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Cory's Corner: Dom Capers isn't going anywhere

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Cory's Corner: Dom Capers isn't going anywhere

I’m hearing it again.

Training camp is still 16 days away and there is chatter about Dom Capers being on the hot seat.

Is that even possible?

Capers was forced to use third and fourth stringers for much of last year. And in the NFC Championship Game it was no surprise that those backups got torched.

Capes proved his ingenuity last season by making due with what he had. Clay Matthews didn’t play like the dynamic linebacker he’s paid to be and No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields went down with what will likely be a career-ending concussion in Week 1.

But there’s also another reason why Capers cannot be let go while this team is still on an upswing. And that’s the time and effort it would take to transition back to the 4-3.

Obviously there’s a chance that the next defensive coordinator could still employ the 3-4, but the odds say no. And that means that the Packers won’t be ready up front to make the change. You could make an argument that they don’t have enough bodies to play up front now. But the difference is the roles. Linebackers are expected to be the stars of the 3-4, attacking and making plays. While in a 4-3, defensive linemen have to become more of the focal point.

Now that doesn’t mean Capers won’t be stressed. General manager Ted Thompson has earmarked seven of the first eight draft picks in the last two seasons to defense. This year, he used the first four picks on defense.

Now we will say how the pieces get used. Can Kevin King be a No. 1 cornerback? Will Josh Jones’ versatility be exposed at the pro level? Can Vince Biegel avoid the stinging injury bug that has plagued him?

Capers is still here because he didn’t have enough weapons last year combined with his enterprising style within the framework of the 3-4.

Obviously Capers isn’t on the hot seat right now. Rebooting the entire defense wouldn’t make much sense when the offense is loaded with weapons and optimism.

While I think some of Capers’ moves have been questionable, I also think that stability is of the utmost importance when talking about preserving a winning culture. Coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t been perfect in his 11 years as coach. But it’s more important to preserve what the Packers have rather than gambling that what the Packers may get will be better.

Capers needs to operate the defense with all of the exotic formations and blitzes that he usually does. The easy answer as to why the Falcons rolled up 493 of total yards last January was because of LaDarius Gunter. Granted, he got burned plenty, but the main reason the Packers gave up chunk yardage was because they couldn’t develop a consistent pass rush and get Matt Ryan off his spot.

Capers has heard criticism before, but the worst thing he can do now is to go into his shell and get conservative. One of the reasons he’s Dom Capers is because he can think of things like the NASCAR package.

As Capers enters his ninth season manning the controls of the Packers’ defense, he will continue to be the defensive coordinator until he refuses to change or until Green Bay’s fruitful winning ways dry up. 


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 (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Handsback's picture

I met Capers once (he sat behind me at a UT football game) and just talking him was like talking to a professor of defense. Now in reality if I talked to any defensive coordinator they would probably impress me, but Capers has done a lot with little. I say this not as a slam to TT, but in the real world where player that get selected in draft...many just don't perform to your expectations. Hence, TT goes back to the drawing board for more bodies.

This year will prove to be the key that unleashes a dominating defense. Why, you might ask? Thanks for asking, I'll tell you why, talent. Previous years LOFT caught up to the Packers "D" in the form of injuries and with their depth being so thin...they weren't able to compensate. This year I see depth all over the board on defense including OLB, and ILB. These are young players that are providing that depth which means even the Packers, which have injuries that seem to gut the team every year, can field impact players over the course of a year. I know many hate Capers, and will say we need greater depth at OLB and ILB and that the league has caught up to Capers. I don't think so and of course that's MHO. I think this year is the pivot point where we will say the Packer's D turned it around and became a wrecking ball in the league.

Nick Perry's picture

"I think this year is the pivot point where we will say the Packer's D turned it around and became a wrecking ball in the league."

If the Packers defense is described as a "Wrecking Ball" at any point this year, especially at the end of the season, it will be time to start making room for our 5th SB Trophy in the Trophy Case.

The TKstinator's picture

You make a lot of good points, but if I rank the least important position on defense, ILB is right up there, especially if we're talking first down, 3-4 alignment. Problem with defensive weaknesses is that an offense can target and exploit. But I'd say if a defense has to have a weakness, I'd rather be weak at ILB than corner, OLB, D-Line, or safety.
(And yes, it would be nice not to have a weakness at all.)

Nick Perry's picture

"but the main reason the Packers gave up chunk yardage was because they couldn’t develop a consistent pass rush and get Matt Ryan off his spot."

