Joe Barry sees brighter days ahead for Packers' defense after dismal opener

Ryan Wood
Packers News

GREEN BAY – It will take more than an abysmal debut for new Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry to get discouraged. 

The Packers were humbled in their 38-3 opening loss to the New Orleans Saints, allowing almost as many touchdown passes (5) as they forced incompletions (6) against quarterback Jameis Winston. For Barry, a coordinator with an unflattering past of producing bottom-ranked defenses, it was an inauspicious debut. 

Barry was undeterred when he spoke with reporters Friday for the first time since his debut. 

“You never have to worry about me, promise,” Barry said. “I’m great. You know, it’s a long season. Of course, not the way you want to start things, but I love this group of guys. I love the way they bounced back this week.” 

The Packers had an extra practice this week, conducting a walkthrough Tuesday instead of giving players an extra day off entering a Monday night game. Coach Matt LaFleur has said the practice was helpful to go over the problems from Week 1. 

Barry’s message to his players was optimistic and focused on the big picture. 

Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) is tackled on a first-down scramble against the Packers last Sunday.

“It’s a long season,” Barry said. “It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. I don’t want to diminish the fact that was definitely not the way we wanted to start, but guys came back in and had a great week … and we’re onto the Detroit Lions.” 

Barry expects more fourth downs

Before each week, Barry said he does a “league-wide” study of offensive trends. 

One theme that stood out this week, Barry said, was offenses being more willing to go for it on fourth down. The Packers tried to convert three first downs against the Saints, including a successful fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line on the game’s opening drive. While the Packers converted two of their three fourth-down attempts, the Saints were a perfect 2-for-2. 

The Saints’ initial fourth-down attempt was one of the game’s most important plays. On foruth-and-7 from the Packers’ 41-yard line with five minutes left in the first half, Saints coach Sean Payton called for a tight end screen. The play to tight end Juwan Johnson picked up 12 yards and a first down, extending a touchdown drive that put the Packers down 17-0. 

Payton said after the game he had a good feel for how the Packers' defense would respond to the call because he’d watched film of the Los Angeles Rams' defense when Barry was on staff as a linebackers coach. 

“That was a hell of a call, it really was,” Barry said. “Because I thought, actually, playing man (coverage) there would have thrown him off a little bit. But a tight end screen, it was a hell of a call.” 

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Barry said he was surprised the Saints even tried to convert the fourth down. They had rushed for a 6-yard gain on third-and-13 one play earlier. With a 10-0 lead near midfield, Barry did not expect the Saints to go for it on fourth down. 

“I was a little shocked,” Barry said, “because they ran the ball the play before, and I thought they were going to be somewhat content with punting the ball and getting into halftime. But, yeah, I’ll definitely give credit where credit is due. It was a hell of a call on their part.” 

Injury report

Other than top pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, the Packers continued to have a healthy roster when they practiced in pads Friday. 

Guard Lucas Patrick and tight end Josiah Deguara did not practice. Both are in the concussion protocol, but Patrick and Deguara were able to attend practice and stretch off to the side. 

Safety Darnell Savage was limited because of a shoulder injury. It was Savage’s second straight day practicing after leaving the opener early with the injury. 

Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster (back/ankle) and safety Vernon Scott (hamstring) were also limited, while tight end Marcedes Lewis (veteran rest) did not practice. 

Center Josh Myers was listed with a finger injury but was a full participant, so the injury should not prevent him from playing Monday night against the Lions. 

Ladarius Hamilton, who the Packers signed off the Bucs’ practice squad to fill the roster spot Smith vacated, practiced Friday. Hamilton will wear No. 54, most recently worn by linebacker Kamal Martin.