Packer Report Week Two: where the Defense needs to tighten up

After two weeks of action, the once mighty Packers defense ranks very low on both the FootballOutsiders ranking (20th) and AdvancedNFLStats (26th) analytical rankings.  The main reason the team ranks so low is poor pass defense and poor pass rush (except for the Clay Maker). 

Who is to blame? 

My eyeball assessment of the Packers-Panthers game told me Packers CB Charles Woodson made big plays but struggled to cover Steve Smith.  I thought he was showing some wear in the tooth.  Not so.  The advanced statistical assessment told a much different story.

According to FootballOutsiders, the Packers are excellent against the oppositions #1 and #2 receivers, meaning Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson have done a nice job.  Where the Packers pass defense has completely broken down is their coverage of the #3 and lower receivers (28th), the tight ends (22nd) and the running backs (28th).  This indicates poor coverage from the linebacker, safety, and the extra cornerbacks.

Indeed, a look at the WPA numbers on AdvancedNFLStats indicates Charles Woodson has been the Packers premier win force (0.40), followed by Clay Matthews (0.29) and Jarius Wynn (0.24) and newcomer S Morgan Burnett (0.22).

The defensive Packers who really need to step up their play include Sam Shields (0.02), LB Erik Walden (0.09), DE Ryan Pickett (0.06) and especially LB AJ Hawk (0.03).  The Packers committed to Hawk last season and decided to jettison the former starter Nick Barnett to Buffalo.  So far, the decision looks like a collossal mistake.  Barnett is playing quite well for the Bills (0.30), while Hawk can’t cover anyone and is not aggressive at all at the point of attack (he seems to ginger his way into a collision rather than going full bore).  I will, however, note that Hawk played well last season, so there is hope for him.  But he better not be resting on his laurels.  As Vince Lombardi said, there are planes and trains leaving Green Bay every day, and he’ll be on one of them if he doesn’t pick up his game.

What about the loss of Nick Collins?

How will the loss of Nick Collins affect the Packers? Well, it can’t help things, but it may not be a disaster.  Looking at last season’s numbers, Charlie Peprah performed pretty well.  And now Morgan Burnett is really assuming the productivity of last season’s Collins so they should be okay.

Again, the players that need to rebound are Shields, Hawk, Bishop, and Pickett.

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