The Packers defense is rolling this season. They have forced five turnovers in the first two games of the season, which puts them in a tie for the most in the NFL. The Packers are second in points allowed and have not given up a single red zone touchdown while forcing two turnovers. They have the potential to be the best defense that Aaron Rodgers has ever played with if they continue to play this well.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine said that the 3-3-5 is the Packers new base defense before heading into week two against the Vikings. That means they use three down linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. One important component to the 3-3-5, or nickel package, is using a hybrid linebacker. Teams will usually use a safety as another linebacker on the field to add size to help defend against the run. Unfortunately for the Packers, their starting nickel linebacker, Raven Greene, was placed on IR for the second season in a row. He was a crucial part to the defense and allowed the Packers to only play one inside linebacker week one against the Bears. The Packers will miss him and his production, but they have the players in place to fill the void until he is eligible to return in week 10.
After Ravene Greene left the game with his ankle injury, the Packers replaced him with Will Redmond. Redmond and Greene have similar frames, both measuring 5”11, but Redmond is 11 pounds lighter at 186. The Packers leaned away from using their nickel package because of the Vikings’ dangerous rushing attack, but still used Redmond on 12 snaps. He did not make it into the stat sheet, but more importantly he did not give up any big plays. He is familiar with the Packers defense after being with the team last season and appearing in five games. Redmond did his job against the Vikings and will likely be used moving forward as their hybrid linebacker in the nickel package.
The Packers had to make adjustments this week against a run heavy Vikings’ offense and one of those adjustments was going back to their 3-4 package. The Vikings utilized newly acquired inside linebacker B.J. Goodson and played him alongside Blake Martinez on 38 snaps last week to help stop Dalvin Cook. Goodson was just in his second week with the Packers after coming over from the Giants but still did enough to impress Pettine to start over rookie linebacker Ty Summers. Goodson has NFL experience and knows what it takes to play at such a high level. During the game, he managed two solo tackles and solidified his spot next to Martinez. The Packers will use Goodson in running situations and against run heavy teams like the Cowboys (week 5), Raiders (week 7), Panthers (week 10), and Giants (week 12). Goodson has a chance to play himself into a starting role and potentially beat out Oren Burks who will return from injury around week 5.
The Packers had high hopes for second year linebacker Oren Burks, but those ended quickly when he sustained a pectoral injury during the preseason. At first the Packers thought they lost him for the season, but after further examinations from multiple doctors, it was determined he should only miss about four weeks with the injury. Losing Burks is a blow for the Packers defense. He is an athletic linebacker who they had hopes of helping in pass coverage. The Packers have used more 3-3-5 in his absence because they are missing a linebacker who can match his coverage skills. When he returns, the Packers will be able to use more two linebacker sets that will allow them to stop the run while still having the athleticism to stop the pass. The Packers will still use their nickel package frequently, but Oren Burks will give them another talented piece to use to bolster an already impressive defense.
Campbell started the season on the Packers’ physically unable to perform list and is eligible to return in week four. He provided depth at safety and gave them another nickel linebacker. Campbell was a journeyman his first NFL season playing for the Cowboys, Packers and Jets. He is familiar with the team and gives them a little more size over Greene and Redmond. He is the same height, 5”11, but comes in at 210 pounds. Much like Redmond, Campbell is an unproven player, but his size and talent give him the potential to fill the void Greene left until he returns after week 4. I would not be surprised if the Packers choose to play him over Redmond when the time comes.
The Packers have faced injuries every season. The only difference this year is that they have the talent and personnel to continue to play at a high level. General Manager Brian Gutekunst has done an incredible job finding talent and adding depth to the Packers.