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Packers' Tackling Problem Comes Full Circle

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Packers' Tackling Problem Comes Full Circle

The horrific tackling cited by Packers head coach in his season-ending press conference yesterday is not new to either Capers' defense or indeed McCarthy's tenure.

This is something we have noted here at Cheeshead TV on several occasions, both before and after Dom Capers was hired:

(From September 28th, 2008)

The defensive players for the Green Bay Packers are terrible, I mean God awful, tacklers.

I know it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, not to mention years of modern NFL practice, but McCarthy would be well served to put his team in pads this week and have live hitting on everyone save for the quarterbacks. This team needs the practice. Not only that, he should have Sanders start all over and have a week where the defense does nothing but work on tackling technique.

And that's just it - another perfect example of how Bob Sanders is exposed as a defensive coordinator. Look at last nights Bears/Eagles games. Those teams can tackle. Why? Because they are well coached and practice it. I mean, anytime the offense catches the ball, that's the end of it. Hit after hit, tackle after tackle, last nights game was like a clinic. The Packers, by comparison, are Junior Varsity in the tackling department.

(From January 21st, 2009)

...this is a terrible tackling team. No scheme that has been devised can cover up for a team that can't tackle the ball carrier. Capers, and more importantly, McCarthy, need to address this on the first day of training camp. The technique was allowed to get way too sloppy under Sanders and a return to basics is long overdue.

(From November 29th, 2010)

...today against the Atlanta Falcons the Packers reverted to an undisciplined style of defensive football.

Ryan Pickett summed it up perfectly after the game:

One of the keys in tight games like this is the turnover difference and the team that plays the best fundamental defense. I don’t think we tackled well today. We’re normally a solid tackling team, and we gave them a lot of second chance, third chances we shouldn’t have given them.

The worst display came on a 3rd and 19 when Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli took a short dump off pass and rumbled 16 yards, but only after Charles Woodson and Charlie Peprah made two pathetic attempts at tackles by diving at Mughelli's feet. I recognize its a fullback against members of the secondary - but you simply have to square up on the guy. Sure you might get dragged for a yard or two until the calvary arrives, but going to the turf and completely missing the guy is inexcusable and it kept happening all afternoon. The display against Mughelli was especially discerning in light of Frank Zombo's similar breakdown against Minnesota last week. Packer fans can only hope this isn't the beginning of a trend.

Sadly - that's just what it might have been.

Even when the Packers were winning the Super Bowl last season there were less than stellar displays of tackling on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Obviously, the ballhawking and the ability to usually get off the field on third down helped mask some of these problems.

Unfortunately, those problems came back to light with a vengeance in 2011.

As McCarthy indicated yesterday:

I know there’s going to be a lot of conversation, no different than there was throughout the year, pass rush versus pass coverage. But my biggest disappointment with our defense, being fresh and going through the evaluation with Dom Capers, is our productivity in tackling.

McCarthy, Capers and the Packers coaching staff now have a good five month stretch to figure out how they a) got back to square one with the terrible tackling on this team and b) how exactly they plan to fix it.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Kparis99's picture

McCarthy should show tape from the 60's Packers... Tell players to notice how they would actually wrap their arms around a guy to bring him down. I mean really, no more throwing a shoulder at someone looking for that highlight reel, big hit. Just wrap your arms around the guy, and bring him the heck down! "What the hells going on out there!"

lebowski's picture

The full-body armor these guys wear nowadays is part of the problem. When you've got one bar on your facemask you're less likely to come flying in head-first like a missile, you learn to keep your head up and wrap up the ball carrier.

Lou's picture

Or show them tape of this year's 49ers and Ravens teams...they tackle, and they do so angrily.

lebowski's picture

Is there another Harbaugh brother we can bring in as a consultant? :)

EP66's picture

Their dad lives in Mequon. Maybr he can come by and teach.

Jim - Kbk's picture

I don't think the Harbaugh's can take full credit. Much needs to go to Singletary and Lewis.

Mike because he is an intense, no gray area, play the game right or get out type of coach.

And Ray? Well, miss a tackle and he may just kill ya :-)

Wisconsin German's picture

I love the Lombardi-era point. The game has gotten much, much faster than the 60's game. The thing about Lombardi is that everything stemmed from fundamentals. The Packers were the absolute BEST with the fundamentals of the game, and practiced those fundamentals over and over and over again.
It's not that fundamentals aren't key, now, but seems like they're...rerouted. We are a defense that relies on speed and turnovers. Tackling is maybe an issue because the speed we take to the ball carrier. A turnover mentality, instead of simply taking a route that leads to a solid, full tackle. We're not a "smash you in the mouth" kind of team. We're a fast running, fast executing team.
We'll tackle better when the first thought is the tackle, second is the strip. We watch the games. How many times do we see the first player there go for the strip, relying on the secondary player in the area for help, and they go for the strip, and so on? I'm just a fan, that's just what it seems like to me. Different mentalities between us and the Lombardi Pack.

