Matt LaFleur has taken a lot of heat for keeping defensive coordinator Joe Barry on staff after last year’s defensive performance. Despite an up-and-down year on defense, LaFleur decided not to make a change. This is the first time that LaFleur could be asked about the decision and he explained why he felt Barry deserved another year.
Among other things, Matt LaFleur said the defense got 'better' as the season wore on under the oft-criticized Joe Barry. https://t.co/GAl2HmTeJ7
— madison.com (@madisondotcom) March 31, 2023
Matt LaFleur On Joe Barry
LaFleur admits that it was rough at times but at the end of the season, he could see improvement and he credited Barry.
“Although it wasn’t always pretty, I did think we started to improve as the year went on, and I thought we saw more of an identity.”
There was a mixed bag last season. They were 13th in scoring defense (21.8 points per game) and 9th in total defense in terms of yards per play (328.2). These are all top-half of the league finishes. However, the defense finished 16th in yards per play (5.38) and an abysmal 28th in red zone defense giving up a touchdown 66% of the time. In the last quarter of the season, the defense definitely played better and it might have saved Barry his job.
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Make Or Break Year
This is most likely a make-or-break year for Barry. With how much first-round talent is on this defense, there is no reason they should not be in the top half of the league. With LaFleur running the offense, the hope is that simply having a top-half-of-the-league defense would be sufficient. The talent is there. Now the execution needs to be there. The hope is that Barry found something late last season and it can be carried over to the beginning of 2023. Outside of the safety position, and some fringe pieces, the defense pretty much will remain the same.
The Packers have a lot of uncertainty on offense this season with new starter Jordan Love. One way to help a first-year starter is to have a good defense behind him. If Love is constantly feeling like he needs to match a team score for score, it is more likely he makes mistakes and forces things. If he can feel like his defense can get a stop, he will play more relaxed. Matt LaFleur believes in Joe Barry. We will see if that belief is well-placed or not.
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It’s tough on the defense when the offense couldn’t control the time of possession.