By STEVE MEGARGEE – AP Sportswriter
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — As they chase their fourth straight NFC North title and first Super Bowl berth in more than a decade, the Green Bay Packers can rely on a different formula than habit.
The trade of All-Pro receiver Davante Adams could force the Packers to rely more on a defense that has fired most of its top playmakers and added two first-round draft picks. This defense aims to relieve some of the pressure Defending MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and help him earn his second place finish in the Super Bowl.
“When you have a quarterback like us, if we continue to do our job of strengthening the defense, our mindset is that we want to win a world title,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Tuesday. “We want to win a championship. This is the state of mind we have every day when we enter this building.
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The Packers ranked ninth in total defense and tied for 13th in scoring defense last year in Barry’s first season as coordinator, but their playoff performance gave an indication that they are capable. to accomplish much more.
Green Bay’s defense didn’t allow a single touchdown in one 13-10 divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, who only reached the end zone on a blocked punt return.
“Although from a team perspective it was brutal, devastating – we didn’t lift the Lombardi trophy, so in our minds it’s a failure as a team – but when you look at the details of how we played, we played well,” Barry said. “But our goal is to play well, and our goal is to play well every week.”
The Packers spent the offseason bolstering that defense while losing one of their best offensive playmakers with Adams now in Las Vegas.
The Packers then used their two first-round picks on defense taking two Georgia teammates, linebacker Quay Walker going 22nd overall and tackle Devonte Wyatt getting picked 28th.
Walker said last week at the team’s rookie minicamp that he was already looking forward to working with Barry, who came to Green Bay after four seasons as the Los Angeles Rams linebacker coach. Barry’s experience includes two unsuccessful stints as NFL defensive coordinator in Detroit (2007-08) and Washington (2015-16), But he received praise from Green Bay players last season for the energy he brought to defense.
“Coach Joe B, he’s everything and more,” Walker said at rookie minicamp earlier this month.
Green Bay lacks passing depth after releasing Za’Darius Smith, who had a total of 26 sacks for the 2019-20 Packers and is now with the Minnesota Vikings. But they already played most of last season without him, as he only played one regular season game and one playoff game due to a back injury.
The Packers should also benefit from the return of star cornerback Jaire Alexander, who wounded in the right shoulder at the beginning of October and did not return until the playoffs.
“Nobody really realizes what he did just to come back for us for the playoff game because he had a serious injury,” Barry said. “A lot of guys would have just cashed in on it and said, ‘Hey, I’ll see you in May. He broke his ass to come back and really wasn’t 100%. He played his butt in that playoff game.
The return of Alexander, the addition of two first-round picks and the signings of Campbell and Douglas produced Green Bay’s rare offseason in which fans are almost as excited about defense as offense. .
Of course, this also creates heightened expectations. Packers coach Matt LaFleur admitted after the draft that he was excited about the look of his defense, but noted there was still a lot of work to do.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” LaFleur said after the draft. “You can’t take anything for granted. You have to work for it. It’s going to depend on how our guys get together, how they come back, how they come to work. »
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