Cory's Corner: Defense Must Halt McCaffrey

All of a sudden the Packers have a toughness problem to go along with their tackling problem. 

The defense that looked so indestructible early on in wins over the Bears and Vikings now has a soft gooey center.

Green Bay gave up 159 yards rushing to a mediocre Chargers team last week and the Packers rank 31st in yards per play in the last six games.

It's not exactly a great time to see Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who is in the conversation for MVP because he leads the NFL in all-purpose yards and is second in the NFL in rushing.

"Has great vision, he's always moving forward," said Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. "For a guy that's relatively slight, he runs upright. He does take some hits, but he ends up breaking tackles, bouncing off guys."

And that's what is most concering about McCaffrey. He can hit the home run at any given moment as he is tied for fifth with 20 rushes of at least 10 yards. To make matters worse, he's only been stuffed 16 times in 165 carries.

"When he sees it, he goes and that's one of the reasons why he's hit some of the big runs that he's hit Pettine said.

Naturally, McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare because he leaves linebackers in the dust and has zoomed past plenty of unsuspecting defensive backs already this year. In his third season, McCaffrey has taken a huge jump from his sophomore rise that saw him average 68 rushing yards a game. He is averaging 110 yards this year with similar receiving targets.

At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, it's easy to find comparisons to Lions legend Barry Sanders. But McCaffrey also has a mean streak, and he isn't afraid to lay down his shoulder to prospective tacklers. His patience is easy to miss because after he waits a beat for things to develop, he quickly floors it and is gone.

In order to match McCaffrey's playmaking ability, Pettine should have safety Darnell Savage shadow him. He's arguably one of the fastest players on defense and will keep McCaffrey's long runs limited.

The Packers cannot afford a loss before the bye with the unbeaten 49ers looming. And in order for Green Bay to stay in the upper crust of NFC teams, the Packers cannot afford to have McCaffrey change direction and see daylight.

If Green Bay can keep C-Mac from cranking up the RPMs, the Packers will easily beat the Panthers and get a rest as a reward. 

 

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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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Comments (13)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 09, 2019 at 07:11 am

McCaffrey does run very upright. He also makes tacklers miss. OC Paradis (down year), OG Trai Turner and OG Greg Van Roten are just so-so. Clark needs to feast, Lowry and Lancaster should be solid. We need to see if Montravius Adams is just taking up a roster spot. Keep giving Keke 10 snaps so he isn't a rookie next year.

Pettine is usually pretty good against young QBs. Allen's sack rate is much higher than Newton's was, which probably means Allen is not as adept at moving in the pocket and perhaps has some recognition issues.

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Guam's picture

November 09, 2019 at 08:12 am

I wish I was as confident as you are about our defensive tackles. Lowery and Lancaster have been pretty so-so lately too. I think it was Lowery that had a stat line of all zeros last week - no tackles, no sacks and no assists. Both need to step up their games significantly.

For all of the pre-season chatter about Adams being the most improved player, he has been a major disappointment. I agree that if he does not change quickly he is not with the team next year. We might be better force feeding snaps to Keke at this point so he is ready for next year.

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PeteK's picture

November 09, 2019 at 07:40 am

I would rather have Amos shadow him because he's a better tackler and more experienced. Allen has a 60% completion rate, 9 TDs, and 4 INTs. If we're worth anything as a defense , a QB like that cannot beat us.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 09, 2019 at 09:08 am

" If we're worth anything as a defense , a QB like that cannot beat us."

I'm sure every other team that he has beaten believed the same thing right up to the last seconds of their impending loss and again in the locker room with heads hanging low.

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Lphill's picture

November 09, 2019 at 08:21 am

They are not a passing threat , play man coverage and keep both safeties in the box it’s the only way.

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2019 at 08:51 am

Except for a loss to the 49ers the Panthers schedule has been fairly weak so far. If the Packers come out to play they should be able to defeat the Panthers at home. As for McCaffrey I would use Burks to follow him new the LOS. When he goes out for a pass I would put a DB on him, possibly Savage or Twill or Campbell. Also we should do whatever we need to do to maintain pressure on the QB. Pettine needs to throw some new looks at this kid. Most importantly our tackling needs to improve. We started out the season with improved tackling but that has gone down hill over the last 3-4 weeks.

On offense we should ground and pound them and then use play action with quick passes to move the sticks. MLF needs to run plays that put the OL in a position to succeed. After last week we need to get into a rhythm on offense and play with a lead. I usually don't mind to defer the KO at home, however this week I would take the ball and drive downfield and take the lead. That would put some pressure on the young QB right away. We're playing at home, in the cold with a relatively healthy team (although I'm concerned about Amos' hamstring), no excuses. Let's see how MLF gets our team back on track. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Johnblood27's picture

November 09, 2019 at 09:18 am

Who is this Burks you speak of? Is he on a football team? I haven't seen him.

