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Green Bay Packers: 2017 Defensive Report Card

Defensive Report Card Mike Morbeck via Flickr

NFL

Green Bay Packers: 2017 Defensive Report Card

After receiving their offensive report card last week, we revisit the Packers roster to evaluate their defensive showing. In a year where Green Bay struggled on offense, their defense hardly picked up the slack. The defensive report card will reflect those results. With the defense on the field much longer than in seasons past, the 2017 team struggled to get off the field. According to True Rankings, the Packers dropped from fifth to 27th in time of possession in 2017. However, at 5.5 yards per play, the defense ranked 25th in the league. On top of that, the team allowed 67.8 percent of passes to be completed this season, third worst in the league.

Secondary

The secondary of the Packers was a liability in 2017, as it has been in recent memory. True Rankings puts the team at second worst in passer rating and fourth worst in yards per attempt. Despite the ranking, there were a few bright spots in the backfield. We will take a look at these as we review the defensive report card.

Safeties

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The duo of Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the safeties in 2017. However, both took a step back from the year prior. Clinton-Dix received the highest grade among the safeties at 79.2. That is a 3.2 drop from the year prior (82.4). Burnett saw his ranking drop from 14th to 48th overall at 77.3. With none of them earning a grade over 51.0 from Pro Football Focus, the reserves were relatively unsuccessful as well. Additionally, the Packers group of safeties were able to contribute just seven turnovers in 2017. Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice each had an interception, while Clinton-Dix added three. Morgan Burnett and Marwin Evans knocked out a fumble each as well. The team will need more production out of this group in 2018.

Grade: C-

Cornerbacks

The cornerbacks in Green Bay experienced a lackluster campaign in 2017. Damarious Randall is the only cornerback to rank inside the top 95 cornerbacks according to Pro Football Focus. Additionally, Randall’s four interceptions rank first on the team, and he was one of only two players on the roster with multiple interceptions. Unfortunately for the team, Davon House was the only other cornerback with a pick on the year. Rookie Kevin King enjoyed some early success in the game against the Falcons, but it failed to continue into the rest of the season. Injuries decimated the team in 2017, but even in good health, the group struggled.

Grade: D-

Linebackers

Inside

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Green Bay’s inside linebackers had their ups and downs in 2017, but they did have some standouts. Blake Martinez led the linebacker corps for the Packers. With 144 total tackles on the season, Martinez is in a three-way tie with Preston Brown (Buffalo) and Joe Schobert (Cleveland) leading the league. Moreover, he added multiple turnovers. He took advantage of offenses, posting an interception, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a sack. Jake Ryan also enjoyed the best year of his short career this past season. Ryan’s 82.1 grade from Pro Football Focus led his fellow backers. He added a fumble recovery as well as a forced fumble along with 81 tackles and a sack. Both starting inside linebackers ranked in the top 23 at their position.

Grade: B+

Outside

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Green Bay’s starting edge rushers feasted on quarterbacks in 2017. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry led the team with a combined 14.5 sacks on the season. Each of them forced and recovered a fumble in the past season. On top of that, the pair both finished with above-average grades from Pro Football Focus. Matthews earned a grade of 83.4 while Perry ended the season with an 80.5 on the season. Ahmad Brooks and Kyler Fackrell added 4.5 combined sacks but failed to make significant contributions down the stretch. Though there were a few impressive performances, the team lacked overall production in pressuring the quarterback. The team ended the season ranked tied for 17th when it came to sacks.

Grade: C

Interior Defensive Line

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Closing out the defensive report card for the Packers is the defensive line. Mike Daniels led the group with another impressive season. While he had five sacks and a forced fumble, his talent shone brightly in the running game. He consistently filled gaps and blew up plays throughout the season. Daniels ranked 15th at his position with an 87.0 grade from Pro Football Focus. Alongside Daniels was Kenny Clark, who proved to be the Robin to Daniels’ Batman. Clark earned a grade of 87.9 from Pro Football Focus, adding two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks on the season. Backup Dean Lowry also contributed a pair of sacks from the position. However, the most significant play Lowry made on the season came on a 62-yard fumble returned for a touchdown. The touchdown helped the Packers knock off the Bucs, as well as keep their season alive.

Grade: A-

 

Photo by Mike Morbeck