There are two methods to stopping the run in the National Football League. First, a team can enjoy such a prolific offense that opposing teams are forced to abandon the run and move to the air attack in order to keep pace. The second, and more traditional, is possessing a stout defense that does not allow the opposition any room to breathe.
Last season’s Green Bay Packers took the former approach. The offense was so productive that even with a defense that ranked 29th against the run, the team still came out victorious on most occasions. And while most were not willing to admit it, the fact remained that the team’s shortcomings would eventually be uncovered. Last year’s playoff game against the Giants exposed the defense, and the offense could not compensate for the chink in the armor.
In order to address 2011’s shortcomings, the Packers added nine new defensive faces to the roster. Among the additions were eight rookies, so Dom Capers will have to be patient with expectations, but two games into this season, many of the young players have already been thrust into key roles.
Last week’s matchup against the Bears featured seven of the new defensive players seeing action, with rookie safety Jerron McMillian leading the way, playing 70% of the defensive snaps and recording his first career interception.
Defensive linemen Jerel Worthy (59% of defensive snaps) and Mike Daniels (24%) each contributed a sack apiece, and along with the rest of the defense, held Chicago to 94 rushing yards on 23 attempts.
Contrastingly, in week one, the Packers gave up 186 yards on the ground in a loss to San Francisco.
To oversimplify, when the Packers stop the run, they come away victorious.
With a number of factors deciding the result of a game, it may be foolish to completely reduce the outcome to whether or not the defense stops the run, but more often than not, it does become that straightforward.
In tonight’s match up against the Seahawks, stopping Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle rushing attack will be the difference. In the Seahawks two games this season, Lynch rushed for over 100 yards in a victory and was held to 85 in a loss.
To oversimplify things once again, if the Packers stop Marshawn Lynch, they win. Let him run wild, and the Packers suffer their second loss in three games.
With future contests against Adrian Peterson (twice), Arian Foster, and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Packers ability to stop the run will be tested throughout this season.
If the young players continue to grow, the defense could blossom into a formidable force. If not, the outcome of the 2012 season could play out a lot like the 2011 season – high expectations with an early playoff exit.
Max Ginsberg is a regular contributor to CheeseheadTV, blogs at PurplePantsGreenJersey.com and can be reached through Twitter @MaxGinsberg or by email maxginsberg[at]yahoo.com.