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Cory's Corner: Give Dom Capers some credit

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Cory's Corner: Give Dom Capers some credit

Every year it seems like the most polarizing person on the Packers is Dom Capers.

The defensive coordinator is deplored for his strategy and hated for his experience. There are even “Fire Dom Capers” Facebook and Twitter accounts where fans can digitally petition the Packers’ brass to do their bidding.

But Capers has done a tremendous job so far. I realize that the Packers are only three games in, but in that time Green Bay has faced and beaten Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles. Stopping the run was a problem at times last year as the Packers allowed 11 touchdowns on the ground.

First of all, things changed with B.J. Raji. The Packers only gave the 29-year-old a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1.75 million after missing all of 2014 with a biceps injury. It didn’t take long to see how serious he was. He came to camp 10 pounds lighter and has had the best three-game stretch of his career since 2012. What also cannot be denied is that Raji is back to his original nose tackle position.

The Packers had to have Raji deliver especially with LeTroy Guion serving a three-game suspension for lunacy.

Secondly, in came Joe Thomas. The only Joe Thomas folks in the state of Wisconsin knew was the bulldozer that played for the Badgers before dominating the position in the NFL for the Browns. That was until the unheralded Joe Thomas, who is undrafted out of South Carolina State of all places, came to Green Bay.

Thomas has allowed Capers’ creative juices to flow once again. Remember things like the Psycho scheme and elephant position? Capers is great at using the personnel that he has in the best possible way.

He saw that Thomas could be used as an inside linebacker in both nickel and dime formations. And in doing so, the Packers’ best pass rusher could be afforded an easier path to the quarterback. But not only does Clay Matthews get back to his comfortable outside linebacker position, but Capers can move him around to five different positions. And that just puts even more pre-snap pressure on quarterbacks that must account for Matthews.

But when the play clock is winding down after not getting the play in on time, more often than not, Mathews becomes an afterthought. And remember, Capers is doing all this without the services of Sam Barrington and Josh Boyd. And after Morgan Burnett missed his second game of the year vs. Kansas City, Capers employed what looks like a 4-1-6 dime defense because the outside linebackers line up on the line of scrimmage.

It’s been three weeks and the Packers already have four takeaways. That’s the hallmark of a Capers-run defense. Confuse and pester the offense long enough that it forces you to make a mistake and puts Aaron Rodgers back on the field.

That philosophy isn’t perfect however. He sold-out on a blitz on the final play of the NFC championship game last January and we all know how that one ended. But, it was Capers’ creativity and deception that put the Packers ahead in the first half.

If you want a punishing defense like the 1985 Bears, you should keep looking. Capers doesn’t have the horses for that. But he does have versatile and quick guys that can do multiple things.

There aren’t too many defensive coordinators that can hide a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker. And Capers isn’t done pulling schemes out of his hat.  


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

Since '61's picture

Cory - I am one of those who has been in the anti-Capers crowd. Especially since 2013 when Rodgers was injured and the defense failed to step up. Plus the poor tackling issues, failures to make stops late in games after Rodgers led the Packers back to a lead, lack of a sense of urgency and a passive attitude. But for the first three games of this season many of those issues have improved. The defense has had a more aggressive attitude, they are tackling better, they are playing with a sense of urgency, and they are making stops and getting the ball back to the offense. For this Capers definitely deserves some credit. But I wonder how much of the change is due to the fact the MM is spending more time with the defense and the players realizing that the HC is paying attention now. I give Capers credit for the schemes and effective use of his talent pool and maybe MM credit for the aggressive attitude and better tackling. In any case, whatever the reasons, it's working so stay with it. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

jh9's picture

I'm in complete agreement, since '61. The only question I still have about this defense is the ILB position. Matthews has been terrific at both ILB and OLB, but I need to be convinced we have another run-stopping ILB.

Palmer has shown coverage ability and I have hope for Joe Thomas. It has been very frustrating these last four years to see a ball carrier be met by one of our ILB (Hawk, Jones, et. all) two yards past the LOS and watch the ball carrier fall forward for another two or three yards.

What I want to see is the ability of our ILB to get to the hole quickly and hit the ball carrier behind or at the LOS on a consistent basis. When I see that, then I'll know we'll be celebrating another Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

"What I want to see is the ability of our ILB to get to the hole quickly and hit the ball carrier behind or at the LOS on a consistent basis."

