A look at the defensive chessboard for the 2009 season.
Now that we have a pretty good idea of which players the coaching staff will have available in September, let’s take a look at some possibilities for our defensive front seven. I’m going to take the coaches at their word when they say that we will have a base 3-4 defense but with some 4-3 looks as well. I’m still not sure whether we will see the 4-3 more often on running downs or on passing downs. I’m betting that there will not be an obvious pattern to this, which is the whole point. Keep ‘em guessing.
So let’s have at it, shall we? Here is my own idea for the starting defense, listed from right to left, from the safety’s point of view:
I’ve got the split at NT because I think they could platoon the big men to keep them fresh. But I think Raji will get more and more playing time as the season goes on, and he may even edge out Pickett for the starting spot before the season begins. Notice that I’ve got Kampman on the right side and Matthews on the left, which is the opposite of what most people appear to be assuming. This is because Kampman’s strength is not going to be pass coverage, so he should not be on the side where the TE usually lines up. I love the thought of Jenkins and Kampman both coming at the QB from his blind side.
Under this scenario, Kampman switches sides and plays on the line, but the transition is easy for him because he’s returning to the position that he has played for the past several years. Hawk has to move from ILB to OLB, but like Kampman, he is merely returning to his old position. I’ve got Chillar in there to dog the TE because he did a pretty good job of that last season.
The reality will be much more complicated than this, of course. If Matthews plays lights-out, the coaches will find a way to keep him on the field in the 4-3, either in place of Hawk or Chillar. In college he played DE, but I don’t think we will see that in the pros because he will get swallowed up by the big, quick OT’s. I didn’t see any success when Bob Sanders experimented with putting smaller guys at DE on passing downs, and I don’t expect Dom Capers to mess around with such a rinky-dink idea.
There will be roles for other players as well. I like Brady Poppinga a lot as a run stopper but not as a pass rusher or coverage guy, so he can come in on obvious running downs. Other players who could see spot duty in the front seven are Desmond Bishop, Danny Lansanah, Jason Hunter, Justin Harrell, Mike Montgomery, and Jeremy Thompson, among others.
I also like the idea of Raji playing some DE in the 3-4, especially if Jolly ends up in the slammer and Harrell continues to be a non-factor. If those two things happen, we will have a shortage of stout DE’s, which will leave us vulnerable to the run. I’m hoping for at least one more big DE to be brought in before training camp, as I doubt that the guy we drafted, Jarius Wynn, can be much of a factor as a rookie, and I’ve never thought much of Montgomery.
I’m sure other members of the Packers Lounge have their own thoughts on how this will all work out, and I'd like to hear them.