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Cheesehead TV Matchup: Week 1 Defense

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Cheesehead TV Matchup: Week 1 Defense


  • Jenkins, Jolly, & Raji vs Omiyale & Garza

Much of the attention leading up to Sunday nights game has focused on the linebackers and the secondary and how they will fare versus Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and the Bears two tight end sets. What has not got a lot of attention, apart from the fact that the defense had more than it's fair share of problems in the preseason (aptly pointed out by Donald's Designated Driver) is what will be the key battles up front between Cullen Jenkins and Frank Omiyale along with whoever is lined up at left defensive end, either Johnny Jolly or BJ Raji and their matchups with Bears right guard Roberto Garza.

These, more than any other positional matchups, will play the biggest part in the defense's success or failure at derailing the Bears offense. Yes, covering the tight ends is a concern. Yes, Matt Forte could make a living running off tackle. Yes, Cutler could test Al Harris and Atari Bigby deep early. (Look for it...) But none of those things happen without the Bears winning against Jenkins and company. The more the Packers ends can disrupt in Capers' one-gap scheme, the more miserable Bears' offensive coordinator Ron Turner will become.

Speaking of misery - look for the Bears new left tackle Orlando Pace, yes, Orlando Pace, to struggle mightily in pass protection against almost anyone the Packers' send off the edge on his side of the line. Going back and watching Pace in the Bears game against the Broncos in the preseason, it is extremely clear that the veteran has lost a great deal of his quickness. His footwork seems very, very sloppy and slow - something that could be easily exploited by the rookie Clay Matthews. Raw though he is, Matthews' first step could give him the edge needed to turn the corner on Pace, not to mention a blitzing Charles Woodson, who did the majority of his blitzing from the defense's right side in the preseason.

  • The Miracle Worker

I am getting so sick of this sentiment:

It took Pitt years to procure an almost perfect mix of players for the 3-4; Dom Capers is good, but Packer fans shouldn't expect miracles.

Now, if Packer Update, or any other naysayer, is saying that Dom Capers will not be turning water into wine, then yes, they are correct - fans should not expect miracles. But if they seriously think that this defense will be hindered by some adherence to the belief that you have to have certain players to do certain things, well, I'm sorry, you haven't been paying attention.

Unlike Bob Sanders and his rigid belief in an archaic scheme that has been figured out by all of the competent offensive minds in the NFL (and most of the incompetent ones) Dom Capers is not married to anything personnel wise. He is not set-in-stone when it comes to what kind of blitzes he will use or what kind of coverage he will call. Capers is, and always has been, a forward thinker.

But I'll let him explain it:

I understand Packer fans wanting to be cautious - goodness knows I've probably done more than anyone in the Packers Blogosphere to shout down expectations over the course of the preseason. But I am here to tell you - again - what you are going to see from Capers' defense this year will SEEM miraculous after the utter incompetence fans were subjected to on the defensive side of the ball in 2008.

Will teams move the ball on the Packers? You bet. That's the nature of the scheme. Look no further than the Steelers opening victory last night. Tennessee marched up and down the field... and scored 10 points.  As Capers has told any reporter who will listen, he's only interested in one thing - leading the league in Points Allowed. While I think that's unlikely, I do think you'll be surprised by the flexibility Capers shows not only from week to week, but from series to series. Instead of watching as his defense gets throttled by the same play again and again, like Sanders was fond of doing, Capers will usually be one step ahead of the opposing offense - but when something doesn't work, he won't stick with it out of some blind loyalty to some shopworn ideal. He will move to fix the problem during the game. Shocking, I know.

Now, don't make the mistake of thinking you'll be seeing all-out Cover Zero blitzes every play - this isn't Bob Slowik. Capers gets it - if an offense is going max protect, which the Bears are fond of doing with their fullback and one of their tight ends, Capers isn't going to waste time banging his head against the wall. He will simply play coverage until he finds the best time to sneak an overload blitz or a delayed zone-dog into the mix.

So yes, the Bears may move the ball and they may even score some points - but make no mistake, you will see an attacking, surprising defense that keeps Cutler and company off balance. You may even see the defense take the game over if the Packers get even a two score lead.

Truly, that would be... miraculous.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersRS's picture

Great article once again, but just a couple of things.
Orlando Pace did look awful against Denver, but he wasn't bull rushed. He was beated on the edge. Something Poppinga isn't very good at. Woodson is. Matthews may be, but he won't take the majority of the snaps on the base, and with Chicago playing ace a lot of times, I expect to see the base 3-4 a lot.
While Polamalu was active, yes, the Steelers alowed some field, but it was mostly when Polamalu went down that the Titans began to gain yards, specially through the ground. If he's healthy, I expect him to be the DPotY. If he's not, I expect the steelers D to struggle. In struggle, I mean not to be a top 5 defense. And with that awful OL, they won't do much if their D isn't a top 5 unit.
I think you're dead on about the DL. If we can create some push, they won't be able to rely on the running game, and Cutler will have to force some passes. And we all know the math: forced passes+Charles Woodson and Co.= defensive TD

packeraaron's picture

"he wasn’t bull rushed. He was beated on the edge" - which is exactly what I was pointing out. Is Poppinga terrible off the edge? Yes - but guess what? He won't be coming off the edge on 3rd Down - Chillar or CM3 will. Pace will just not be able to handle their speed.