Yet the Packers really didn't do much to address the issue. Instead Packers fans are "Hoping" again. We're all hoping Elliott and Frackrell can be better than Peppers and Jones were last season or at the very least not have any drop off. We're hoping Matthews poor play is nothing but injury related and he's able to resemble the 2014 Matthews opposed to the Matthews we've watched the last 2 seasons. Last but not least we're hoping Biegel is able to come in and contribute more than a 4th round draft pick is expected to. Not being able to participate isn't helping him either. Hopefully he doesn't miss much of TC because he'll need all the time he can get. These first 5 weeks of the season could go a long ways in where the Packers in deciding where the Packers play in January.

BPEARSON21's picture

Nick Perry I couldn't agree more! It's so disappointing knowing all we have for our defense this year, is hope for a miracle. Hoping that somehow our defense can somehow manage to be at least average. Isn't that so disheartening?

I was never one to think we should fire Capers. I do believe a lot of the defensive down falls rests on our lack of personnel (which is TT fault). Our defensive personnel is just awful. We're talking about needing good years out of players like Jayrone Elliot, Kyle Fackrell and a handful of rookies... in other words "who"..? I agree that it's difficult to fix a defensive problem over night but that just feeds my point further... we are racing the clock at this point. When Rodgers is past his prime or (heaven forbid) get's injured what are we then? We don't have time.

I know it's against everything TT believes in but when you're racing the clock sometimes you need to alter your path. Changing a defense takes time, but the process could've been expedited a hell of a lot more had we signed a few proven defenders in the off-season (Prince Amukamara, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, Stephon Gilmore, hell we could've even traded for Richard Sherman). Had we added 2 impact/proven vets like I just mentioned, we could BANK on our defense being AT LEAST average. Now we are back to simply "hoping" young unproven players can somehow lead us to a top 20 defense.

Our personnel defensively is unbelievably average. We can hope all we want, but guys like Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas, Quinten Rollins, Damarius Randall, Kyle Fackrell, Ladarius Gunter, Dean Lowry, Davon House, Kentrell Brice ect.. are never going to be impact NFL players. They're just bodies.

The packers are a play off team, but we can never expect the names listed above to beat championship contending teams in the play offs.

I don't think it's Capers fault at all. But who else is tired of "hoping"?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Calais Campbell, age 30: $15M AAV, $30M guaranteed
AJ Bouye: $13.5M AAV, $26M guaranteed
Gilmore: $13M AAV, $40M guaranteed
Prince Amakamura: 1 yr, $7M

I have some sympathy for your general position. The current MO should ensure continued nice success, but to get to the SB we will need at least a couple of things to go well: find a 2nd decent CB, find a decent 3rd OLB, find a 2nd defensive lineman with some juice and is decent against the run, plus no devastating injuries to AR, Nelson, Perry, Daniels. I can think of several others I'd like to be injury free, but at least in those cases I can think of a possible replacement. I think House will be at least an adequate CB. I believe Randall/Jones will likely be an upgrade over Hyde.

Campbell's contract is essentially 2 yrs, $30M, but all $15M on the 2nd year (2018) is guaranteed money. That would severely impinge on our ability to re-sign Adams, Linsley and Taylor in 2018. That means it has to work since it is a bit of a roll of the dice. But sure, the sound of Campbell, Clark and Daniels in the 3-4 and 2 of the three rotating when we are in nickel does sound enticing.

Bouye is a half season, or two thirds of a season, wonder. Prior to last year he was not good and was injury prone. I wouldn't touch that contract.

Gilmore was pretty solid for several years, and blossomed last season. He'd be a good-sized commitment, but the $40M guaranteed gives me pause, as does the not team friendly contract structure.

Prince Amakamura: I think House will be just as good.

croatpackfan's picture

Hey, Nick. With all respect to you opinion, I still prefere to "hope" that players coached by Packers coaches will improve. I would hate to HOPE that some old expensive FA will keep his level of performance or to HOPE that his overused body will hold whole season w/o injury, or to HOPE that he will not occupy position on 53 that might be filled with young ascending player like Fackrell or Elliot or Gilbert. Also, I would hate to hope that Packers will not released that young player because of old, washed "star of PREVIOUS seasons". And I would hate to HOPE that mentioned, released young player will not play for competitor and will not injure Aaron by sack that accidentally went wrong...

Fans has have never ever anything else than HOPE. It does not matter if you have old, washed expensive roster or young, promising and home developed roster. We only have HOPE...

EddieLeeIvory's picture

Good points NP.
Besides hoping Clay can turn back the clock (remember he and BJ Raji were the 2009 Draft Class together & Raji already is long gone), besides hoping Fackrell & Jayrone can both blossom into playmakers, and hoping the fragile, brittle-footed Vince Biegel can both stay healthy & be a rare immediate 4th round difference-maker, don't forget this:
Nick Perry durability questions. He was very good last year. But expecting him to last a season injury-free is a pipe-dream.

So we will really NEED the #3-5 OLB's to blossom, barring the miracle of both USC guys staying healthy all season.
We just need to be healthy at the right time: January & 1 week in February.

