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Cory's Corner: Consistency Is Present With Pettine

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Cory's Corner: Consistency Is Present With Pettine

The most important move that Matt LaFleur made after he was hired was ensuring consistency on the defensive side of the ball.  

As soon as Mike McCarthy was fired, it was unsure as to what would happen to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine who just finished his first year in Green Bay. LaFleur put all of that speculation to rest on Jan. 8 when he decided to bring Pettine back.

“My brother (Mike) worked for him in Cleveland, has a lot of respect for him,” LaFleur said on Monday. “The guys I trust in this business all have great things to say about Mike Pettine. And I just think that continuity going into year two for the defense is going to be critical. There’s always a learning curve in year one and I’m excited to see what the defense can in year two moving forward.”

That common bond was shared by Pettine, who guided his defense to a No. 18 ranking in yards — the best ranking for the Packers since 2015. 

“Knowing Matt as I know him, I hired his brother in Cleveland and just knowing what I know of him, when he was hired that was an easy decision for me,” Pettien said. “I just got the sense that there’s a lot of common ground with us, there’s shared philosophy for how to do things.”

And Pettine was able to do that with starting outside linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, who accounted for just 11 percent of the Packers’ sacks. He squeezed out a career year from Kyler Fackrell, as he went from three sacks in 2017 to 10.5 last season. 

Pettine’s biggest challenges for the upcoming season will be finding a way to get Josh Jones on the field and keeping Kevin King injury free. Whether that means Jones understands coverage concepts or he plays an inside linebacker position is yet to be seen. Keeping King healthy might be a tall order, but Pettine is going to need King’s athleticism in the back end of the defense and Pettine is going to do everything possible to make sure King stays on the field. 

“When you look at Mike Pettine, there’s been a history — I’ve gone against his defenses before. I think they present a lot of challenges for offenses,” said LaFleur. “And then, the fact that he’s been a head coach and sat in this seat, it really affords you an opportunity to bounce ideas off of him.”

Pettine had a forgettable 10-22 record in his first and only stint as a head coach in Cleveland. Before 2018, Pettine’s 2014 Browns team had a 7-9 record and was the best Cleveland team since it went 10-6 in 2007. 

However, despite all that though, Pettine still isn’t above poking a little fun at himself while guiding LaFleur at the same time. 

“The good thing is what I bring from my experience in Cleveland I have a real thick book on what not to do,” Pettine said. “So I can kind of steer him clear of some of the pitfalls of being a first-time head coach.”

Pettine’s defense wasn’t bad and he basically held it all together with duct tape. Just imagine when he’s got dynamic players on every level of the defense. Pettine made the most with what he was given last year but now I’d like to see how he does with better ingredients. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

Stuff the run, rush the passer, blanket the receivers. Tackle well.
Bill Walsh said that on offense, he could have some success based on maximizing players’ strengths based on scheme, whereas on defense, you’ve got to have athletes. Makes sense to me. Looking forward to Pettine’s boys in year two.

Nick Perry's picture

"Pettine’s defense wasn’t bad and he basically held it all together with duct tape. Just imagine when he’s got dynamic players on every level of the defense. Pettine made the most with what he was given last year"

When you consider Pettines starting D-Line in week one (Wilkerson, Daniels, Clark) all ended up on IR it's really that much more remarkable the Packers were a better defense. Wilkerson was injured week 4, Daniels week 10, and Clark like week 14 IIRC. I mean the man really DID do it with duct tape.

Sign Breeland, get him a FA at Safety and help on the Edge AT LEAST and a little luck on the injury front and this defense is well on it's way.

Old School's picture

Not only D'line issues.

We lost Jake Ryan the first week. This is a guy who was one of our top defenders over the last couple of years. We ended up having to raid other rosters to fill that hole.

Then, we couldn't get Alexander and King on the field at the same time.

