Is the Green Bay Packers’ defense better, worse or the same? First-round picks will decide – Green Bay Packers Blog

GREEN BAY, Wis. — In Joe Barry’s first year as coordinator, the Green Bay Packers’ defense finished the 2021 season with exactly the same ranking as it did the previous year under Mike Pettine. Both came in at No. 9 in the NFL.

The numbers say they were the same.

The eye test says it was better in 2021.

And it could be even better in 2022 based on the additions general manager Brian Gutekunst made this offseason. He used both of his first-round picks on that side of the ball (defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt and linebacker Quay Walker), re-signed two key free agents (linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas) and brought in an outside free agent to bolster the defensive line (Jarran Reed).

Here’s a position-by-position look at where the Packers’ defense is better, worse or the same:

Defensive line

Returners: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, T.J. Slaton, Jack Heflin

Losses: Tyler Lancaster

Additions: Jarran Reed, Devonte Wyatt, Jonathan Ford, Chris Slayton, Akial Byers, Hauati Pututau

Better, worse or the same? Better

Clark just keeps getting better and Lowry had one of his best seasons last season. The addition of Reed, a seventh-year defensive tackle, should help bolster a run defense that finished just outside the top 10 (11th) against the run but allowed 4.7 yards per rush last season (the third-highest rate in the NFL). Wyatt, the 28th overall pick, ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at the combine and should be able to make an impact.

Inside linebacker

Returners: De’Vondre Campbell, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie, Ty Summers, Ray Wilborn

Losses: Oren Burks

Additions: Quay Walker, Ellis Brooks, Caliph Brice

Better, worse or the same? Better

Walker, the 22nd overall pick in the draft, jumped in with the starters right away. He joined Campbell to give the Packers two rangy, speedy and powerful inside linebackers. Look for Barry to keep two inside backers on the field more than ever this season. Campbell is too good to take off the field, while Walker has three-down potential as well.

Outside linebacker

Returners: Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, LaDarius Hamilton, Randy Ramsey

Losses: Za’Darius Smith, Whitney Mercilus

Additions: Kingsley Enagbare, Kobe Jones, Chauncey Manac

Better, worse or the same? The same.

Gary became a legitimate force last season and Preston Smith played well enough to essentially win the battle of the Smiths; only one of them was going to fit under the salary cap. Given that Za’Darius missed most of the season with a back injury and Preston had a solid year, it was an easy call. Enagbare, a fifth-round pick, was the only significant addition to a group that needs to find two or three capable backups.

Cornerback

Returners: Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Shemar Jean-Charles, Kabion Ento

Losses: Chandon Sullivan

Additions: Keisean Nixon, Kiondre Thomas, Rico Gafford, Raleigh Texada

Better, worse or the same? Better

The biggest problem the Packers have is deciding where to line up their top three corners. Last year, they almost never had Alexander, Stokes and Douglas on the field at the same time, largely because of Alexander’s shoulder injury that wrecked most of his season. All three are natural outside corners, but given they want all three of them on the field as much as possible, one of them will have to move into the slot. Douglas got the first crack at the nickel spot during offseason practices, but Alexander seems well-suited to do it as well. Sullivan mostly handled those duties last season. Nixon was the only veteran addition, and he’s here for special teams more than anything else.

Safety

Returners: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott, Innis Gaines, Shawn Davis

Losses: Henry Black

Additions: Tariq Carpenter, Tre Sterling.

Better, worse or the same? The same.

Savage has long wanted a crack at playing the nickel cornerback spot, but signs suggest he will stay at safety to pair with Amos for the fourth straight year. They’ve been a steady, dependable duo. Davis, a late-season addition last year, could be the No. 3 safety based on the way they lined up in the offseason.

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