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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Zach Kruse, Brandon Carwile, and Brennen Rupp

What’s the biggest post-draft question mark for Packers defense?

The Green Bay Packers kept Joe Barry as defensive coordinator and then handed him another shiny new toy in first-round pick Lukas Van Ness. The pressure is on in 2023, especially for coordinator on the hotseat and a Packers team entering the Jordan Love era. The Packers need the defense to evolve into something better than the middling and inconsistent group that wasn’t good enough in 2022.

So, what’s the biggest post-draft question mark for the Packers defense?

The staff at Packers Wire made their picks.

Zach Kruse

Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Is the pass-rush good enough? Any defense attempting to be elite has to consistently affect the quarterback. It’s unclear when the Packers will return Rashan Gary, but it’s clear bolstering the pass-rush was a priority this offseason, especially through the draft. The Packers took Lukas Van Ness in the first round and later added defensive front players Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks on Day 3. The Packers should be deep on the edge, and Van Ness, Wooden and Brooks should all get opportunities to rush from the interior. The pay-off has to be big. This is a defense loaded with draft capital, and it needs to lead the way for a team in transition. Joe Barry will look better as a coordinator and Jordan Love’s life will be much easier if the Packers can get after opposing quarterbacks in 2023.

Brandon Carwile

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry

What will Joe Barry do with another opportunity? If Matt LaFleur had fired Barry after last season no one would have batted an eye. Green Bay’s defense finished 17th in yards allowed, 17th in scoring, and 20th in DVOA despite having above average talent across the board. Rather than part ways with another defensive coordinator, LaFleur spoke about continuity and the improvement the defense saw as the year went on in his reasoning to bring Barry back for a third season. But there are no more excuses in 2023. Lukas Van Ness gives him eight first-round picks at his disposal and enough returning players to improve on a disappointing year. However, if this unit underachieves again, LaFleur may no choice but to part ways with Barry.

Paul Bretl

Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

What is the makeup of the Packers secondary going to look like? At least to begin, Matt LaFleur told us that Keisean Nixon would be in the slot with Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas on the boundary, and Darnell Savage at safety. However, when Eric Stokes returns from injury, then what happens? Last season, it was Douglas in the slot when all three were on the field but he was much better once back on the boundary. Ideally, there shouldn’t be a set configuration, but rather, how Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas are utilized should depend on the opponent and situation. At safety, meanwhile, there will be competition this summer to see who is playing alongside Savage. At this point, I would guess that Rudy Ford, Jonathan Owens, Anthony Johnson and Tarvarius Moore will be competing for those snaps, but ultimately, the solution could be a by-committee approach, again depending on the opponent and situation. It’s also worth mentioning, could Douglas move to safety once Stokes returns? This is an idea that Brian Gutekunst brought up earlier this offseason. So as you can see, there are a lot of questions.

Brennen Rupp

Dec 26, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive back Jonathan Owens (36) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Who will start alongside Darnell Savage at safety? The Packers drafted Anthony Johnson Jr in the seventh round. They re-signed Rudy Ford and Dallin Leavitt. Brian Gutekunst went out and signed Tarvarius Moore prior to the draft and just recently signed Jonathan Owens. The Packers have a lot of potential options and as of now, it appears the leading candidate would be Owens, who started all 17 games for the Texans last season. With the competition wide open, it’s possible that Johnson impresses during training camp and wins the starting spot alongside Savage. Is it also possible that Savage doesn’t “earn” a starting spot. If he struggles in training camp it’s possible that one of those previous mentioned names forces Savage to the bench.

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