Things were supposed to be different under new Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine was hired to do what Dom Capers couldn’t do, get the most out of the Packers defensive personnel. But with the NFL season being three games old, the Packers defense is once again struggling. It isn’t just the rookies who are struggling under Pettine, it is also key veteran defensive players.
With the season being just three games old, some might think it is too early to judge the Packers defense. As a whole, that might be true. But the same can’t be said about key veteran defensive players who have shown in the past that they can produce.
It wasn’t long ago that outside linebacker Nick Perry signed a five year deal worth $30 million dollars. Perry earned that deal by registering 11 sacks in the 2016 season. The Packers were banking on Perry being the answer to play opposite Clay Matthews, giving them two solid pass rushing outside linebackers.
Under Pettine’s scheme, Perry’s output was expected to grow. He had success in Capers blitzing 3-4 defense, but most experts believed that he would be a better fit as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. While Pettine runs a lot of 3-4, he also runs a lot of 4-3 principles. In Pettine’s scheme, Perry would be asked to put his hand in the dirt and utilize his brute strength to get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, that has happened for the Packers.
While Perry has registered one sack this season, which came in the Packers opening victory over the Chicago Bears late in the game, he hasn’t produced like many expected. So far, Perry has just the one sack and ten total tackles. What is the most alarming is that even with getting one on one opportunities, he isn’t getting to the quarterback.
A great example of how badly Perry’s pass rush is lacking, was brought up by Andy Herman of Pack-A-Day Podcast. With the Washington Redskins backed up deep in their own territory, Perry was matched up against a backup offensive tackle. He got the one on one matchup, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity. While this is just one example, the occurrence has been frequent for Perry.
Maybe former general manager Ted Thompson overvalued Perry and if so, the Packers will no doubt suffer from buyer’s remorse. But at this point, the Packers don’t have much of a choice, they need to get the most out of Perry. That will fall on Pettine’s shoulders. But once again, it appears that Perry will be missing some time due to an injury. Last week in their loss against the Redskins, Perry suffered a concussion. This isn’t anything new for the Packers to deal with. In his six full seasons in the NFL, Perry has yet to play a full 16 regular season schedule. It is bad enough that the Packers are constantly dealing with Perry’s injuries, but it appears now, they are starting to have to deal with his lack of production.
But Perry isn’t the only key Packers defender struggling this season. Safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix is once again not playing up to the level the Packers are not only expecting, but also needing.
Like with Perry, many thought that Clinton Dix would excel in a new defense. Last season, Capers last as defensive coordinator, Clinton Dix had his worst season as a professional. Not only did he not produce the big plays like he did 2016 when he five interceptions and a half a sack, he struggled with about every aspect needed by a safety. With Pettine entering the picture, most believed that he could get the most out of the Packers safety. Unfortunately, it seems that the struggles have followed him into this season.
Most will be quick to point out that Clinton Dix leads the Packers with two interceptions this season. There is no doubt that is a positive, he still is struggling with coverage and most of all, tackling. Last season, he struggled with tackling in the open field. By their last game, on the road against the Detroit Lions, it seemed that he lost all interest in making contact. While making the flashy plays, like intercepting two passes is great for a defense, the basics are what makes a great safety, something it seems he is currently lacking.
Dusty Evely of Pack to the Future, had a great example of Clinton Dix’s lack of tackling. In the clip below, Clinton Dix takes the proper angle on Redskins tight end Vernon Davis. But once again, he fails to bring down Davis. This was a common occurrence with him last season and it seems like it hasn’t changed under Pettine.
— Dusty (@DustyEvely) September 24, 2018
Perry and Clinton Dix aren’t alone, defensive tackle Mike Daniels has struggled to be consistent and Kentrell Brice is showing that he shouldn’t be starting in the NFL. Maybe the Packers overvalued what their veterans could do, which puts Pettine behind the eight ball. But Pettine came to Green Bay with high praise from his work as a defensive coordinator.
While general manager Brian Gutekunst can bring in new players, it will be up to Pettine to get the most out of what the Packers have. If he can’t get his core veterans to play at the level they need to win, this season will be going nowhere. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the human deodorant, when healthy. But playing on just one good leg, it will be up to the defense and really the rest of the Packers to step up their game.