The TKstinator's picture

Welcome to draft and develop, amigo!

Spock's picture

MM is loyal (sometimes to a fault see: Slocum) to his coaches and players. I agree that Capers isn't going anywhere. TT's drafting has been less than stellar on defense with the caveat that I believe this year he got it right. I will continue to be optimistic about the defense this year and 'hope' that I'm right. I like what I see so far; the absolute gutting of the CB group last year due to injuries was devastating. If this years unit can remain relatively healthy I have high expectations for a big turn around for the defense and the offense (with the two tight ends) has me giddy with anticipation for just how good this team could be. Let the games begin!

Bearmeat's picture

Preach NP!

We are all "hoping" the OLB situation is better this year. The CB situation will progress simply because of the unlikely amount of injuries to one position group not being repeated. Also, because of the draft and House being brought in.

The defense was a hot mess last year. You can't fix hot mess in one year. So TT chose to fix coverage and hope pass rush stays the same or marginally improves. I personally think they should have held on to Peppers and gotten another FA such as Barwin in addition to Biegel. As it is, we're left hoping for the "jump" that almost never occurs with our defensive players. Daniels, Bishop (although that took years), Collins, Tramon, Harris (all took years).

Who can we hope will make that jump this year? Who's primed to make an impact? Clark? Sure. Perry if he stays healthy (a BIG if). Josh Jones? Mayyybe. King? Doubtful in year 1.

So we're left hoping Daniels can continue to Beast. That CM3 gets back on whatever he was on before he got his big deal in 2013. That Perry stays healthy and HHCD turns into the all pro he's shown flashes of. Oh, and the young OLBs are contributors and not liabilities (like they've been for years).

Lots of hope. Not much reasoning. :(

TheVOR's picture

Dudes, wouldn't be so sure about that, lets say they have a monster year and the defense collapses again? Somebodies head will roll, be it Capers or Thompson

jeremyjjbrown's picture

The defense collapsing is not a hypothetical. It's the reality since 2010.

lambeau66's picture


Packer Hank's picture

Why do we continue to stick with Capers when it is known across the league how complicated his defensive scheme is and how it takes years to know it and yet the Packers' philosophy is to stay extremely young (and thereby inexperienced)? These seem to not mesh. I understand that at times Capers D looks great, but that has usually been against inferior teams. If we are concerned about injuries and how the backups would fill in, then I again submit my question of why we should stick with a 'complicated' defensive scheme?

croatpackfan's picture

Maybe he is known across the league as one of the best DC minds...

I would like to see you how you'll perform on your job with no tools, or no right tools. And that lack of tools is not because you did not take adequate tools, but just because the tools were unavailable to you!

pacman's picture

Pre-season hasn't even started and you're already trying to get my blood pressure up?

We had the players to win a SB. We were only a few plays away. Coaching failed us. The Board of Directors have failed us. I think they listened to Vic Ketchman too much - "players not schemes".

What are the odds that CM3 makes it through the year healthy? Will TM be a good RB? Will the new free agents work out? Will any 2nd year guys step up? Except for AR and WR's, it's almost a new team.

BUT - at least we have the same coaches!

See y'all when season starts.

pacman's picture

I should have said "make it to the SB"

jeremyjjbrown's picture

It's obvious that Capers isn't going anywhere. That said I'm not ready to give him credit for mostly faling to deal with the lack of development of 2 high picks at CB. Randall and Rollins play in his defense. If they suck he's at least partially accountable for their lack of development. The true story to me is that Capers mostly failed to deal with the fact that his staff failed to develop Rollins and Randell to play in his system. In most places that gets you fired. He's lucky to be in Green Bay.

Turophile's picture

(quote from Cory) "Capers needs to operate the defense with all of the exotic formations and blitzes that he usually does."

One thing that I have believed for a long time is that the better the players on the field (in this case, the defense), the more vanilla that unit can afford to be. When this is the case your players simply out-execute the offense - it doesn't matter if they have an idea what is coming, they still have to beat it.

Packers did that on offense with the Power Sweep in Lombardi's time. Defenses knew what was coming but it was hard to stop.

The opposite is also true, the weaker your unit (or perhaps the more injured it is), the more creative you have to be to win your share of battles. Capers is not my favourite coordinator, but he did have to play with a poor hand last year.

Exotic packages suggest difficulty in winning the contested situations, so I'm rooting for (comparative) blandness of scheme, because it means our guys are out-executing theirs.

This isn't the be-all-and-end-all of scheme, there is still plenty of value in keeping the offense guessing, but well executed 'blandness' of scheme can (counter-intuitively) be pretty great to watch.

