The Green Bay Packers have finished the regular season with a record of 13-4. Having clinched the top seed in the NFC, they have an extra week off to rest and get healthy. Over the course of the long season, the defense had many phenomenal players. It also had some players who left a lot to be desired from their performances all season long. A few days ago, we published our studs and duds from the Packers’ offense in 2021. Here, we highlight those on the defense.
After being limited by injuries in 2020, Kenny Clark returned to Pro Bowl form in 2021 in a big way. The Packers’ defensive tackle earned his second Pro Bowl selection by being one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL.
This season, Clark played in 16 out of 17 games, tying his career-high for games played. Clark had not played in 16 games since 2019, his first Pro Bowl season. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle had four sacks and 48 tackles on the season. However, what was most impressive was how often he was in the backfield making quarterbacks sweat.
This season, Clark set a career high with 14 quarterback hits. His previous career high had been nine back in 2018. As the Packers prepare for the playoffs, having a healthy Kenny Clark is going to be a definite advantage for them.
The free agent signings of Reggie White and Charles Woodson are, of course, in a league of their own. However, the signing of De’Vondre Campbell this offseason may have been one of the key factors into why this defense has been successful. Coming from Arizona, the veteran inside linebacker put together the best season of his career.
De’Vondre Campbell had a career-high 146 tackles this season, 102 of which were solo tackles. Campbell added two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovering, and two sacks. Additionally, Campbell was great in pass coverage, something the Packers have been lacking from the inside linebacker position for years. Opposing quarterbacks has a passer rating of just 74.9 when targeting him.
De’Vondre Campbell did not play in the Packers’ last game against the Detroit Lions. Fans can be assured that he will be rested, healthy, and ready to go in the Divisional Round. Watch for him to have major performances throughout the Packers’ playoff run.
Has there ever been a better mid-season acquisition than that of Rasul Douglas? Not only has Douglas become a Pro Bowl level player with the Green Bay Packers, he has done so in just 12 games. Amazingly, Douglas was just sitting on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad when the Packers picked him up. Prior to that, he had been cut from the practice squads of the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans.
Since coming to Green Bay, Douglas has doubled his career total of interceptions, snagging five passes from opposing quarterbacks. Two of these interceptions he returned for touchdowns. Two others were made in clutch moments late in games to stop the opposing offenses’ potential game-winning drives.
Not only does Rasul Douglas have the flashy interception numbers, he also has great advanced stats. Opposing quarterbacks are only completing 50% of their passes when targeting Douglas. Additionally, Douglas has held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 44.5, giving up just 5.5 yards per target. Jaire Alexander will be back for the playoffs, giving the Packers three stud corners.
There were many players who could have been included as studs on this list. Most notably, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith were glossed over for the three above. However, when Aaron Rodgers said, “Rasul Douglas has changed our team,” that cemented Douglas’ place on this list.
When the 2021 regular season started, everyone was confident that Darnell Savage would be a key contributor on the defense. Indeed, Savage was on the field for 96% of the defense’s snaps and played in all 17 games. Unfortunately, Savage regressed instead of continuing the progress that fans and the team saw in 2020.
Darnell Savage had the worst missed tackle percentage of his career. His 13.7% missed tackle rate was up from 10.7% in 2020, and was even higher than the 12.7% he had in his rookie season. Additionally, quarterbacks had much more success when targeting Savage than in the past. In his rookie season, opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 71.1 when targeting him. Last season, 67.3. This season, however, quarterbacks had a rating of 117.4.
Unlike the other players listed as duds, Darnell Savage will be on the field consistently in the playoffs. If the Packers are to make a run, as Aaron Rodgers said they would, Savage needs to play better.
Henry Black was an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers in 2020. This season, due to injuries, Black saw plenty of time with the active roster, mostly on special teams. In his special teams role, Black was on the field for 73% of the unit’s snaps and appeared in all 17 games.
On defense, Black, a safety, appeared on the field for 24% of the team’s defensive snaps. In that small sample of time, Black allowed 21 receptions on 29 targets for 322 yards. He also had a missed tackle percentage of 11.6%, and gave up almost as many yards after the catch as he did yards through the air (163 in the air, 159 YAC). Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 117.3 when targeting black. Black also gave up two touchdowns in the small amount of defensive snaps that he received.
Henry Black does bring some value to this team as a special teams player. However, when he is on the field for defensive purposes, he becomes a liability. Fans should not expect to see him on the field much in the playoffs.
Isaac Yiadom was acquired by the Green Bay Packers in the trade that sent Josh Jackson to the New York Giants. Eventually, the Giants waived Jackson who found his way to Kansas City where he appeared in two games.
As for Isaac Yiadom, the 2021 season was one of frustration. It was clear from preseason games that the Packers would not be able to rely on Yiadom for suitable depth. When Jaire Alexander and other defensive backs suffered injury, the Packers picked up Rasul Douglas instead of giving the playing time Yiadom. And for good reason. Yiadom played 95 defensive snaps, just nine percent of the snaps in games in which he was active. In that small sample, he gave up six receptions on seven targets. Quarterbacks threw for 110 yards and a 118.7 passer rating against him.
Yiadom’s main role on the Green Bay Packers is as a special teams player, where he appeared in 75% of the team’s plays. Hopefully the secondary can remain healthy throughout the playoffs. If Yiadom is forced into a position where he gets significant defensive snaps, the Packers will be in trouble.