Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced earlier this week that he was not going to fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry during the regular season. While this may be a stay of execution, it certainly appears Barry’s days coaching the Packers defense are numbered. LaFleur did address the media and discuss the team’s lack of communication on defense. But this problem again reverts back to Barry and the coaching staff.

What Happened to the Packers Defense Against Tampa Bay

The Packers defense was shredded by the Bucs and quarterback Baker Mayfield. For the game, Mayfield completed 22-of-28 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first visiting quarterback to have a perfect quarterback rating in a game in the history of Lambeau Field.

The Packers only forced Tampa Bay to punt once all game and the defense also allowed a total of 452 yards.

The Bucs scored 34 points but easily could have added more but running back Rachaad White chose to fall down and keep the clock moving on the final offensive series for Tampa Bay when he could have scored another touchdown.

The defense played a lot of soft zones and looked extremely disorganized with players yelling at each other before the snap on many occasions because they were unsure of who to cover or what to do.

There were also poor matchups and formations. On many occasions, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was asked to cover wide receivers on obvious passing downs.

Nothing the defense did stopped Mayfield, who is far from an elite quarterback.

What Matt LaFleur Said About the Lack of Communication on the Packers Defense

During his weekly early week press conference, LaFleur said the biggest issue facing the defense against the Bucs was poor communication.

“When you’re having basic communication problems,” said LaFleur, “and you’re supposed to be in a certain coverage, or certain rotation and we’re not getting that communication, that’s what’s disappointing to me.

“The fact that it was poor communication. And it always starts with us. It starts with myself and it goes to all of our assistant coaches. So obviously, the coaching wasn’t up to the standard and our performance on the field showed that as well.”

“It happened by people not talking and setting the front a certain way,” said LaFleur. “Or making sure the safety rotation is the right way. So, your backers aren’t glossed over one way and you’re rolling that way. There was way too many examples of that. As dumbfounded as you are right now, that’s how I felt watching it.”

The Root of the Packers Lack of Communication on Defense

We are now 15 weeks into the 2023 NFL regular season. Add three preseason games, a week between the end of preseason and Week 1. They also had two weeks of training camp before the preseason started. So, the team has had roughly five months to learn the defensive system.

There is no excuse for the defensive players to be confused about the way to play in the team’s zone formations.

If the players don’t understand their assignments, where they have to go and when they have to pass receivers on to other defenders, that’s on the coaching staff. They have had more than enough time to get across their philosophy of defense and its execution.

Are the Packers Defensive Players Tuning Out Joe Barry?

There are some things going on with the team that make it appear that Barry may be losing the locker room or that the players don’t believe in his approach to the defense. Most defensive players prefer to be aggressive while Barry tends to play a bend-but-don’t break philosophy.

Jaire Alexander has been out of the lineup since November 5 in the Packers win over the Rams. Alexander has played only five games all season.

He also recently deleted Packers references on his social media pages.

On Tuesday, Campbell sounded off on social media about not wanting to play through injuries anymore. His post read, “Not going out my way anymore and I’m not playing through injuries anymore cause when s*** goes wrong they always use it against you. I’m treating everyone accordingly and giving them the same energy they giving me. Focus on yourself and your mental 59 you owe it to yourself.”

Alexander and Campbell are two of the defense’s veteran leaders. If they are unhappy with how things are going, that certainly doesn’t bode well for the state of the locker room. Could one reason for the Packers lack of communication on defense be that they players are fed up with this passive approach and lack of adjustments?

LaFleur’s Short-Term Solution

Here is what LaFleur said about how he would handle the situation in the coming weeks. “I’ve got to be more present with those guys and making sure we are all on the same page,” LaFleur told reporters. “Football is, if you don’t have all 11 on the same page, obviously it starts with our staff. Making sure all our coaches are in lock step, but if you don’t have all 11 on the same page, it takes one guy and then everything goes to crap after that, and you get exposed. And unfortunately, we got exposed in a really bad way.”

Unfortunately, if LaFleur needs to spend extra time monitoring his defensive coordinator and staff, it will take away from his time to create an offensive game plan. That starts with Sunday’s game in Carolina.

Barry’s poor performance is clearly hurting the team right now. His contract with the Packers expires after the current season. He should not get another one.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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