Then, we released our starting safety. Say whatever you will about Clinton-Dix, he always suited up and made tackles. He's clearly an above average FS in this league.

Then his backup, Whitehead, was abruptly released.

Also, our starting OLB missed about half the season.

All these things add up, and we had guys who started the season on the practice squad and ended up playing a lot of minutes for us. Net effect is a defense that can't get stops very easily.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

I think we can get a top safety in FA for about $10 million/year. I think we can get a mid-range safety in FA for about $5 million/year. That's where I'd spend the money. And I'd draft a safety with a premium pick. That way, neither Williams nor Brice nor anybody else will play a lot of snaps at safety (unless injury, of course)

Our four top corners would be King, Alexander, Jackson, Williams.

Our OLBs would be Fackrell, Perry, Gilbert, and a premium pick.

Inside, Martinez with Burks, et. al

And a very strong DL rotation. And add a premium pick DL, too.

This defense could be a lot better. I also think that it the offense keeps the defense off the field more maybe we'll have a little better luck with injuries.....I mean, fewer plays=fewer opportunities to get injured, right?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

My wish list with AAV and first yr cap hit:

$10M/$7.5M: FS Can Thomas be had for that?
$11M/$7.0M: OLB. Couple of 2nd tier OLB possibilities.
$8.0M/$5.6M: CB - Breeland
$0/$0: DL. I'd like Wilkerson back, but ran out of cap space.
$29M/$20.1M

$7M/$4.9M: RG Saffold > $, maybe Spain, Carpenter be less.
$10M/$7.0M WR: Tyrell Williams, others. Some = cheaper.
$3.5M/$2.45M TE: Maxx Williams/Nick Boyle and others.
$20.5M/$14.35M

$49.5M/$34.35.

Hmmm, if OTC and Sportrac are correct, I don't have enough money to sign the draft class, which figures to be a little more expensive with the extra first rounder and the higher pick. I might have to cut my coat according to my cloth. Might have to get a cheaper WR, FS, etc., or do without one of these positions. Or I could dump Morrison to pick up $2M (good chance), or Crosby ($3.6M - eh, probably not), or Tramon $4.75M - I'd like him for depth at CB and Safety), or Perry ($3.337M - still want the pay cut but it depends on who the OLB turns out to be in our price range) or Graham $5.33M - maybe).

Minniman's picture

As usual, some great points and food for thought TGR.

With so much to digest here I find myself asking the question "what would be the absolute minimum that I'd need out of this FA class to set the team up"

To that question I'd say FS, CB, RG are the "musts" that GB need to fill with quality free agents, and they are probably going to need to be taken early in FA at market rate.

Then ideally see how the draft pans out, then attack the remainder of positions (unless a desired player agrees to the number on the table - which would obviously be team friendly).

Lphill's picture

give him an edge rusher and a true safety and that's a big improvement.

Handsback's picture

Would like to see Green Bay pick up their edge and safety players in FA. Immediate impact and would allow any rookies time to adjust.

Old School's picture

I think we can get safeties...A top guy AND a midrange guy.....for about $15 million/year, total.

At OLB, it's harder. The really top guys....Clowney, for example, are going to be around $15 million all by themselves.

We also have two starters at OLB under contract. And we could/should resign Gilbert. But we need a 4th active on gameday, and a fifth on the 53 man roster.

IMO, we had a pretty good pass rush last year without much of a contribution from Perry. I'd hate to spend $10 million to improve a little bit when that same $10 million could get us two starting caliber offensive linemen. And I think on defense, safety has to have priority over OLB right now.

Minniman's picture

You made quite a salient point up the thread Old School - if the Offense converts some of those stops and turn-overs that the D DID muster last season (with a depleted squad) ........ to more than 3-and-outs, then that changes things significantly.