Beep's picture

I'd say our tackling was league average, which is still bad.
I'd start by getting rid of Peprah and Hawk...those two seemed to be the kings of the attempted knockdown tackle.

Point Packer's picture

I'd love if Peprah went to the Vikings. I'm sorry, but he is not a starting safety in this league. Just not.

Bob's picture

Many new faces usually works. Not like there releasing quality players. Some are good building blocks, but the rest have to go, and don't try to tell me it's to much of a project. This defense stinks, keep Bishop, Mathews, Raji, Pickett, Neal, Burnett, Shields, Williams, Soto, House, Wilson, Woodson if he is willing to play safety. Sack the rest, trade up or down in the draft and go heavy defense. Add a couple of free agents and stop playing cerebral and start playing mean.

Idiot Fan's picture

It seems like this is only going to be a bigger problem, league-wide, moving forward since they have so limited the number of practices where you can actually tackle.

Even the 49ers, who have a great defense, almost lost their playoff game because, when they needed a stop at the end of the game, they gave up a 70-yard TD due largely to bad tackling.

Beep's picture

I don't buy the limited practice in pads...these guys know the fundamentals since playing pop warner. They just don't want tackle the right way.

jeremy's picture

Watching the 49ers vs the Saints I was SHOCKED (I never use all caps) at the difference in tackling between the 49ers and the Packers.

The Packers loafed on defense this season because they thought interceptions would be enough. They didn't know the scheme as evidenced by the fact the players didn't know their responsibilty in the 17th game of the season. They didn't tackle. They played with 10 yard cushions. With the exception of the goal line stand in week one against the Saints I don't recall them lining up and just plain beating the other team physically. Someone is reponsible, I believe the the name on the Defensive Coordinators office reads Dom Capers.

D B H's picture

This defense had an easier time getting off the field on 3rd and 3-5 that it did on 3rd and 10+. The zone defense looked confused, and opposing quarterbacks - like Eli or Kyle Orton - converted 3rd and 11 or longer to uncovered receivers over and over again. Sure, the tackling was horrific at times, but usually the defense gave up the 3rd down conversion even before anyone missed a tackle.

MarkinMadison's picture

Agreed. If you are going to stop a team from making 3rd and 6-12, you cannot play with the huge cushion. You have to believe in your secondary players enough to have them ON the guy, discouraging the throw in the first place, and if the ball is thrown you must be in position to hit the receiver hard as he tries to make the catch. Maybe part of this was cushion was setting things up for interceptions, I don't know. What is clear is that the Packers' D look very good with Pickett back in the lineup on 1st and 2nd down (at one point yards per rushing attempt was put on the scoreboard as 1.1), but they were horrible on third down.

cheesy fan's picture

I always see support for BJ Raji???Are you kidding me.I watched each game twice and slow-motioned numerous plays. Even if BJ had one blocker he gave up as soon as he was stood up.He didnt even pursue plays as they were going by him.I think he is way to overweight and slow to play in an NFL 3-4.Watch some of the other nose tackles in the league and compare.Teams like the Giants, 49ers have to many d-lineman that dont give up until the whistle is blown.Look at his stats for the year,22 tackles and 3 sacks and hardly ever any QB pressures.Plus he was always non-existant in the 4th quarter.Nose tackle in the 3-4 is one of the most important posisions.Somebody light a fire under his butt.Time for Ted to draft at least 2 D-lineman.

Cole's picture

Agreed, Raji was awful this year. Whether it's overuse, or that he's mailed it in after reading his own clippings, I'm not sure. If he doesn't improve next year it's time to cut loose.

CSS's picture

"....it's time to cut loose."

My parody meter is a bit off. This isn't serious, is it?

Bearmeat's picture

He wasn't 'awful'. He was an average DL. Which is not good enough for the 9th overall pick and first DL off the board two years ago.

This is the same debate with Hawk. (5th overall) However, Hawk probably won't get any better. Raji still has time.

Jay's picture

Aaron,
When you look at the way the 49ers tackle, how much do you think is due to the previous Singletary regime?

Derek in Madison's picture

I think this defense is just not tough and mean enough to be a good defense. Everyone mentions the 49ers and Ravens. Who coaches them? the Harbaughs. the Harbaughs grew up tough, and coach tough, and it shows. I just don't think Dom Capers coaches that way or emphasizes that to his guys, which is surprising, because I'm sure Kevin Greene, Winston Moss, and Darren Perry are tough guys who coach tough.

