Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he takes a look at the Packers' issues on the defensive side of the ball.
Some simple axioms in football are this: “Play as deep as the deepest man.” “Maintain your contain.” “Never get leveraged.” “Know where your help is located.”
These are tried and true from Pop Warner up through the professional ranks. For all the complexity football can entail it usually comes down to the simplest of elements we are taught as young children playing this game. The Packer defense could have used a refresher course last Sunday. To the diagrams we go.
The coverage executed on this play is pure man free coverage (commonly referred to as Cover 1). The corners, in this case Williams and Shields are playing man coverage on the #1 receivers to their respective sides of the formation. Prior to the snap MD Jennings screws down in to the box and at the snap he will blitz off the edge. He is easily picked up by the LT. With Jennings inserting in to the rush the Packers are bringing 5 men. Eagles TE, Brent Celek, releases to the flat where Brad Jones pursues in coverage.
Casey Hayward is playing man coverage in the slot to the left of the defensive structure and covers his man as he runs a deep crossing route across the formation. AJ Hawk zones off to help underneath on Hayward’s man.
Should the back release it would be Hawk’s responsibility to cover. The back inserts in to the protection so he can now zone and help on inside breaking routes. At the snap Shields maintains inside leverage on his man, using the sideline as another defender. Williams, on the other hand, turns opens his hips and allows Jackson to release on a vertical stem inside of him (Williams has his butt to the sideline).
Williams has low outside leverage on Jackson. This is important because if Williams wasn’t expecting help he would not allow himself to be leveraged inside at the snap. Williams is expecting Burnett to provide high inside leveraged coverage on Jackson. In essence, this has become bracket coverage on Jackson, with Williams low and outside of a Jackson and Burnett high and inside of Jackson.
Williams does his job. Burnett does not.
Burnett does not remain high in the coverage as he is supposed to. Had Burnett done his job this could have been an easy interception for him. As it was, Williams made a great effort to break up the pass only to be knocked off by a chasing Burnett who didn’t execute the coverage.
The coverage on this play is debatable only in that it might be Cover 1 or Cover 7 (matchup zone on the interior). My hunch is that it is Cover 1 based on the play of Shields. Jackson motions to a closed position in the Eagles formation. This immediately sounds off alarms because a deep crossing route is usually the result of this type of closed split (very common in the professional game).
As it is, Jackson takes off on the deep cross (aka Over Route). Shields is in coverage on him across the field. Williams and Burnett are both in the “box” giving the Packers an 8 man front. The Eagles TE does not release in to the route structure and therefore Williams simply zones off. Should the TE release, Williams would have him in coverage with help from AJ Hawk working an inside/outside bracket.
Like Williams, Burnett, Hawk and Jones all zone off (spot drop while looking for shallow crossers & safety outlets). The back releases to the flat after a run fake but this is essentially a two man route by the Eagles. Davon House is in man coverage on Cooper. At the snap he, like Williams on the Jackson TD, opens his hips and allows Cooper inside leverage. This tells me House was expecting inside top help on Cooper from the middle safety, who , in this case, was MD Jennings. Again, like Burnett on the Jackson TD, Jennings is caught creeping up in the intermediate hole. His responsibility was the deep middle. Had he been where he was supposed to be this too would have been an interception.
Much has been said about the ball hanging in the air and this is true. However, had the ball been thrown much better it would have still resulted in a TD because Jennings was out of place.
Cooper’s 2nd TD appeared to be against a form of Cover 2 known as 2 Man. However, it is possible it might have simply been 2 Read (Corner reads release of #2 receiver and covers #2 on an immediate release outside to him). Either way, Burnett was beaten badly.
This was more a performance error rather than a coverage breakdown in my opinion. Frankly, the Eagles used a Cover 2 beater at the right time. The issue I have with this play is the play of Hawk and and Williams.