Packer Fan's picture

Ditto on what Lphill says. But did you hear that the strength and conditioning people were shuffled. They did keep Lovat however. But I hope these changes are a sign of fixing the plethora of hamstring and groin issues. Something has to happen for the CB's, WR's and RB's that accelerate fast, change direction quickly and are running full out. These coaches need to keep those players loose and on the field. These coaches needed a cleaning out too. I would have dumped Lovat at least. But demoting him is better than nothing.

nostradanus's picture

To take the next step on Defense the Packers need to:

1. Sign a veteran Safety to lead the back end of this young secondary. Earl Thomas makes a lot of sense here!

2. Sign a dynamic, young pass-rusher like Dee Ford or Trey Flowers.

3. Double down by drafting a young pass rusher, J. Polite and Safety, Adderly.

4. Re-sign Mo Wilkerson to a team friendly incentive laden contract, if Wilkerson comes back strong it will be a major boost to this Defense.

There you go Gute! Here is your blueprint now go get it done

Oh and by the way, no charge for the advice Gute

That is all...

Packer Fan's picture

Agree with 1 and 2. But on three, we need a edge for sure, but not sure about Adderly. Will Williams or Jackson or Brown do OK? And for 4, Breeland needs to be resigned.

Old School's picture

Well.....Thomas is about $10 million/year, and Dee Ford is more than that, so that's most of our FA cash.

Spending our top picks on another pass rusher and a safety.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I'd rather use our FA cash to get 4 starters, two at safety and two at OL. That should all be doable for around $30 million, but not if give it all to two guys like Ford and Thomas.

Thomas....I'd prefer a younger guy

Ford...….why spend half of your cash to improve a pass rush that's already in the Top Ten? Why not use it to improve other places instead?

Wilkerson? Truly, I'd rather have his spot on the 53 man roster filled by a premium draft pick.

stockholder's picture

I came to that conclusion. Forget Ford. Smith is the best gamble over a Draft pick. Biegal failed. And I remember Arron kampman (Elephant) and Wilkins. I feel an elephant will return. And that guy is #44 Omenihu over Risner. But that won't solve Wilkerson.// Or Daniels maybe leaving next year. // So the packers best move is to sign Smith. WASH. . .

The TKstinator's picture

Stay classy, Green Bay.

RCPackerFan's picture

Look at what Pettine did with what he had and that will tell us all we need to know about what kind of defense we can have with Pettine.

From the start of the year to the end of the year he had one of the best DL's in the league. By the end all 3 starters were on IR. His CB's were a roller coaster all year. Alexander and Jackson were rookies who played a lot. Made a lot of rookie mistakes. King was injured, House got injured and Williams got moved to Safety. They brought in Breeland and he didn't play much due to injury.
And speaking of Safety, by the end of the season they traded away one starting safety (Clinton-Dix). They cut another (Whitehead). And another (Brice) was injured a lot.

I do think the 2nd year with Pettine will allow the team to make a big jump at defense. The core group of players on defense will be Clark, Daniels, Martinez, Alexander, King, Williams. This should be the core that we know what we are getting.

The next group of players could have major roles on the defense and could have big time impacts if they make a jump. Lancaster, Burks, Jackson, Tony Brown.
All of these guys going into their 2nd year could make big leaps. Lowry and Adams are other guys that could make a jump. Jones if they can find a position for him.

There are some other players that might take a jump next year. But this is where they need to improve over. James Looney, Kendall Donnerson, Natrell Jamerson, Fadol Brown.
Jamerson I am really looking forward to seeing. He is fast and honestly could make a good hybrid safety. He played in a similar system at UW. He could be a hidden gem type of guy. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. Brown has some pass rush skills. Another guy to keep an eye on. Donnerson was very raw but has skills. Another year he could be a guy to watch.

