- Jenkins, Jolly, & Raji vs Omiyale & Garza
Much of the attention leading up to Sunday nights game has focused on the linebackers and the secondary and how they will fare versus Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and the Bears two tight end sets. What has not got a lot of attention, apart from the fact that the defense had more than it's fair share of problems in the preseason (aptly pointed out by Donald's Designated Driver) is what will be the key battles up front between Cullen Jenkins and Frank Omiyale along with whoever is lined up at left defensive end, either Johnny Jolly or BJ Raji and their matchups with Bears right guard Roberto Garza.
These, more than any other positional matchups, will play the biggest part in the defense's success or failure at derailing the Bears offense. Yes, covering the tight ends is a concern. Yes, Matt Forte could make a living running off tackle. Yes, Cutler could test Al Harris and Atari Bigby deep early. (Look for it...) But none of those things happen without the Bears winning against Jenkins and company. The more the Packers ends can disrupt in Capers' one-gap scheme, the more miserable Bears' offensive coordinator Ron Turner will become.
Speaking of misery - look for the Bears new left tackle Orlando Pace, yes, Orlando Pace, to struggle mightily in pass protection against almost anyone the Packers' send off the edge on his side of the line. Going back and watching Pace in the Bears game against the Broncos in the preseason, it is extremely clear that the veteran has lost a great deal of his quickness. His footwork seems very, very sloppy and slow - something that could be easily exploited by the rookie Clay Matthews. Raw though he is, Matthews' first step could give him the edge needed to turn the corner on Pace, not to mention a blitzing Charles Woodson, who did the majority of his blitzing from the defense's right side in the preseason.
- The Miracle Worker
I am getting so sick of this sentiment:
It took Pitt years to procure an almost perfect mix of players for the 3-4; Dom Capers is good, but Packer fans shouldn't expect miracles.
Now, if Packer Update, or any other naysayer, is saying that Dom Capers will not be turning water into wine, then yes, they are correct - fans should not expect miracles. But if they seriously think that this defense will be hindered by some adherence to the belief that you have to have certain players to do certain things, well, I'm sorry, you haven't been paying attention.
Unlike Bob Sanders and his rigid belief in an archaic scheme that has been figured out by all of the competent offensive minds in the NFL (and most of the incompetent ones) Dom Capers is not married to anything personnel wise. He is not set-in-stone when it comes to what kind of blitzes he will use or what kind of coverage he will call. Capers is, and always has been, a forward thinker.
But I'll let him explain it:
I understand Packer fans wanting to be cautious - goodness knows I've probably done more than anyone in the Packers Blogosphere to shout down expectations over the course of the preseason. But I am here to tell you - again - what you are going to see from Capers' defense this year will SEEM miraculous after the utter incompetence fans were subjected to on the defensive side of the ball in 2008.
Will teams move the ball on the Packers? You bet. That's the nature of the scheme. Look no further than the Steelers opening victory last night. Tennessee marched up and down the field... and scored 10 points. As Capers has told any reporter who will listen, he's only interested in one thing - leading the league in Points Allowed. While I think that's unlikely, I do think you'll be surprised by the flexibility Capers shows not only from week to week, but from series to series. Instead of watching as his defense gets throttled by the same play again and again, like Sanders was fond of doing, Capers will usually be one step ahead of the opposing offense - but when something doesn't work, he won't stick with it out of some blind loyalty to some shopworn ideal. He will move to fix the problem during the game. Shocking, I know.
Now, don't make the mistake of thinking you'll be seeing all-out Cover Zero blitzes every play - this isn't Bob Slowik. Capers gets it - if an offense is going max protect, which the Bears are fond of doing with their fullback and one of their tight ends, Capers isn't going to waste time banging his head against the wall. He will simply play coverage until he finds the best time to sneak an overload blitz or a delayed zone-dog into the mix.
So yes, the Bears may move the ball and they may even score some points - but make no mistake, you will see an attacking, surprising defense that keeps Cutler and company off balance. You may even see the defense take the game over if the Packers get even a two score lead.
Truly, that would be... miraculous.
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