First of all, Hawk takes an improper path towards the back. ILBers are taught to track the back, that, is, take a similar path. The back went to Hawk’s right and Hawk closed downhill to his left. After the fake, the back released to the flat where Williams picked him up in coverage. Yet, I can’t help but wonder had Hawk taken the appropriate path would Williams ran up the seam with Cooper and let Hawk take the back. If you watch the film, it’s as if Hawk realizes his mistake and quickly tries to run in the back’s direction.
Not sure on this one. Either way, Burnett didn’t physically perform well on the play.
This is the first of a series of slides showing a McCoy 30 yard run. I want to show this to you because this is the epitome of bad defense even before the snap is made. To the left of the Eagles formation is Avant, Celek and a LG. That’s it. In football terms, the Eagles have presented the Packers a 2 man surface (blocking surface) to that side. Avant doesn’t count. He’s a receiver. Heck, in my opinion, Celek doesn’t even count. Yes, I know TEs have to block but folks…..they’re not your best run blockers by comparison to linemen.
Yet, inexplicably, to that side, the Packers have 5 guys in alignment. To the other side of the Eagles formation you have 3 offensive linemen (arrows) (LT and Celek switched sides) presenting a 3 man surface and the Packers have only 3 guys by alignment to that side (yellow numbered players). Hawk could even be considered only a ½ player since he’s essentially able to play both sides of the formation. House and Shields (yellow boxes) do not count as men in the run structure because they are in man coverage. At best they are secondary contain players.
To the bottom, Morgan Burnett is the force player (ie. forces the ball to go back inside on any outside run). On the top, Mike Neal is the force player. Here is what is even more disturbing. If I were to ask you which players could receive a pass if the Eagles did such a thing, how many would you say were eligible? Standard formations and personnel always have 5 eligible whether all 5 release or not.
In this case, Celek isn’t even eligible to receive a pass because he’s covered up by the outside receiver. That leaves 4 receiving threats to cover should it be a pass. This formation should have immediately tipped off the Packers it was a run play. McCoy ends up running this ball in to the alley (Lombardi would be proud).
As the ball is snapped the Center an RG pull. The other linemen to that side execute simple down blocks. The key to the play, however, is Mike Neal. Remember, it’s his job to force the ball back inside to the pursuit. He doesn’t. he slips inside the OT and with pullers in front of him, McCoy is about to go off to the races.
Neal has now disappeared inside and Pickett is sealed off with a down block. The edge of the Packer defense has been collapsed. The Center will pull short inside to cut off Hawk, which he does successfully. That leaves McCoy with the RG as an escort.
The RG is about to cut off Jones who is in pursuit but because of the short edge and McCoy’s speed he continues up field to cut off back side pursuit defenders. Jones is a non-factor in the play. McCoy has 30 easy yards with very little effort.
I’m not saying Capers isn’t responsible but at what level? Capers coordinates the defense. Yes, I know his track record isn’t the best the longer he stays at a place but at what point do you expect your players to execute the scheme called. Did Capers tell Burnett and Jennings to forgo their responsibilities in the coverage structure? Did he not have them prepared to see the strong running formation that led to a big run? Maybe he did. Maybe it is time for Capers to move on after the season. But maybe it’s time for players to stand up and be accountable.
Here is the problem, as I see it, for the defense. Who is the Charles Woodson of this defense? Not in talent but in leadership. Who is that guy now? Rodgers is the leader of the team but he doesn’t play defense. He’s not in the defensive meeting rooms. Who is that guy? For as much as Woodson would talk and question the coaching staff his play would back it up on the field. Is Matthews now that guy? Is it Pickett? Is it Raji? Hawk? Anyone?
Maybe the players are sick and tired of Capers as the coordinator but how do you speak out vocally against your coordinator when your play doesn’t give you the right? Woodson could talk because he had the backside to cash the checks. Who has it now? Capers has to do a better job of putting players in to position to make plays but at the end of the day it’s up to the players to make the plays when they are put in situations to win.
No miracle by a Rex Ryan protégé or Lovie Smith himself will fill the leadership and accountability void the Packer defense now faces.
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