The one thing that was missing from the Packers defense was energy. They lacked a certain juice that is needed to play on that side of the ball.
If you’re a defensive player, you want a guy that is high energy and is willing to do whatever it takes to stop the ball. And the defensive coordinator needs to be the maestro for that energy.
Enter new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. He replaced Mike Pettine, who was hired by Mike McCarthy in Jan. 2018 and retained by Matt Lafleur, but after subpar outings and not enough answers, change needed to be made.
Barry inherits a unit that was ranked ninth in yards and 13th in points last year. He also has top talents in Kenny Clark and Jaire Alexander with Rashan Gary on the welcome mat ready for a breakout season and Preston Smith ready to erase any rough memories of last year.
“I firmly believe, let’s be consistent and let’s bring energy, ” said Barry, who was a linebackers coach for the Rams for the last four years. “And hopefully that translates, from a player standpoint, to great effort.”
The Packers have all the pieces on offense. Generational talents at quarterback, wide receiver and running back along with a tight end that isn’t shy about making a play when needed.
Nobody wants to hear about the Packers and how they aren’t ready to play a complete game. The time is now for this team. To be honest, the time has been now for a few years now.
There are two reasons why Barry appears to be a great fit. The first is because he’s willing to do whatever it takes. He brings a “Star” position to Green Bay, a position that is reserved for a hybrid defensive back that can play the run. It’s a melting pot of linebacker, safety and cornerback and only someone that has excellent processing skills and isn’t afraid to make a big stick when needed.
The second is because of how he can shape the linebackers. As the linebackers coach with the Rams, he transformed Cory Littleton from a seldom-used special teams player into a Pro Bowl inside linebacker. I shouldn’t need to remind anyone that inside linebacker has been a forgettable position since 2014 when A.J. Hawk roamed the middle. I’m not saying that Krys Barnes or De’Vondre Campbell are going to be instantly turned into Pro Bowl linebackers, but it’s nice knowing that there’s a chance. The Packers have turned their backs on inside linebackers for far too long and now that this team has a coordinator that knows how to coach linebackers changes everything.
What I’m really looking for is that juice to be passed on to the players. I want to see Barry’s rocket-fuel energy make a defensive lineman get a tackle on a screen pass after whiffing on a quarterback sack or watching a cornerback from the “Star” position tackle a running back for a three-yard loss and see the first player to congratulate him be a linebacker.
I want a defense to stop thinking about the hero play and start thinking about what’s needed to win games.
And that all starts with Barry and his injection of magic juice.
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