Since '61's picture

I don't think that Capers is on the hot seat yet. Although I do believe that this is an important year for him and the defense to show some improvement/consistency over last year. The biggest area of improvement needs to come on third downs. This defense must do a better job of getting off the field, especially in 3rd and long situations. We need to close down the middle of the field which is usually a practice area for opposing QBs and their receivers. Plus we need a better pass rush and better pass coverage. My concern is that our defense really only has 2 complete players, Daniels and Clinton Dix. All the others are question marks or have a weakness which can be exploited. On the DL Clark, Lowry, Francois, Ringo, and M. Adams are all unknown quantities but hopefully Francois will help against the run game. OLBs; Perry when he is not injured is inconsistent. He has one game where his presence is felt and then disappears the next game. CM3, can he stay healthy for the season and where is he playing? Elliott and Fackrell may or may not take a step up. ILBs, Ryan and Martinez are serviceable against the run but not much help in pass coverage, Joe Thomas too inconsistent to depend on. After that, who knows? Our CBs have been discussed endlessly and our best hope is that King can emerge quickly and combine with House to form a decent boundary tandem. Safety looks good with Dix, Burnett, Jones and Brice, but there is only so much they can do. Can Capers mold this group into a solid defense? It's too early to tell, but we'll have a good measuring stick when they go to Atlanta in Week 2 of the season. If they get run out of the building again we'll know that we're in for a long season of holding our breath whenever the defense is on the field and if so, maybe the last season for Capers. Thanks, Since '61

lambeauguy's picture

Yup, that's right. Capers had to deal with injuries last year...which is unheard of in the NFL.

Of the 11 starters to open the season on defense only 10 were available in the, what has become a firm Packers tradition, abomination of a defensive performance in Atlanta.

Come on! Try and name a defensive coordinator that can have any success with only 10 of his preferred defensive starters on the field! Can't be done!

croatpackfan's picture

From that 10, 7 were played seriously injured or were injured during 1 Q of that game... Tell me the name of DC who was dealing with that number of injury through CG and win...

Come on...

lambeauguy's picture

But it wasn't just that game... Pass defense looked pretty clueless against Blake Bortles even before Shields went out of the game.

Second game in Minnesota Stephan Diggs looked like the second coming of Randy Moss and had his best game of season (career?). Capers had a pre-injury Randall running single coverage on Diggs even though it was clear Randall had no clue what he was doing.

What about prior years. Capers single handed made Kaepernick a rich man by having his team completely unprepared to play against a run-option offense. Does a great D-Coordinator do that? McCarthy even had to bring in college coaches in the off-season to tutor Capers on how to defend the read-option.

What about regular season finale in 2012 vs Vikings. Packers D plays entire game with very poor gap discipline and Peterson runs wild for 199 yards in 37-34 loss. One week later, the exact same Packers players hold the very same Peterson to 99 yards. Does a great defensive coordinator really go into a game against Adrian Peterson with his team not prepared to ensure gaps/cutback lanes are covered? Does it take a great DC a week off to make adjustments?

These are just a few examples out of 6 years of mediocre defense since the 2010 season. Is Capers the worst defensive coordinator in the league? No, but since 2010 he has done precious little to earn the distinction of being the longest serving defensive coordinator in the league.

Lphill's picture

With the Packers offense they don't need the number 1 defense to win it all , a defense in the top 10 would be enough to get the job done. I too used to blame Capers for the defensive struggles but I have come to realize he can only play the cards he was dealt.

vkpolidora's picture

How many years does Ted get? (and I'm not recommending FA). He has too many misses on selecting defensive players. It's clear - with no pressure on the QB, there is not a secondary that can cover. How many DB/S has he drafted vs the number of edge rusher? How many years have we been knocked out of the playoffs when the D can't get to the QB or simply run over late in games? How bad would the Packers be if AaRod had not fallen into Ted's lap.
Really, would the Packers be a playoff team with Rogers? Time for Ted to Go!

Chris Vachio's picture

The thing is, our defense doesn't HAVE to be great. We don't need a top 5 defense or even a top 10. There isn't a defense in the league that we can't hang 24 points on if Rodgers and company are even halfway clicking. So if our defense is merely good enough to hold the other team to 21 or less, we're golden.

Pack12's picture

Fans always want to fire the coach and don't focus too much on the talent on the field. You can draw up all the defensive schemes you want but if the players cannot execute because of a lack of talent it will not do any good. Dom Capers is one of the most innovative defensive minds in the NFL. It's about players not plays.

marcopo's picture

Why does everyone talk of a base 3-4 defense, when 80% of the snaps are nickel and dime? It comes down to Belichick's mantra about everyone doing their jobs. As the season starts the Pack has some exciting promise at key positions. Brice's role, repaired secondary. It'll work fine absent key injuries and the sparsity of blue chippers.

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