the same mental mistakes daily.
He was why they created the current scheme, he couldn't be another jairre like they planned.
I heard a receiver say that Stokes couldn't cover him in college and he had a field days against him

-3 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 05, 2022 at 05:06 pm

Thrice wrong.

2 points
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Since'61's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:13 pm

Cookie!!! Thanks, Since ‘61

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:28 pm

I think there's a couple things wrong with this article. Douglas has struggled at slot but it might just be he took awhile to settle into it. He's had a couple good games there over the last month. In any case I don't think you can hide lack of speed on the outside compared to inside, outside is where speed lives.

As for Savage this whole changed coverages thing is a joke. Playing one less snap of man coverage a week has turned Savage into trash? I don't think so. I posted this on Acme earlier this week:

I'm not sure Barry can be blamed for Savage's regression. In 2020 under Pettine they played on average:
Cover 1 13 snaps a game
Cover 2 7 snaps
Cover 3 20 snaps
Cover 4 7 snaps
Cover 6 8 snaps

Under Barry this year:
Cover 1 12 snaps a game
Cover 2 2 snaps a game
Cover 3 22 snaps
Cover 4 10 snaps
Cover 6 5 snaps

So other than a little more cover 4 and a little less cover 2 this year compared to 2020 the numbers a very similar. Either Pettine asked him to do very different things when they were in dime or he's regressed. A lot.

You can look it up for yourself here:

http://thekneeldown.westus.cloudapp.azure.com/

1 points
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Since'61's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:26 pm

I doubt if there is enough space on the CHTV blog to adequately list how screwed up this coaching staff is.

Chuck them all and start over. MLF hired Barry but MLF doesn’t know anything about defense so he can’t even get Barry to adjust his disastrous scheme so that we can maximize our players potential.

I’m managing my expectations by hoping that the Packers beat the Lions but not expecting our coaching staff to be able to pull it off. Thanks, Since ‘61

6 points
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PhantomII's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:52 pm

S.Payton is available. I'm okay with that starting point any time the FO wants.

0 points
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brenner's picture

November 05, 2022 at 11:15 pm

I agree. Get Payton in as HC and get Jim Leonard to run the D.

-1 points
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Guam's picture

November 06, 2022 at 08:16 am

Leonhard is about to become the HC at Wisconsin. Have to find someone else to be DC. I suspect Payton may have a few ideas......

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nygary's picture

November 06, 2022 at 07:16 am

Since 61 You said everything on the money.

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fthisJack's picture

November 06, 2022 at 08:08 am

Barry is trying to put square pegs in round holes. He got canned from Detroit for his not so great D so what does that tell you? What is the problem with Savage in the slot and putting someone else at S. He has whiffed on so many tackles his replacement can't be any worse. Or better yet sit his ass on the bench. If you can't tackle at this level, what good are you? As for Alexander, he is money and should be on the other teams best wideout every game. And Douglas should be on the edge where he was lights out last year. Why Barry refuses to slot these players where they are most effective is just sheer lunacy. He must think he's the smartest guy in the room. He needs to be pink slipped NOW!

1 points
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Oppy's picture

November 06, 2022 at 11:25 am

“Douglas is better suited to playing the perimeter where … his lack of speed is less of an issue.”

Are you confusing speed and agility? Because speed is definitely a major factor for DB’s on the perimeter. Yes, the sideline limits the route tree and allows a DB without the coverage skills (recognition) and/or agility to cover all the route options in comparison to defending the slot, but you had better have speed on the perimeter because there’s less help available if you miss a step.

Slot coverage needs the recognition skills, change of direction/agility skills- quickness- to cover the receiver which ever way his route takes him, but they get generally don’t need flat out speed to the extent the perimeter DB does because there’s typically more defenders- lbs, safeties, etc, in the vicinity to offer support.

0 points
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