This column is written by Wednesday columnist John Rehor.
One week into the 2012 season, and I’ve made my first decision about this Packers team: I am done with Dom Capers.
Seen as a defensive guru when he arrived on the scene in 2009, Capers was supposed work his magic and turn the Packers defense into one of the most feared in the league. By installing the 3-4 scheme, which was going to cause pressure from any direction at any time, the Packers would be able to combine a high-powered offense with a top-notch defense and create the next dynasty in the NFL.
This thought process worked for a few seasons anyways. Winning a Super Bowl definitely helped mask some of the flaws in the defense. But since the beginning of 2011, the defense of the Packers has been in free fall with no end in sight.
Think back to last season. How lucky were the Packers they went 15-1? Having the 32nd-ranked defense (which was ranked fifth the previous season) and winning 15 games was a miracle.
Yes, the Packers lost Cullen Jenkins in free agency, and Nick Collins was lost for the season with a neck injury, and these clearly had an impact on the defense. But if Capers is such a wizard in the coach’s box, how could he have not made any of the adjustments necessary to prevent the Packers defense from getting embarrassed on a weekly basis?
How could he not emphasize that arm tackling, or just not tackling all together, is unacceptable? I just don’t get it. Thank goodness the offense just kept scoring so the Packers would keep winning. Otherwise, who knows what the Packers’ record could have been.
After the playoff disaster against the Giants, the Packers knew they had to do something on defense. Finding a complement to Clay Matthews was a must. So was finding some help along the defensive line, as Howard Green was not going to be the answer. Ted Thompson went defense-heavy in the draft, finding the likes of Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels and Casey Heyward to help. He even dipped into free agency, grabbing Phillip Merling to help the D-line. Dom had his guys and whisked away to his wizards palace, cooking up new ways to confuse the opposing offense.
And what did we see against the 49ers?
Jarrett Bush as a starting cornerback. No further discussion necessary.
Nick Perry, a 265-pound linebacker, trying to cover wide receivers 30 to 40 pounds less than him, and a hell of a lot faster.
Confusion in the secondary.
Zero push from the defensive line.
Seven-yard cushions given to receivers over and over.
The same issues that plagued the Packers last year showed up again on Sunday. Worst of all, these were issues that we all thought were going to disappear after last season’s debacle and the influx of new players. But it became pretty obvious early in the game that the problems were still there.
Were there some positives? Oh, sure there were. The Packers registered four sacks. Sam Shields proved that he could actually tackle. But this does not outweigh all of the bad that was on the field Sunday.
I know what some of you are thinking, that I’m just bitching. That the Packers lost to an equal in terms of talent, and I should give the defense time to gel. But the 49ers are not exactly a juggernaut on offense. Yet they found a way to put 377 yards against the revamped Packers defense, including 186 on the ground. Imagine what could happen against a better offense like the Bears on Thursday.
Is it the defensive scheme? Is it the players? A combination of both? Who knows? What I do know is someone has to answer for the poor performance of the defense for the last 18 games, and that man is Dom Capers. Until I see otherwise, I have zero confidence that this defense will be good enough to help carry this team into the playoffs.
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