Green Bay Packers are the defending NFC North champions and they have a very good chance to be in that division again next year. In 2022, there is an opportunity for them to make what could be one of the most significant moves in NFL history: adding elite cornerback prospect Kyler Murray with their first round draft pick.
The “packers defense 2021” is the opportunity for the Green Bay Packers to be elite on defense in 2022. The Packers have a lot of young talent and they are going to need them if they want to make it happen.
In 2021, the Green Bay Packers laid the groundwork for something remarkable on defense.
The Packers are now in a state of turmoil as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft and ensuing season. That’s what happens when you deal away Davante Adams, probably your best player.
Still, one thing is clear for the Packers as they prepare for the 2022 season: the defense will be top-notch.
This is why.
Two major players to the Green Bay Packers have been re-signed until 2021.
The Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst, talks to media | Getty Images/Michael Hickey
De’Vondre Campbell, an All-Pro linebacker, and Rasul Douglas, a cornerback, were both free agents this summer. Both may have easily gone out the door.
Before Brian Gutekunst rushed in and offered Campbell an opportunity to captain Green Bay’s defense, Campbell was a journeyman and role player (at best). With 102 tackles, two forced fumbles, two sacks, and two interceptions, he reacted to the greatest chance of his career with the biggest year of his career.
For the Packers, Douglas was an equally improbable hero.
Midway through the season, Green Bay signed him off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. This summer, he moved from a practice squad member to a new three-year, $21 million deal. Douglas was a constant bright spot for the Packers, with five interceptions in 12 games. Two interceptions were returned to the house as a result of this.
Given Green Bay’s budget crunch to begin the offseason (they were over $50 million above the limit at one time), it seems probable that Campbell and Douglas would have to go elsewhere for their hefty paydays.
Gutekunst had to work some salary cap magic to bring them back, and he managed to do so.
Both Campbell and Douglas must now demonstrate that they can repeat their outstanding 2021 seasons, but the fact that the Packers were able to retain these two playmakers on the roster was a huge success for the defense in terms of consistency and togetherness.
Green Bay has the makings of a world-class cornerback corps.
Green Bay Packers #21 Eric Stokes congratulates Rasul Douglas #29 after an interception during a game against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Speaking of Douglas, he’s now officially a member of a Green Bay cornerback trio that has a chance to be the finest in the league.
Douglas’ performance in 2021 has already been discussed, and if he can be half as productive in 2022, he’ll be a wonderful third cornerback to have on the squad.
The return of Jaire Alexander, though, is Green Bay’s actual optimism for progress (without even making another transfer). Due to a major shoulder injury he sustained against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, the Pro Bowl cornerback missed all but four games. Alexander returned for Green Bay’s playoff defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, but he only played a few plays and didn’t have much of a chance to contribute.
But here’s the thing: Alexander is a genuine lockdown corner and one of the greatest in the league when he’s healthy. He hasn’t put up the numbers like, say, Jalen Ramsey, but that’s just because opposing offenses have been afraid to throw the ball his way, preferring to target the Kevin Kings and Chandon Sullivans of the team instead.
However, in 2022, things are set to change for Alexander.
Eric Stokes, who is entering his second season as a pro, will make his life simpler and provide him with more opportunity to nab interceptions. Stokes was selected by the Packers in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and although he seemed to be a long shot at the time, Gutekunst once again shown that he has an eye for talent that few evaluators can match.
Stokes wasn’t great, but he showed outstanding speed and stickiness in coverage, which is unusual for a rookie cornerback. Because of Alexander’s injury, he was thrown into the starting lineup much sooner than expected, but by the conclusion of the season, he looked like an experienced veteran.
Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas are a formidable combination. Even more fascinating is the possibility that defensive coordinator Joe Barry may stretch Alexander into the slot and deploy him in the “star” role that has made Ramsey such a force for the Los Angeles Rams.
With two good boundary corners in Stokes and Douglas, Barry can bring Alexander closer to the ball, where he has a better chance of making an effect.
Green Bay’s pass rush should remain strong, and it can yet improve.
After a sack, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith #91 celebrates with outside linebacker Rashan Gary #52 | Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Preston Smith was just extended a four-year, $52 million deal by the Packers, demonstrating their trust in him. They have cause to trust in the outside linebacker, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds. On the edge, he’s a nearly unnoticed pass rusher who’s also large and powerful enough to be a force against the run.
When Smith is paired with Rashan Gary, Green Bay’s breakthrough star on the opposite edge, the Packers have a powerful one-two punch that can collapse the pocket from the outside.
But here’s the thing: this summer, Green Bay’s front seven can and should improve even more.
The Packers have five selections in the Top 100 in the 2019 NFL draft, including two first-round picks and two second-round picks, giving them a real chance to acquire additional weapons up front.
With one of their first-round selections, they could choose one of the best edge pass rushers, or they could add huge size and explosiveness to the defensive line by selecting someone like Georgia’s Jordan Davis. That is, if he is available at No. 22. He’s a 6-foot-6, 341-pound superhuman athlete who can run a 4.78 40-yard sprint while playing defensive line. Next to Kenny Clark, he’d be unstoppable, and Green Bay’s defensive front would be unstoppable.
Davis, or perhaps his teammate Devonte Wyatt, might be worth packing a couple of those selections in order to move up and grab in round one.
This is the point:
In 2021, the Packers had a borderline top defense, and not only have they kept that core group intact, but they also have a genuine chance to add to it in a meaningful manner through the NFL Draft in 2022.
In 2022, Green Bay’s defense may be able to dip below the borderline and just be excellent.
ESPN and Pro Football Reference provided the statistics. Spotrac provides contract information.
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The “Packers defense” is a team that has been struggling for years. The Packers have an opportunity to be elite on defense in 2022. Reference: packers defense.
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