Cory's Corner: Dom Capers isn't the problem

Whenever the Packers show the faintest sign of tough times, the same tired script comes out.

“Fire Dom Capers.”

Which is why I was very surprised that those chants bubbled to the surface yet again following the Falcons’ heartbreaking one-point win. The Packers were down to their No. 4 and 5 cornerbacks and no Clay Matthews — yet they kept it a lot closer than most people thought going in.

Green Bay is 4-3 and the only reason it still has a playoff heartbeat is because of the defense. Nick Perry leads the team with 5½ sacks and the ageless wonder Julius Peppers has 3½ sacks in limited action. To be fair, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has regressed in his third season with only one pass defended but the combination of Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan are the glue that has kept this defense together.

Coming into this season, Capers had to be excited for what this defense could provide. One of the better secondaries he’s ever coached, budding linebackers and a rookie nose tackle with plenty of promise.

But then the bottom dropped out. Sam Shields suffered a concussion in Week 1 and, let’s face it, he’s not coming back. Follow that with Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins injuries and Capers didn’t have a lot to celebrate.

But despite all those things, the defense is still No. 1 in rushing defense. That’s pretty impressive. And when the weather turns at the end of the month, that rushing defense is what will tip the scales in Green Bay’s favor.

Capers isn’t liked because it’s easy. The defense got torched by Matt Ryan in Atlanta and everyone wants to wield a pitchfork. But what is missed is that Capers doesn’t have the horses. He was outmanned in Atlanta, and frankly, he’s been outmanned for most of the season.

At least against the Colts, Capers will have a better pass rush for two reasons. One, because Matthews’ never-ending and questionable hamstring injury is subsiding and two, the Colts’ offensive line is pretty awful.

But if Andrew Luck is able to get a sliver of time to carve up the Packers’ secondary, he likely will.

The Packers have plenty of problems this year. The running back position has been iffy at best, Aaron Rodgers has shown problems with even the simplest of throws and Jared Cook is still waiting to have his ‘Welcome to Green Bay’ moment.

But Capers’ defense isn’t one of those setbacks. 

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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 (26)

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Bearmeat's picture

November 05, 2016 at 07:05 am

Capers will get the numbers out of his defense that are there. If his defense is solid in the back end solid up front, he will take risks, get sacks, get stops, get turnovers.

If he is worried at all about giving up explosive pass plays, he'll stay conservative and hope for a stop.

He's a good DC. He's not a HOF DC.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 05, 2016 at 07:27 am

Well I think Dom Capers is HOF DC, not good DC...
There is no cook in the world who can make pork steak from poultry, not to mention beef steak.
Also, I found out that whatever MM or DC do, if outcome of the game is loss, there is people who claims if they do different Packers would win.
I say, if they went opposite to what they did, packers will suffer ugly, ugly loss. Well, I'm open for Capers haters arguments to beat my claim down!

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Since '61's picture

November 05, 2016 at 02:43 pm

Caper's chances of making the NFL HOF are about as good as his defense's chance of making a stop and preserving a lead late in the 4th quarter of a game. See my post below for a brief chronology of his playoff failures. To go through his regular season debacles would require a separate blog dedicated to his defensive collapses. Thanks, Since '61

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pacman's picture

November 05, 2016 at 09:41 pm

It's when they show the inability to change and adjust that they get blasted. Does anybody want to see a rush 3 on 4th and long again in their lifetime? Or does anybody want to see a call to run the ball up the middle when it hasn't been working all game?

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carusotrap's picture

November 05, 2016 at 07:31 am

Look, can we all simply admit that Ted Thompson is the problem? Ted's philosophy works 80% of the time, and works well. But this season has shown two things: there has to be a real plan for the other 20% and Ted doesn't believe there IS an "other 20%."

Dom can do some maddening things -- turtle mode with a lead going into the 3rd is at the top of that list -- but even the most vocal Dom hater has to admit, his defense has done more with less than any other team. The question is why do we always have "less"?

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ES 1957's picture

November 05, 2016 at 08:42 am

You couldn't be more wrong. Thompson is an "elite" GM. The drafts and roster moves he makes give the team the chance to win every year. Over the past decade only Bellichick has consistently been better. In the past 5 years you would have to rate Schneider and Elway higher. But that is it. The wild card is always injuries. Look at Spielman. One week his team is a Super Bowl favorite and he's a genius with his drafts and daring trade for Bradford. Two OT injuries later and things are falling apart for them.

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Jersey Al's picture

November 05, 2016 at 11:49 am

So Thompson is supposed to have 8 starting caliber cornerbacks and six starting caliber running backs on the roster to be prepared for an injury plague - and do all this under the salary cap? Because surely other teams are better prepared, right? If anything, the injuries have show what quality depth this roster has.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 05, 2016 at 01:05 pm

To be fair Al, he has a point about TT in the offseason. Dude completely ignores veteran free agency. While I certainly don't want the Haynesworth style deal, there are plenty of good players out there until mid-April who are worth bringing in.

