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Short-Yardage Defense Could Be A Force

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Short-Yardage Defense Could Be A Force

GREEN BAY  – I feel sorry for opposing offenses lining up on 3rd-and-1 and having to look across the line of scrimmage at a Green Bay Packers defensive line consisting of Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Justin Harrell.

That's 1,297 pounds of defensive goodness according to the weights provided by the Packers official website. And that's exactly the lineup the Packers trotted out on the second day of training camp back on Sunday in their short-yardage "Hippo" formation. The Hippo is a 4-4-3 defense presumably used in short-yardage and goal-line situations designed primarily to stop the run.

Rookie defensive end Mike Neal took Harrell's spot in the lineup when Harrell sat out due to heat-related symptoms. Neal is smaller from a weight-standpoint than all the afore-mentioned defensive linemen, but his bodybuilder's physique makes one believe he could be every bit the anchor against the run as a Jenkins or a Harrell.

Now imagine an outside linebacker duo consisting of the 255-pound Clay Matthews and the 250-pound Brady Poppinga on the wings of the defensive line with Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk backing them up.

The Packers have gone very little if any goal-line or short-yardage situations so far during training camp, but that personnel grouping should be a unit every fan keeps their eye on over the course of the month of August.

Ideally, they'll be stout against the run. And even if they encourage teams to pass against that look, the Packers should have a very talented secondary to rely upon with Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams.

For a defense that struggled in the red zone last season, this group may be able to force a couple more field goals instead of touchdowns this season.

And it's scary to think that a defense that ranked No. 1 against the run last season and No. 2 overall in terms of yards allowed could be even better. That's impressive, at least on paper.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (7) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Cole's picture

It would be a feat to be the number 1 defense and offense.

Jeremy's picture

I can't wait to see that one. Although if I was a QB looking at that, I would definitely audible to a bootleg, TE curl, or something else with movement. Yikes!

frosty's picture

That's my major concern as well. An obviously huge front against the run is going to result in a lot of pass plays against that formation, and for that reason alone I would keep Poppinga out of the OLB position. Gotta have someone that can contend with at least a decent TE on both sides.

PackersRS's picture

I don't think we struggled against the run in RZ D.

Now, of course those are not all the stats, but we allowed only 5 rushing TDs (best in league) the whole season, to 29 (4th worst) passing TDs.

Putting heavier, worse against the pass players on goal line situations is not a smart decision IMHO.

Oppy's picture

I'm not too concerned about mobility of this line with Jenkins and Harrell set as the DE's.

You probably won't find another defensive linemen in the league with the same amount of agility and quickness as Big Sexy at his weight. This cat is shifty... And if Harrell is truly past the back issues, this is a kid who had always moved extremely well for a big man as well. I have read a tweet here and there already this season about Harrell getting off the ball and penetrating with surprisingly fast feet and moves- if he can continue that, and he still has his lateral agility, he should have move than adequate mobility on the edge.

Raji and Pickett, of course, just have to anchor, not a lot of movement there. I do see the concerns about Poppinga. But then, Brad Jones has added a few pounds, and didn't look sub-par in run support last year in the first place.

Lastly, disagree w/ Aaron about Neal being able to anchor just fine because he's strong. Certainly, being strong helps you push and pull others around, penetrate, and tackle... and to some extent your core and leg strength can be used to help stabilize your stance, but THere's no substitute for physical weight when trying to become an immovable object.

CSS's picture

Neal understands leverage and will stay round the 300lb. mark, not concerned about his 'anchor' or 'bull-rush' as a rookie.

Where rookies get schooled in the NFL during their first year: use of their hands, disengagement skills.

Neal will provide NFL caliber 'pop' upon impact and win some battles on strength alone. That being said, good (experienced) lineman will control his torso and get inside his body if he doesn't quickly grasp good hand technique. To me, that will be the difference between a solid rookie campaign (holding his own), vs. an impact rookie campaign (controlling his gap/line of scrimmage on a consistant basis.)

northnsouth's picture

Replace Hawk with Bishop.

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