I'd argue that the Packers front 7 is getting to the ball carrier at or behind the LOS consistently, at least in the last two games. If they can keep it up, the sky is the limit. Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch are no slouch runners, although that line in front of Lynch is borderline laughable. They were not able to do this against Forte. If we can limit the damage the up and coming and new look (for the Packers) Carlos Hyde can cause, I'd say we are achieving consistency against the run. What a difference a year can make! Guion coming back can only help, too.

jh9's picture

Our d-line has been playing great these two last weeks. In fact, they have been not only doing their job of controlling their man and gap but shedding that block and tackling the ball carrier too. That's what we saw against both Lynch and Charles. The ILBs hit those ball carriers after the d-lineman was there and then it became gang-tackling.

Seeing that gang-tackling pumps me up. Don't get me wrong, I think that's great. But we can't depend on an outstanding performance every play from our d-line. Their primary job is to eat-up that block and let the LB tackle the ball carrier. It's the way a 3-4 defense is designed to work.

I know I'm being picky, but that's what I didn't see happen effectively with our old ILBs. However, that's what I HOPE I see happen now.

Since '61's picture

JH9 - I agree with you on the ILBs. You hit on the key word, which is consistency. If we stay healthy the consistency will come as our young ILBs get more snaps. They will move on from thinking about what they are seeing to reacting and making plays. I'm expecting to see another step forward from our defense after the bye. Until then small steps with game is fine. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

Yes, whatever is working keep it up, especially this week. Nothing better than a fast start to get things rolling.

croatpackfan's picture

I have to admit that in early 2011 and during 2012 and 2013 I did not know what to think about Dom Capers. I was more pro Dom then against him, purely because he was the main evil for many - most of the fans... But after I read some comments and some facts, I changed my opinion and I really think he is one of the best defensive minds in NFL... During 2012 and 2013 Packers suffered a lot of injuries, mostly on defensive side of the ball. Still he was able to utilize "next man up" philosophy to the bottom of that meaning... Again, I will never forget that wild card game played at Lambeau field when Datone Jones played OLB and Andy Mulumba played other OLB on one leg because there was no other LB available for the defense.. And that Packers D still were keeping excellent SF team to equal score till the very end of the game... I would like to know the name of DC who would be able to do that with crippled and missing players...
Packers fans will regret when Dom Capers leave Green Bay Packers...

FrozenTundra's picture

After the Super Bowl win in 2010, I was reading a comment from a reader and he said that Green Bays defense was about to go downhill very fast. I was thinking we were the second ranked defense and this guy is nuts. He went on and said that this was Dom Capers trade mark. His schemes worked great for the first two years then the rest of the league figured them out. He wrote that was the way it's been every where Dom has been. After watching the Packers the years after 2010, this guy was like a prophet.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Let's see what Capers has to work with. I see plus players in Daniels, Raji, CM3, Peppers, Shields & maybe Burnett. I see solid players in Dix, Hyde, Guion. I see decent players (average or reasonably close to it) in Neal/Perry combo, and Palmer. [I can't really evaluate Hayward until we play a QB that can actually throw the ball to good WRs.] I see useful role players in Datone, Pennel, Joe Thomas, Elliott, and I see talented and promising rookies in Randall and Rollins.

What's missing? I don't see any bad players. I don't see huge holes. [I guess I'd say I see no elite players, but CM3 and Daniels are close, and I'll rate Raji when he plays a good center.} I see some young players that might move from average or useful to a higher category. Give credit to TT for giving Capers reasonable talent.

We will see how creative Capers can be when not trying to hide holes. So far, he has done pretty well.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree. Pretty fair and reasonable assessment.

Nick Perry's picture

I'd agree with your entire comment though I'd call matthews Elite for sure. What he did last year, what happened in the NFC Championship after he went out, and how he's played this year I'd definitely say "Elite".

