A loss by the Green Bay Packers to the Tennessee Titans in the first week of the preseason certainly isn't the end of the world for the Packers. However, what the loss did highlight was a handful of areas where the Packers still need to improve.
This shouldn't be a surprise, as most teams can be a little rusty in their first preseason game. It also shouldn't be surprising that the areas the Packers need to improve on reside on the defensive side of the ball.
The Packers defense wasn't too hot last year, and after the first preseason game, it's clear that the defense still needs some work. Let's take a look at two areas that were highlighted as potential weaknesses in Green Bay following Saturday's loss to the Titans.
Last year the Packers gave up the 25th-most rushing yards per game with an average of 125 yards. They also gave up the eighth-most rushing touchdowns with 16 last year.
The inability to stop the run last year was a big reason why the Packers re-signed B.J. Raji and plugged him back in at nose tackle. It's why the signing of Julius Peppers brought hope of an improved 3-4 hybrid defense that would get the Packers defense back to being one of the best in the league.
Unfortunately, that didn't seem to be the case on Saturday in Tennessee. The Packers gave up a total of 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Titans. It was one play in particular that showed just how far this team has to come, and Eric Baranczyk of the Green Bay Press-Gazette broke it down perfectly:
For instance, he (Peppers) was a big reason Titans running back Shonn Greene scored so easily on a 13-yard touchdown run that was the final play of the No. 1 defense's night. Peppers got too far up field and turned his back to the sideline, which opened a huge hole for Greene to cut inside and go for the score. There might have been a defensive mix-up, because defensive lineman Mike Daniels barreled too far inside also.
While it's only the first game, the inability of two of the Packers' better defenders, Daniels and Peppers, to make a routine defensive play is worrisome. Is it possible these issues get worked out over the remainder of the preseason? Sure, but it's also possible that the problems simply get worse and worse, too.
Ability to Get After the Quarterback
It may seem surprising, but the Packers' 44 sacks last year were good enough to be tied for the eighth-most in the league. The team that the Packers tied? Well, that'd be none other than the defending Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks.
Against the Titans, the Packers did manage two sacks, but they came from backup cornerbacks Jarrett Bush and Jumal Rolle. Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Peppers weren't able to do much of anything in their first preseason game.
In fact, Perry in particular was extremely disappointing. He was manhandled for much of his time on the field by rookie offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. It's a performance like Perry's that needs to cause some concern for the Packers defense.
An inability to get after the quarterback hurts the entire defense. Opposing quarterbacks have more time, which puts more pressure on the secondary.
If the Packers really want to take that next step defensively, they're going to need to improve in a major way in their ability to get after the quarterback.
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