To take the defense to the next level they have to do a couple of things.
First they have to find 2 pass rushers.They need a pure speed threat on the outside. I personally would love to see them add a veteran and draft one in the first round.
They also need 1-2 safety's. I think Williams could be a hybrid or a pure Safety depending on how Pettine wants to use him. They still need another one or 2 though.
Third they need the rookies and 2nd year players to take leaps going into next year. This is where the biggest jump will happen IMO. If Alexander becomes the shut down corner and Jackson becomes a much better player our CB group becomes much better. If Burks can become a starting caliber player that improves the defense a ton. If King and Adams stay healthy and improve that improves the defense. We need these guys to become our next group of good to great players!

Old School's picture

Why is our fist need on defense 2 pass rushers? We were in the Top Ten in sacks and sack percentage all year.....before our entire defensive line was on IR we were 5th or 6th.

And that's with only a small contribution from Perry. And problems keeping people covered long enough for the rush to reach home.

We have problems putting 5 guys in the secondary who can cover and tackle. We have a little problem stopping the run as well, finishing 22nd in yards/rush. Why isn't get help on that more important than some guy who can improve our pass rush from 7th to 3rd?

RCPackerFan's picture

We need 2 OLB's because Mathews likely will be gone. Perry could be gone. That would leave Fackrell, Gilbert, Donnerson.
Yeah, Fackrell had a good year, but do we really want to put the faith of our OLB's in the hands of Fackrell? I sure as hell don't.

And if we are going to upgrade the position, why not really, truly upgrade it.

Yes, we were 6th in the league in total sacks. But the pressure wasn't consistent and most of the sacks were based on scheme and design, rather then players abilities to win.
Give Pettine a couple of actual pass rushers and he may not have to blitz everyone to get pressure. Also if offenses have to shift attention to stop 1 or 2 pass rushers, that will open up holes for others to get to the QB.
They need to add a balanced attack. That is adding 2 pass rushers. One on each side.

We also have to add Safety's. Adding a better pass rush will help the secondary out too.

Coldworld's picture

And we need some base rush from the outside. Look how many of our sacks were from the secondary and look how few pressures Fackrell had. Sacks are only part of the story. Play disruption was noticeably absent unless from the center or a blitz. When one blitzes one inherently weakens coverage.

I’d be happy if both our top picks were OLBs even if Perry is still around unless we pick up a credible FA beforehand, in which case Safety or O lineman as the second pick unless there is a stellar drop by a superior talent,

RCPackerFan's picture

Ultimately I would love to see them sign a better FA and use the first round pick on one. And then maybe add another in rounds 3-5. If it were me and they don't keep Mathews or Perry, then adding 3 higher skilled players to the position this offseason would be really good.

I don't think we need to use our 2 first round picks or a first round and 2nd round pick on OLB's. But if there are a couple that are worthy of it, i'm not opposed to it either.
I just want to add 2 quality players to the position and maybe another that has abilities that could develop.

stockholder's picture

I don't feel they need two OLBs or draft a one Trick Pony. I do feel we need to draft two players on defense. The problem is Wilkerson, and more then likely CM3. Perry will not get cut. If the packers want Comp picks they play it smart. Honor contracts. Sign CM3 somehow. He is your 1 trick pony and he's played everywhere. . Even Franchise him for 1 year? Why? - Comp Picks. Depth for 1 year. Go sign Smith. You then can trade down or try for Oliver. But the trading just got easier because of SMITH Wash.

RCPackerFan's picture

This is all dependent on what they do in FA.
If they keep Perry and/or Mathews then no. They won't need to draft 2.
If they let both go, then I honestly draft 2. They need to improve the depth.

Also this is dependent on how the draft goes. OLB is one of the strengths of the draft. If they are the best players at the spots they are drafting then take them!

Honestly I don't think Gutekunst is worried about the comp picks. Not like Thompson was. I think he wants to be more aggressive in FA.

Minniman's picture

A side comment to this Old School.

I hate how sacks are never contextualized.

I don't think that the pass rush was as good as the numbers suggested. Anecdotally, last year I saw a lot of intact pockets that the Packers couldn't squash or breech when they really needed to.

