For the second straight season, the Green Bay Packers led all NFL teams in the use of nickel and dime defenses in 2012.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Packers used five or more defensive backs on 66.8 percent of plays last season. Over 1,033 snaps, Green Bay employed the nickel or dime on 690 of them.
Certainly, this usage has roots in the roster. Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward was a revelation in both the slot and outside, and he essentially forced his way onto the field early in 2012. Tramon Williams also stayed healthy for most of the season, and the Packers weren't shy in using both Sam Shields and Davon House on the outside opposite Williams.
Such a luxury of riches did not exist along the Packers' defensive line, despite drafting both Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels during the 2012 NFL draft.
As Kevin Seifert points out, the heavy usage of nickel and dime defenses could be partly to blame for Green Bay's struggles against power running teams. The Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks each pounded away at the Packers during 2012.
However, Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus noted this morning that the Packers allowed 4.6 yards per carry in their base 3-4 defense, and 5.1 in the nickel or dime. In short, the Packers were poor at stopping the run regardless of which defensive front they employed last season.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) February 12, 2013