What would I do? fire Dom Capers. this team had all year to fix problems and they didn't. They got much worse with mostly the same personnel. they are soft. They make interceptions, but force no fumbles, because they don't tackle "hard" enough. Hawk is great example of that. I think the defense got complacent after winning the SB last year and thought they could coast all year. Well, we all know how that turned out (worst defense of all time)

markinmontana's picture

Worst defense of all time? Take a deep breath- you must not have watched Packers games from the early 80's. I have a hard time believing that players on this level need a defensive coordinator to teach them fundamentals or to get them amped up to tackle hard. The main problems with this defense are a big-picture combination of personnel, injuries and fundamentals, and Capers is still the guy to get the job done. There is no magical coordinator out there that's going to do appreciably better, especially if he's trying to execute a brand new scheme with a brand new defensive staff. Next year is a new year with new circumstances, and this is an organization that has proved it can deliver improvement in the long-term.

Bearmeat's picture

No Doubt. I disagree with this post vehemently.

Derek in Madison's picture

While you may disagree about firing Capers or that this is the worst defense of all time, you cannot disagree that the coaches had all year to make corrections (communication issues, poor tackling, stupid penalties, no pass rush, bad zone coverage, blown assignments, gave up tons of huge plays, can't make stops on 3rd down, on and on and on). they made no corrections. Same things happened over and over and over again? I ask, why is that?

jack in jersey city's picture

firing capers is not the answer. we had a top 5 defense last year with him. this defense is basically the same defense we had last year minus cullen jenkins and nick collins and the loss of those 2 players was too much to overcome. i think a little blame goes to the GM and coaches for thinking that mike neal was the answer and letting cullen jenkins go too early. i guarantee that once we get a DE that can generate a pass rush and a safety that is assignment sure and can tackle our defense will improve immensely

Mojo's picture

I would think tackling is about 25% technique and 75% desire. In the NY game it looked like the desire was there initially, but wore-off as the game went on. I do wonder if either Shields lack of desire or ability to tackle eventually filtered through the rest of the D.

Why Capers remained back in coverage after he found it wasn't working is still a mystery to me. I'd rather give up the occasional long-play(which they did anyway) than the dink-and-dunk crap. Especially on 3rd downs. To have so many long-third down plays converted throughout the year, suggests to me the scheme the Packers were using was very poor. Also, I believe playing zone requires more cohesiveness and intelligence than man-to man, neither of which was in abundance this year.

CSS's picture

Mojo, looked to me like Capers and his corners gave the cushions because safety recognition and reaction were a liability with Peprah in general and Burnett at this stage in his career. What killed them when doing so was; a) Complete lack of a pass rush, b) Leroy Butler did a great job of highlighting (on more than one occasion) Bishop and Hawk's inability to get proper depth on their drops.

Capers, and the coaching staff in general, really were hoping the could get forced errors throughout the year. Manning just didn't give them the opportunities in this game.

Felt like a lot of overcompensation for poor safety coverage and recognition.

NoWayJose's picture

"I would think tackling is about 25% technique and 75% desire."

Harkening back a long way to my playing days here, but I tend to agree with this.

Tackling isn't rocket science. You've got to take proper pursuit angles, aim at the right target, use leverage, and wrap up. All of that stuff is really more instinctual than anything else after a point.

You've got strap up and lay the wood though and that takes desire and lack of fear. More than anything, I thought this defense did not play with fearlessness or desire this year.

The result? Not only did they not tackle, but they DIDNT INTIMIDATE ANYONE.

TUNDRAVISION's picture

dump layed-back capers...NOW...kevin greene is thee man for the job!!!

Stanislaw's picture

I'm wondering how going for the turnover - whether the interception or the fumble - causes the ability to wrap-up, the primary way to tackle become a secondary instinct and thus the broken tackles.

NoWayJose's picture

Here's another thought - how much did the injury-ravaged team of 2010 yield the tackling-disaster team of 2011?

Obviously, the new CBA cut down on the number of practices where contact was allowed, but did McCarthy also dial down contact within those practices?

Stands to reason that he'd be a little afraid of putting his guys thru rough practices after 2010. Might have been another factor this year that needs to be reexamined.

cow42's picture

You mean to tell me the Packers had a bad defense this year?

Nerd's Laptop's picture

This is a league wide problem, because:
1: The league is penalizing players for making regular hits. This is an era in which defenses SHOULD go for the turnovers moreso than the big hits.
2: Reduced tackling in practice.
3: This year in particular, there may have been more of these types of issues due to the lack of offseason work.
FACT is, the defense has played consistently all year. The problems this season on the defense are personnel issues due to losing Jenkins in free agency and injuries, primarily to Collins and Neal.
These issues can and very likely WILL be dealt with in the offseason.
HOWEVER, the offense will continue to go into these inexplicable and extremely ugly "lulls," where they don't show up ready to play and/or only do so for 2-3 quarters per week. To me, that's the bigger problem. Yes, I know, MM won a Superbowl last year.

Derek in Madison's picture

MUST READ about Capers. Agreed new CBA rules limiting padded practices and hitting is bad for defense, but I think there is something to this. I just don't feel Capers is the guy anymore.

http://jerseyal.com/GBP/2012/01/18/analyzing-dom-capers-a-track-record-o...

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