Ron La Canne's picture

Pressure, pressure, pressure! No time for Cutler to throw, break the run blocking patterns up before they develop and hit them like they were your worst enemy. Which they are! I hate the Bears more than any other team. I remember Bear LB's like George, Fortunato, and Morris who were probably the dirtiest players ever to take the field. Where do you think Forrest Greg developed his hated of that team? As Ken Stills said after he hit a Matt Suei (sp) after he got up and headed back to the huddle, "I ran twenty yards from my Free Safety Position and I was going to hit one of those [email protected]#[email protected]$s."

Nick's picture

Definitely an interesting chance to look at different defensive philosophies between coordinators yesterday. LeBeau/Capers' idea of dictating and adapting through scheming; versus a rigid unchanging scheme placing more onus on defenders winning their individual battles and coming up with the stop that the Titan's showed yesterday, and something Sanders subscribed to.
Obviously both can be effective/exploited...but for the most part they were both dominant defenses yesterday. But we saw the Titan's defense cave when it mattered and the Steelers ran down the field and essentially won the game twice. Whether that was the fault of the scheme or not I don't know. Just some random musings.

packeraaron's picture

"we saw the Titan’s defense cave when it mattered and the Steelers ran down the field and essentially won the game twice"
Almost a carbon copy of what happened to the Packers at TEN last year. Could not believe Cecil stayed with four man pressure for so long when it was clear his guys were spent and weren't getting to Ben on their own.

PackersRS's picture

Like I said don't remember where: They missed Fat Albert. They just don't have enough depth at DL to make it work right anymore, and expect their D to fail late much more often.

Ruppert's picture

If the Packers truly did show only 30% of the scheme (read: Pressure packages) in the preseason, I'm dying to see the other 70%. I was watching the Steelers final preseason game the other night, and in garbage time, Pittsburgh was blitzing some on passing downs. Specifically, I noticed they ran a type of stunt on the defensive left side, with 3 people. They sent a blitzer up, between 2 other defenders, than had the defender on the right peel back around the other 2 guys, which let him come free on the edge.
Like any rather complex blitz, timing is key. And Pitt's scrubs didn't exactly light it up. But it got me thinking about the types of pressures that we haven't even seen from the Pack yet. Let's hope they're worth the wait. I'm confident the Pack will win.

packeraaron's picture

Ruppert - this is very instructive - from McGinn:
It might appear as if the Packers have been blitzing a great deal, but the reality is they haven't.

Under Capers, the starters have rushed five or more on 30.8% of drop-backs and six or more on 2.6%. Primarily because Capers was content running straight four-man rushes in the second halves of one-sided victories over Cleveland and Buffalo, the backups have rushed five or more on 21.4% and six or more on 2.9%.

The 30.8% blitz rate by the starters is well above Sanders' regular-season mark of 19.9% last year, but the 2.6% "bring the house" rate is well below Sanders' 6.7%.

Capers has rushed six men just four times out of 142 drop-backs and hasn't brought seven at all.

"You aren't going to get a lot of six out of us," said Capers. "We aren't a big six-man pressure team."

Ruppert's picture

So last year, Sanders rushed 4 (or less) on 80.1% of the dropbacks? Man, that's depressing. But I'm not suggesting that I want to see more jailbreak blitzes. Far from it. I love the idea of bringing fewer guys and disguising it more, like a 3-man stunt.

PackersRS's picture

I love unbalanced blitzes. If precisely disguised, and interchanged between sides, it really kills the offensive line. Specially a slow one. And it's easier to play the run, IMO.

Satori's picture

First off, thanks Aaron for your top notch efforts, adding the videos and analysis is definitely a cut above.

When they talked to Barnett in preseason he was mentioning his "flash cards" and that Capers had 87 different defenses. He also noted that their playbook was nearly as big as the offense's.

I don't think we've seen anything yet, and I would love to see a coming out party on Sunday night.

FITZCORE1252's picture

I watched that bear/Bronco game... Elvis Dumervil absolutely OWNED Pace ( he can't handle a good speed rush anymore). I think we have the athletes to do the same if not better. That could lead to several blindside hits on Jay, and if it's Chuck hittin' him, you know... THE BALL'S COMIN' OUT!



FITZCORE1252's picture

Oh yeah,
Keep up the stellar work Aaron, seriously, I need a good insightful site like this! For the GBP fan, by the GBP fan.


Chicago Hooligan's picture

I'm leaving Bearsland for WI tomorrow and will be at the game. First GB/Chi game at Lambeau for me, I've only ever seen them play at Soldier Field. I look forward to reading CHTV analysis of the stirring victory upon my return.

IronMan's picture

"Will teams move the ball on the Packers? You bet. That’s the nature of the scheme. Look no further than the Steelers opening victory last night."
Not the nature of the scheme at all. That's just one game. Here is where they have ranked over the last 5 years in YPG:

2004: 1st
2005: 4th
2006: 9th
2007: 1st
2008: 1st

packeraaron's picture

That's a fair point IronMan. In my defense I would only say that I was referring to pressure schemes in general - when you blitz, there is area left open where teams can gain yards, it's just the nature of the beast. Yes, the Steelers have spent the last decade NOT giving away those yards, but even the mighty Steelers, in the last two games that counted, have let the Cardinals and the Titans pile up the yardage.

bomdad's picture

Just go back to the first quarter of the first preseason game. Capers shifted the gap alignment and formation. Isn't that enough to realize the Sanders era is over? Look, the Pack had enough talent to go 13-3 and grab attention as a defensive unit under Sanders. Now at full strength again, with a coach who isnt putting square pegs in round holes (like Montgomery subbing for Jenkins).

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