And while in season trades are very rare (or trades of any type actually) in the NFL, there can be some good players found for a decent price there too.

TT's answer for everything is the draft and UDFA's. It shouldn't be that way.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 05, 2016 at 01:14 pm

I would add its MM who often puts Capers in that position. Why do we go into Turtle mode on O at all? In the 3rd quarter or whenever we have a sizeable lead.

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GVPacker's picture

November 05, 2016 at 09:37 pm

Bad Luck, every year the Packers have a copius amount of injuries! Then add some career ending injuries to some of his blue chip defensive personnel, Nick Collins, Desmond Bishop. That sure makes things hard for Dom Capers. And having to constantly draft in the later part of the first round makes thing's even more complicated.

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Nick Perry's picture

November 05, 2016 at 08:17 am

Capers entire coaching Career has been exactly the same as it has with the Packers. He's able to turn a Defense around for his first 2 season, 3 tops and then the bottom falls out. His time in Green Bay hasn't been different. The same issue has plagued the Packers for years, opposing receivers running through the middle of the Packers Defense without a defender near them. It happened with Woodson and Williams, Shields and Williams, Shields and Randall, and now Gunter and Goodson.

The Packers Defense has improved in other areas but it SHOULD improve considering the Draft Resources spent on the Defense. Actually so many of the top picks have been spent on Defense, the Packers still don't have a TE, speed and size at the WR position, and are now forced to use a WR as a RB. I was actually really excited about this years defense, but I still had reservations.

I'm tired of the excuses made for Capers. We've had 6 straight years of "Falling Short" Defensively, if Capers wasn't missing his Top 3 Corners it would just be something else. Just like it has for the last 6 seasons. When he does get everybody back in the secondary we'll see once and for all if they can turn it around.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 05, 2016 at 01:06 pm

How much of that is Capers and how much of that is TT and his hellbent focus on youth though?

Hard to say. 2 years ago HHCD. Last year Randall. 3 years ago, Hyde. 7 years ago, it was ARod. (I'm leaving out 2010 for obvious reasons, and 2011/2012 because the D was straight up embarrassing in those years - squarely at TTs feet - not enough talent).

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Nick Perry's picture

November 06, 2016 at 05:25 am

Yup, just go back and look at the drafts of 2011 and 2012. He had 18 picks those 2 years and the few he hit on he let go. How different would this team look with Hayward or House or both? I'll go to my grave saying Thompson blew it with Hayward. He's 2nd in the NFL with 4 Interceptions and 2nd with 11 passes defensed. The Packers Top 3 Burnett (5) Gunter (4) and Rollins (4).

Just saying, a tad over $15 Million for 3 years would have been well spent $$$. Those that bring up Haywards tackling need to look at his play the last 2 seasons in Green Bay. He was one of the better tacklers in the secondary.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 05, 2016 at 08:22 am

My only problem with Capers is that he has a tendency to get ultra conservative if he starts to get beat.

Capers has done a good job considering he has been playing without his top 3 CBs for most of the season and the last game was without his top pass rusher.

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Savage57's picture

November 06, 2016 at 07:24 am

Fact: The Packers have invested significant draft capital on the defensive side of the ball. And, every team in the league loses key players for varying periods of time. You plan for it and COACH around it by making sure that your 2's and 3's aren't incapable of playing to a professional standard.

Fact: The Packers defense is glaringly prone to significant lapses in coverage, especially over the middle and short crossing routes. Communication and assignment breakdowns seem to be a recurring theme.

Fact: The Packers defense Capers uses hasn't developed a positive identity and bankable reliance. It's a series of sine-waves that produces inconsistent returns year over year. The one consistency is that in big games at crunch time it typically fails to stand up to the moment. And that is what, at least in my mind, defines a great defense and by extension, a great defensive coordinator.

All of this points to good enough, not great. The question is, is that a fireable shortcoming? It's almost like the Packers view Capers from the 'better a devil you know, than one you don't perspective'. They're sufficiently satisfied with what his units produce that they're not willing to risk a change and gamble on trying someone new for fear that the change may come up wanting.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 05, 2016 at 09:42 am

Many people scream that McCarthy needs to plan the offense to the talent of his players and yet, with injuries being the crux of the defense for many, perhaps Capers is playing a defense to the talent of the players left, unlike the offense hasn't weekly as claimed often.
My opinion is that the stars of this defense shine against the lesser and wilt against the better more than should and is easier to blame Capers than the defective tool box.

