There has been a lot of talk early on in camp about the depth on the offensive side of the ball, especially at the skill positions. One recurring theme when perusing coverage and talking to Packers fans has been the need to keep all these players "happy" with a sufficient number of touches.
What is of greater concern, at least to me, is how the Packers plan on improving their run defense, which took a precipitous fall in the rankings in 2010 after being the best in the league in 2009.
This is the one area of weakness I can really find when analyzing the Packers overall. After re-watching the 2010 season over the course of the lockout and looking at the roster as it currently stands, one still wonders how Dom Capers and company plan on improving in this area.
One thing Capers did a lot more of in 2010 was use his 2-4-5 Nickel defense on first downs against base formations. We can't be sure if this was due to the fact that he didn't have Johnny Jolly and didn't feel comfortable with the guys who would be stepping in for him, or if it was simply an ideological shift in his thinking. After all, in 2009 when installing the defense, Capers preached that stopping the run would be Job Number One, which makes sense when you remember how terrible the run defense was in 2008.
While the big bodies up front often get the scrutiny when it comes to defending the run, the area where the Packers can improve the most is the play of the linebackers and safeties.
One thing to remember is that Capers uses any number of different approaches when trying to stop the run, even within his different personnel alignments. I remember fans (and some media members) pointing to the play of Erik Walden in the run game as a reason why teams were able to run against the Packers, especially to the outside late last year. First of all, its not like teams weren't able to run at Clay Matthews as well. They did, with regularity and some success. (Look no further than the Steelers in the Super Bowl)
Secondly, I think Walden gets a bit of a bum rap from plays like this:
It's easy to see Walden diving inside and think he's either given up the edge or just plain blown his assignment.
As we've previously discussed, Walden is actually doing his job above. Take a look at a version of this defense here:
Instead of the Will being a force player he is now a spill player. The intent is to bounce the play one hole wider.
Obviously, defensive plays are often at the mercy of what the offense is running and the necessary reaction to it. In this instance, the corner is run off in man coverage, leaving Desmond Bishop to make this play. (It's obviously difficult to tell what Nick Collins is doing, but I suspect he is playing deep center field - you see him come into frame very late, apparently helping on a deep route by Knox) Unfortunately, Bishop gets caught up inside and can't get outside to make the tackle. But fans see Walden shooting inside and ending up on the ground and assume he's given up the edge, which is just not the case in this instance. Yet Bishop's overall play is lauded while Walden's is scrutinized.
That's not to say Walden didn't have issues against the run last year. But the point is there were breakdowns consistently throughout the defense, not just by one player at one position.
If Capers is intent on using his Nickel personnel against the offense's base personnel, he'll need improved play from everyone on the defensive side of the ball when facing the opponents running game.
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