Mike Pettine has the 2019 Packers defense right where it must be to make a championship run. This Packers defense still is not given the respect it has earned down the stretch going into the playoffs. this is clearly based on the overall regular season stats based on all 16 regular-season games.
Taking a closer look
Looking more closely, what you will find, is in the last 4 weeks of the regular season. The defense is averaging less than 15 points per game allowed, additionally the team is allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game. They have continued to get off the field by either forcing three-and-outs or drives less than 10 plays, even when put in difficult situations by the offense. Pettine’s Unit stands strong and holds opponents to field goals or no points in the red zone. This Packers defense has played fast, aggressive, and relentlessly down the stretch regardless of what the overall statistics will tell you.
The players at the Center of Success
The Packers coaching staff has done an excellent job of utilizing personnel. Za’Darius and Preston Smith have been lights out coming off the edge. Having a healthy and confident Kenny Clark in the middle has made it difficult for quarterbacks to be comfortable inside the pocket.
Kenny Clark has 4 sacks over the last 4 weeks. With 9 tackles for loss. He’s continued to show that at 24 he’s on a path to a All-Pro career. Preston Smith has been nothing more than outstanding both rushing the passer, and dropping in coverage. Za’darius Smith has also been used on all of the positions on the front seven, this includes both middle linebacker positions in this 3-4 alignment. He has been nothing short of unstoppable, wreaking havoc on any offensive lineman he lines up against. Z Smith is double-teamed and chipped on almost every defensive snap.
With how he’s utilized the talented Za’darius over the past six games of the regular season, Mike Pettine has been nothing short of a defensive genius! The constant Relentless attitude and clear leadership role, triggers only one players name from my memory, Charles Woodson. Woodson was used much the same way. Of course, Charles Woodson was in a defensive backs role called the “Joker” in the former Packers coach Dom Capers defense.
This is a huge comp for such a young player in his first year starting. Za’darius has more than earned to be mentioned in the same breath for a single-season performance at this point. His impact and production, over the entire 2019 season, is nothing short of remarkable.
The secondary steps up
Whether it be a change in philosophy and coverage, or just becoming confident and comfortable in individual roles. Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Adrian Amos, and the rookie Darnell Savage, have smothered receivers in coverage. This Packers secondary group has finally gelled as a unit. Darnell Savage has found his stride at the perfect time for a rookie. Savage continues to excel in his coverage responsibilities allowing Mike Pettine, to be more aggressive with his calls.
Tramon Williams the Elder Statesman of the group, has played as if the clock is turned back 7 years. Tramon’s leadership and Veteran savvy has been a huge asset to the growth and consistency in play, of this unit for the Packers.
Dean Lowry has played solid and done exactly what has been asked of him. He is solid rotational player who has shown he can be depended on to do his job.
Chandon Sullivan (39) a very young and raw player has found his place and stopped up accordingly when called upon. He allowed zero touchdowns, a 35.5 completion percentage and a 34.3 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks in 350 snaps played, per Zach Kruse of The Packers Wire.
The return of Ibraheim Campbell(35) from injured reserve has given Pettine a great tool to utilize in sub packages.
Kyler Fackrell has found his spot as a rotational pass rusher. Kyler has been serviceable in this role and productive in his limited snaps.
Packers defense talked about as a bottom tier unit.
The statistics from the totality of the season paint a much different story, then the play on the field Over the Final four game stretch heading to the playoffs. Pettine has his unit playing its best football of the Season at the most critical time in the most critical moments. This is exactly what you want if you plan on making a championship run. Throw out all the stats. Do not concern yourself with the first 12 games of the season. History will show it’s not about where you start it’s about where you finish. Mike Pettine deserves all the credit in the world for preparing this young, and talented unit For the toughest task of year.
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