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Nick Perry's picture

November 05, 2016 at 12:31 pm

I think that's the case with 95% of the Defenses out there. There's only a few dominant Defenses out there, the Packers aren't one of them with or without Shields, Randall, and Rollins. Top 10 probably, dominant no.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

November 05, 2016 at 09:46 am

Just remember, rearrange Ernest Dominic Capers and you get:
RESPECT DOMINANCE SIR

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Since '61's picture

November 05, 2016 at 02:47 pm

Capers defense has been better this season and has played well enough to win 5 games. Then the same old issue came to raise its head once again at the end of the Falcon game. Failure to protect a lead in the 4th quarter. All things considered the defense played better than I expected against Atlanta until that final drive when the Falcons were able to march down the field, score the game winning TD and take their time about it, credit some of the failure to MM for not calling any TOs to save some time for the O to come back. Injuries or not this has happened far too often against Capers defense. 2012 Playoff game against SF eaten alive by Krapernick, on the road. 2013, playing at home and allowing SF to control the ball for over 5 minutes, run out the clock and kick the game winning FG. 2014, a healthy Packers defense commits suicide on the field and chokes on a 12 point lead with less than 4 minutes to play. Then gives up game winning TD in OT without the offense seeing the field. 2015, play well in AZ playoff game but once again fold up on first OT drive and give up game winning TD. This sorry chronology doesn't even include the number of regular season games given away (ala Atlanta) over the years that may have resulted in better playoff seeding and home field for the Packers in 2012, 2014 and 2015. We've had injuries, dropped picks (too numerous to mention), poor tackling, shanked punts resulting in our opponent having good to great field position, stupid penalties, rushing only 2 DLs, etc. Capers defense has found a way to lose every year except 2010 and A. Rodgers played lights out during the playoff run. It's always up to Rodgers and the offense to score on every possession or the defense can't get it done. With the exception of 4-5 games, 3 of which occurred this season, the Packers offense has carried this defense since 2009. They just don't make stops at critical times in a game, especially a big game. And over the years they have had an offense that is among the league leaders in scoring, first downs, TOP, etc. Plus they have a QB who usually never hurts the team with a pick. Imagine this defense playing with Favre throwing picks all over the place. Yet Capers defense finds a way to give it all back for any one or more of the litany of excuses mentioned above. I'll never give up on the team but far too often I feel like I'm just watching to see how the defense will screw up this week or this season when we get to the playoffs. Maybe we'll actually see a pass rush against the Colts this week, if not, get ready for the Andrew Luck show because that guy can flat out chuck it. Thanks, Since '61

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Tundraboy's picture

November 05, 2016 at 01:24 pm

All True. Depressing when you lay it all out. Look forward to day when we dont have to build a suicide proof offense, but that would require running up the score so we have an insurmountable lead say 30, 40 pts. Until then no lead ever feels safe.

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Since '61's picture

November 05, 2016 at 02:53 pm

Sad but true, Tundra. The offense goes on the road with no RBs, Cobb and Monty out, no TE to speak of and still puts up 32 points with D. Adams, T.Davis and Geronimo but it's OK for the defense to fold because they have injuries. SMH. Thanks, Since '61

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packerbackerjim's picture

November 05, 2016 at 12:47 pm

DL: other than Daniels, Clark potential, nothing. OLB good/great depending on CM3, ILB very promising.
CBs real good with SS, terrible without.
S great on run, putrid on pass.

DC underachieving. Poor
Scheme in 3rd and long extremely ineffective.
Can't cover the middle of the field against anyone.

Capers needs to go.

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Since '61's picture

November 05, 2016 at 02:55 pm

Should have been gone since 2013. Thanks, Since '61

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stevehj's picture

November 05, 2016 at 05:06 pm

I don't know if Capers is the problem, but I sure would love to see the Packers play defense like the Badgers. :-)

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al bundy's picture

November 05, 2016 at 11:12 pm

I blame Dom but for a very different perspective.
He can only work with the players Ted gives him. Period.
My take, our corners and safeties lack talent and have lacked talent for three years. Three years ago the Pack almost set a record for most pass yardage allowed. They were better last year but not by much and this year they are not much better.
My point, Dom either sits back and tries and makes silk purses out of pig ears or he sits down and has a little talk with Ted about lack of talent. He obviously hasnt done that so blame him.

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marpag1's picture

November 06, 2016 at 03:46 am

LOL. What a ridiculous comment. So if any defense lacks first-rate talent, it means that the coordinator has never spoken to the GM. And if the coordinator has spoken to the GM, it means that the defense will surely have first-rate talent (even when injuries hit).

Riiiiiiigggghhhht.

Oh, and if the defensive backfield was lacking talent, are you perhaps remembering that TT spent first and second round picks on Randall and Rollins? And a first on Dix before that? Think Capers might have been in on that decision?

Sometimes it's amazing what passes for "logic" around here.

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