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On Defense, It's (Mostly) The Players

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On Defense, It's (Mostly) The Players

Good stuff from Tom Silverstein today about McCarthy needing to get to the bottom of the issues his defense had against the likes of the Cardinals and Steelers - namely, teams with good QBs and deep recieving corps that spread the Packers out and threw the ball all over the yard. As McCarthy noted:

Trust me, we'll take a long look at Arizona from a defensive standpoint, and Pittsburgh...You're talking about over 1,000 yards of offensive production in two days. We will take a long look at that, and particularly the quarterbacks.

It shouldn't take McCarthy long to reach the obvious conclusion.

The Packers were not only forced to go to guys like Jarrett Bush due to Al Harris, Pat Lee and Will Blackmon being put on injured reserve earlier in the year, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers, for whatever reason, did not do a particularly great job of utilizing the abilities of the guys he DID have.

When Capers was brought on board to implement his 3-4 defense, he was quick to say that he wasn't going to ask guys to do things they weren't comfortable doing. I'm pretty sure the phrase "not going to try and put square pegs in round holes" was mentioned at least on one occasion.

Well, that turned out to be true...some of the time. There were games where you saw guys like Tramon Williams and Al Harris pressing guys at the line - but as the year went on, you saw a lot of 'match' coverage, which is used when teams use a lot of motion, and a lot more zone. Needless to say, Williams and Jarrett Bush were not well suited to playing zone. Even the great Charles Woodson had some issues with it on occasion, though his pure athleticism and football IQ made up for a lot of that. But Capers kept calling mainly zone coverages, and when he DID use his man schemes, he rarely had his guys pressing at the line.

Take a look at the Cardinal game again. You see Woodson up on the line quite a bit against Fitzgerlad, but Tramon Williams spends almost the entire game 5 yards off the line of scrimmage. Simply put, he is nowhere near as good when the receiver is allowed a free-release. (We saw this in the Carolina game last year, by the way...)

And poor Jarrett Bush - it's not his fault he's not good. At almost anything. But the Packers were forced to keep putting him out there. The only thing I didn't ever really understand is why they didn't at least use his fabled 'athleticism' to blitz the quarterback. I know Capers sent Bush on occasion (he did it twice in the Dallas game) but usually Capers' pressure packages were saved for the linebackers and Woodson, leaving Bush back doing the thing he's worst at - covering receivers.

No, it won't take McCarthy long to figure out - the Packers need to procure and develop some talent down the depth chart in the secondary. But he also needs to hold his defensive coordinator to his promise of not trying to make his guys do things they're just not very good at.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

bomdad's picture

The Steelers and Cardinals employed stacked sets and played very physical downfield. The rules are designed to allow this to be an advantage to the offense. The game had the highest rating, they wont change a rule that puts eyes on the product. Even Darrelle Revis wouldnt have gotten an offensive PI call...oh wait he probably would have with Rex's tears wetting the turf around the officials feet by halftime.
I think jamming at the line would have had some positive results, but thats a tough call considering the associated loss of run support.

Dilligaff's picture

For me there is more of a cause and effect relationship here. I think our secondary is taking a lot of heat for the lack of a pass rush by our front 7. You are only as strong as your weakest link and I think that link is our inside LB play. Hawk is not the answer to take this defense and team to the next level. We need a dynamic LB at the inside LB position who can rush the passer, we add this to our defense and those secondary problems will go away with the healthy talent we already have.
I will make a bold prediction that Hawk will either accept a big reduction in pay or will be playing for the Browns next year.

RockinRodgers's picture

You also have to assume we won't have 3 CB go on IR next year. It's a problem, but I think its fixable. If we have Woodson, Harris, Williams and Blackmon playing last Sunday, we win. We also need better depth at Safety.

Ron LC's picture

Let's not put our hopes on Blackmon and Lee. Niether has played a full year uninjured. And Al? His second major injury in two years. A sophisticated "Cover" defense requires consistent and competent play. Hence, where the hell was the pressure when it became obvious in the first Qtr that there was no consistency or competence going on on Sunday?

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MM, don't forget the Queenie games when studying the films. The crime was comitted on the same place on the field.

nerdmann's picture

The Packers should hold their heads up. They played a great game, one for the ages. They got lit up by a HOF QB. Lots of teams get lit up by those types of QBs. That's why they're so great.
If the Packers don't turn the ball over twice (in the red zone) in the first THREE plays, if they make that FG, if they hit any one of those long plays to Jennings, we win.
I don't think the Packers did anything wrong in this game. Yeah, it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. There were three very questionable TDs by the Cardinals to add to it all.
If the Packers play this way in every game they win it 19 out of 20 times. Same with the Steelers game. Don't second guess yourselves.
We can focus on execution, if anything. But there's no reason the Packers should hang their heads over this game. They played tough and even came back from some heavy adversity. They never got down during the game, and they shouldn't now.

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

I don't agree that if we had Woodson, Harris, Williams and Blackmon on the field last Sunday we win. What A-Nag said is true - the scheme would have been the same and that's a problem.
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Also agree with Ron LC. Blackmon can't stay healthy and we have no idea what Lee can do. I THINK he'll be good, but we just don't know. I've also said many times I'm surprised Collins and Bigby stayed healthy most of the year. They have a history of injuries. Bottom line - we need D backfield help as A-Nag points out.
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Diligaff's prediction is interesting, but I don't think it will happen. I'm sure I'll get slammed by the Hawk lovers again but he simply is not the answer. I don't think he'll be traded but surely the staff sees his limitations. I get that Bishop has limitations too but I still say he's a playmaker and Hawk is not. Not sure how to solve this given where we draft and our other needs. The fact that Poppinga's time increased late in the season is still a mystery to me. But then again, I'm blogging about all this when others are being paid to coach so what do I know.

bomdad's picture

Nerdmann, your point about Warner is right on. He was almost flawless and thats not all because of Jarrett Bush or Dom Capers. And yet at the end, the team had a chance to win. The Cards D was just as bad, and they might have the best backfield in the NFC playoffs.

greenbaypackerbob's picture

Nerdm --- feel the sting... but given enough 'ifs' any team can win .... But if the Packers give up 51 points in any game, I bet they will -lose- 19 out of 20 times... not ready to hold head up over that. (IMO)

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Work to be done.
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Bearmeat's picture

EXACTLY! Right on Aaron. From the first play of the Steelers game, the first Offensive series in the wildcard game and BOTH games against Brent, I knew we'd lose all four of them. It was clear that Capers was overmatched. He put his players in position to fail.
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Injuries happen to all teams, and you can't use them as an excuse. Don't let TT of the hook here either. He did not get adequate depth in the secondary via Free Agency or getting better draft picks.
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Now I know that players are human and are not immune to mental errors, but isn't this the same Defensive secondary that has had 5 Probowl births over the past 3 years? With the same players?
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In the words of the great Vince Lombardi: "WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN' ON OUT HERE?"

nerdmann's picture

greenbaypackerbob, the "ifs" are on the offensive side of the ball, imo. Yeah, we gave up alot of points. Including TWO red zone turnovers in the first THREE offensive plays from scrimmage. Against the best red zone team in the league.
This team is very good and is only going to get better. They will be very good for a long time.
There is always work to be done, but I'm not hanging my head over this loss. Neither should the Packers.

greenbaypackerbob's picture

Bearmeat sez, "Now I know that players are human and are not immune to mental errors, but isn’t this the same Defensive secondary that has had 5 Probowl births over the past 3 years? With the same players?"
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good question ... they had us in a NFC champ game 2 years ago... as you quote the great one (Lombardi): “WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN’ ON OUT HERE?”
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