By that I mean Fackrell's 3 sack game was against the Bills - with the 30th ranked run and 23rd ranked pass protecting o-line - in the last quarter when the game was all but won.

..... Conversely, Matthews had 2 that would now be considered legal and would have ended those respective games, but these faded once the inside pressure was stifled due to injured d-linemen.

Nick Perry's picture

Pettine is a master at scheming pressure but he NEEDS edge rushers. Right now the Packers have Perry under contract but how many times has Nick Perry ever played 16 or even 15 games? IF Matthews comes back what are you getting with him? Frackrell had 10 sacks but very few pressures and/or QB hits. Plus he had 6 sacks in 2 games and 4 in the 14 others. Can you really count on him again? Then there's Donnerson, a 7th rounder from last season who hasn't showed anything yet.

SO...The Packers have Perry, Frackrell, and Donnerson under contract right now for 2019They NEED edge rushers friend.

sam1's picture

Hopefully we just get well rounded football players at needed positions and bring back Breeland and I think as a situational player for friendly contract bring back Matthews, still has a good motor and smart fb mind!

Lare's picture

The Packers defense was 20th overall in the NFL last year in the first year of the scheme and with most of their starters injured and/or on IR. That they could be a leading team in sacks with very little at OLB & Edge gives me confidence in Pettine's coaching abilities.

I'd like to see what they can do with players staying relatively healthy. Any new additions in FA and the draft would be icing on the cake.

CAG123's picture

I remember during the healthier part of the season this def was top 5 in pass def and was the best 4th quarter defense in the league. I see good things for this unit with more talented pieces and I really feel like Earl Thomas could really round things out he’s a guy that’s seen it all and still plays at a high level.

Skip greenBayless's picture

The key word is "healthier". The key to the entire Packers season rests on Chris Gizzi. Talk about pressure.

Dash

Old School's picture

I think we could keep our defense healthier by keeping it off the field more. Also, about 70% of our special teams are defensive guys, so we should quit returning punts and kicks whenever possible.

Those two changes, all by themselves, would give us better health on defense.

Coldworld's picture

I don’t recall that a significant number of our injuries came from return plays. As to your comment on keeping the D off the field, I go back to the OLB position need.

Disruption by the D plays a big part in getting the D off the field. It is not all on the offense.

Finally, I am puzzled by the change in the S & C. How much change is it really? Was this even related to football decisions? It looks to me like a change more rooted in a non football cause, shifting responsibility rather than approach. I’m surprised this hasn’t prompted discussion.

Jonathan Spader's picture

It was Luke Getsy's idea to promote Gizzy. I don't see it actually changing that much. For as much as people called MM's offense stale the Packers have done a lot to try and minimize injuries. MM had them start wearing GPS to track their workouts.

Nagler's interview with Poppinga about S&C talked about coaches and players pushing themselves over their limits. The S&C staff is just trying to limit injuries. Football is a violent game there will be injuries. Injuries also compound. Nick Perry has had chronic injuries with his hand his whole career possibly due to the power that got him a 1st round draft pick.

If players rest up to prevent themselves from fatiguing fans say they are lazy and take plays off. If they push themselves to the brink and injure themselves fans call them China dolls. The Packer players started doing yoga to minimize hamstring injuries. A lot of steps have been taken but injuries always have been a part of football. Even with all of the rule changes for player safety. Which fans complain is ruining the game.

splitpea1's picture

Yes, let's let the kicking team down the ball at the 1-yard line. That'll make things a whole lot easier for our offense. Give it up, man.

PAPackerbacker's picture

Pettine did a great job with what he had to work with. Injuries were the biggest issue that kept the Packers from being a higher ranked defense. Can the Packers remain healthy? That will determine how well they do or don't do next season. The talent it there. When there were healthy players on the field the Packers were a formidable and successful defensive unit. Unfortunately, it wasn't often enough because of all the injuries.

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