The Packers defense was expected to be much improved in Mike Pettine’s second year as Defensive Coordinator. They made several acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball, and while those players have all made positive impacts, the defense still can’t seem to get it all together. Pettine was the only member of Mike McCarthy’s staff that Matt LaFleur kept onboard, but I would not be all that stunned if he is let go this offseason.
In the first three games of the 2019 season, the Packers made many of us believe that their defense might actually be elite. They allowed only 11.7 points per game, had 8 takeaways and 11 sacks. Since then, however, they have been as inconsistent as any unit in the league, giving up big play after big play. They have utilized the bend-don’t-break philosophy, which can only pay off for so long.
Individual Player Performances
It can be a bit difficult to give much of the blame to the on-field personnel because there is a lot of talent on defense for Green Bay. Jaire Alexander is third in the NFL in passes defended. Za’Darius Smith is tied for sixth in sacks and he is alone at number one in QB hits. Preston Smith ranks fifth in sacks. Kevin King, while certainly having a roller coaster season, much like Alexander, is in the top 10 in the NFL in interceptions and passes defended. Blake Martinez has the second most tackles in the league (but will likely rank no. 1 again after Sunday). Then there are also guys like Adrian Amos, Kenny Clark, and Darnell Savage, who are not high on any leaderboards, but are still putting together very solid seasons. So with that many players having strong seasons, you have to look at Pettine for some answers.
Entering week 14, here is where the Packers rank in some key defensive categories.
- Total Defense: 28th
- Rushing Defense: 25th
- Passing Defense: 22nd
- Points allowed: 14th
- Sacks: 21st
- Takeaways: 11th
- Score%: 20th
- Allowing scores on 37.7% of drives, the only winning teams below them are the Texans and the Chiefs.
Pettine’s Tenure Should End After This Season
Barring a drastic change in defensive performance through the last few weeks of the season and the playoffs, the Packers would be wise to move on from Mike Pettine. This defense is too talented to be ranked 28th in the league. They are ranked 11th in takeaways, which is significant, but the lack of being able to stop big plays is their fatal flaw. I believe that it is unfair to put 100% of the blame on coaching in any situation, and I do believe that Pettine is a great defensive mind, but he is not working out with this talented defensive group. Pettine is loved by his players, that can’t be stated enough. But the Packers defense is still not where it needs to be if Titletown is going to continue to justify its name.