Twill on cmc is a Packer death song. Just too slow. Savage better show up.

i recommend lots of run blitzes...block the lanes on their side of the ball on the way to the qb. attack this offense.

on offense, get the OL firing off early and often. run to win.

time for a bye week come to Jesus with Meninga. Get a plan and execute it for improvement or GET GONE!

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mrtundra's picture

November 09, 2019 at 09:23 am

Let's see if Martinez can stop McCaffrey behind the line of scrimmage. Martinez knows McCaffrey better than anyone. Both played their college football at Stanford. Let's see if Martinez can shake off his critics and the comparisons to A.J. Hawk, and have a solid game vs McCaffrey tomorrow.

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albert999's picture

November 09, 2019 at 09:29 am

Green Bay ranked 31st in yards-per-play allowed since Week 4 despite excellent health,
Not good

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Turophile's picture

November 09, 2019 at 10:12 am

A better defensive scheme is needed. More variation in the formations, ie less dime defense on early downs, more mixing it up. If you start giving up 5 yds on first down regularly, you will be unable to stop the opposing offense, especially when they have a stud RB.

That lesson should have been learned against the Chargers with a lesser running back than McCaffrey, who isn't that big but has the excellent contact balance to ride tackles and keep going, if they aren't good form tackles.

Once you have greater formation variety, and with some disguise, you have some snaps (especially on early downs) with more guys in the box who can fill those gaps and prevent easy gains in the run game. I'm not advocating regular heavy 8 man boxes, but less dime defense, and more nickel or ordinary defense (4 DBs).

The downside is that it puts more pressure in the DBs, but the Packers have spent big on DBs for years, so put a bit more responsibility on them.

Thegreatreynoldo also made a good point in a post above this about a backup and fairly inexperienced QB being more easy to fool with various packages that make it unclear where the pressure is coming from or overload their O line with pressure on one side.

PS. After typing this comment I went to watch Naglers Friday broadcast. In the second half of his podcast he is saying exactly the same as I am about more in the box, especially on early downs.

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albert999's picture

November 09, 2019 at 10:03 am

Pettine became complacent

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 09, 2019 at 03:48 pm

GB vs. LAC (Per Ben Fennell)

1 ILB = 27 carries for 146 yards, 5.41 yd. average.
2 ILB = 11 carries for 13 yards, 1.18 yd. average.

GB played 1.28 Traditional ILBs per play against LAC. Martinez 70, Goodson 13, Burks 8 for a total of 91 snaps on 71 plays. So, two traditional ILBs were on the field for just 20 snaps. And apparently LAC didn't have a run called or audibled to a pass on those 9 plays.

I am not sure about how many times GB played a safety next to Martinez during the game or if Fennell is counting a safety as an "ILB" but I think he is.

GB played a 5 DBs per play. Savage and Amos played every snap at safety. GB played CBs 234 snaps (3.30 CBs per play). CBs are defined as King, Brown, Jaire, Tramon, Sullivan and Redmond. If GB played nickel on every play, that would leave 21 potential snaps to move a CB to hybrid ILb. That would mean there was Martinez and a Trad. ILB or a hybrid playing on 40 plays, and 31 plays with just Martinez (and it looks like LAC ran almost every time - 27 of 31 plays - they saw Martinez alone out there). Probably GB didn't play nickel every play. OTOH, GB probably played a handful of snaps in dime.

So the conundrum is that playing 2 ILBs helps stop the run, but Martinez and Goodson can't cover CMC. Not much evidence that Burks or Redmond can either. Playing a lot of zone helps the DBs come up more quickly to limit gains on passes to CMC, but GB isn't that great at playing zones.

I'd vote to use more Goodson or Burks. Hope that any explosive plays don't result in TDs and GB can try to limit Carolina to FGs instead of TDs in the red zone. It means GB has to score in the mid-twenties at least to win.

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flackcatcher's picture

November 10, 2019 at 12:47 am

TGR, I think do not Fennell really cares about defensive formations in his 'analysis' of players. He is all about the individual performance, not how that player affected this team or teammates play. To me, that has been a major flaw since day one of him doing his bits online. Kind of hard to take him seriously, when he clearly does not understand how the role of LB and SS has clearly changed in Pettine's defensive system. And what Pettine is doing is clearly in line with every DC is doing with 5 DB in the secondary as standard. Your far more polite about this than I...

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