Dan Stodola's picture

Whats missing is Playmakers. In 10 they had Jenkins, Bishop,Woodson, Matthews and Collins. It has been atrend of Capers D to fall off after 2 yrs, but that D got decimated losong all those playmakers and really none hae repaced except Peppers.

marpag1's picture

I know a certain website that asked its members to chose the greatest coach in franchise history. For the Packers, the choices were Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren or Mike McCarthy. The members of this site voted 42% that Mike McCarthy was the greatest Packer coach of all time, Holmgren was second at 33% and Vincent T. Lombardi was last at 25%.

Who are the laughably un-enlightened buffoons who seem so utterly incapable of recognizing a great coach?

Um... that would be US, the members of CHTV. If you want proof, look at the right hand side of the CHTV main page.

So yeah, I'm not real concerned if even the vast majority of fans don't like Dom Capers. Apparently, they don't like Lombardi that much, either.

In 2015, it's "the same ol' Capers." And I mean that as a compliment. He's been a very highly respected defensive coach in the NFL for more than 2 decades. It's not like "the light went on" sometime between last year and now. Capers is what he always was.

Cory, thanks. I'm not complaining about the article. You're obviously correct in saying that the defense is looking improved. The only thing I might quibble with is the notion that somehow Joe Thomas is a very important part of this. He wasn't even on the team for the first two games. And nevermind that he missed FOUR tackles against the Chiefs...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

We really rated Lombardi last of those 3?

That could be a function of the average age of folks here. I am one of the older commenters at age 56 and I barely remember the Lombardi years. How would you vote for someone who died before you were born? Highlight reels? W-L record? I would give Lombardi high marks as a motivational force, for organization and having disciplined players, but truth be told I really don't remember enough to comment on his play calling and knowledge of Xs and Os. Not sure how he was with those sub-packages, either.

Tundraboy's picture

I assure you it can only be the age difference. No other explanation possible as crazy as it is. 3rd best coach, no way. I wasn't around for Lambeau, but his achievements are not to be denied either.

Since '61's picture

Tundra - excellent point about Lambeau. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

Thank you since 61

Since '61's picture

TGR - you are correct, it is difficult to vote on a team, coach or player that you did not have the opportunity to watch. Since I have a number of more years than you on our planet I was fortunate enough to watch and remember most of the Lombardi years. He was a great motivator and a great organizer as you mentioned. He also instilled discipline in his players. Most importantly he was a great teacher. His players were able to execute nearly flawlessly because they understood why they were doing everything they were asked to do. They understood how each adjustment had an impact on everything else during the play. Then they drilled it all over and over again. From his coaching experience at West Point he learned the value of physical training and conditioning and the value of being mentally tough to overcome adversity. He instilled that in all of his players. If read the two volume book, Lombardi on Football you will find that his football knowledge is second to none regardless of the era. John Madden likes to tell the story of when he was still an assistant coach and he attended a lecture that Lombardi was giving on football.; Lombardi spoke for 8 hours on one play, The Packer Power Sweep. Madden realized after that lecture that he didn't know anything. As we know Madden went on to join Lombardi as an HOF coach. Judge Lombardi against his peers, Landry, Halas, Shula, Paul Brown, he beat them all and usually decisively. Finally his name is on the trophy which represents excellence in the NFL season. That says it all. Needless to say I voted Lombardi, Holmgren and McCarthy in that order. Thanks, Since '61

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

We have the talent, these guys want to be nasty and go after the offensive players. Keep the pressure on up front Guion could make a big impact this week.

JohnnyLogan's picture

Ok, I'll play Grinch here. I have been a Capers hated for years and continue to be. Yes, of late we've been better on D, and I hope it continues... but to praise this man for what he's done in Green Bay is ludicrous. He's set records of futility that may never be broken. SF is terrible this year, yet how comfortable is anyone on this site that Capers has found an answer for Kapernick? This QB has run for 300 yards against us in crucial games. The one time we stopped his running, he threw for 400. Yes, we've stopped the last two halfbacks, but Seattle made an adjustment and Wilson went off running, and KC made an adjustment and Smith became Peyton Manning and made a furious comeback. Capers is so easy to figure that other teams regularly figure him out. Even with Raji and Daniels and Clay playing great, we are near the bottom in run D. Garbage time as a response doesn't apply because garbage time yards have bitten us badly over the years. He is simply out-coached too often to be considered some great coordinator. We will likely win, but four losses to SF, in humiliating fashion, are not easily forgotten. This is a man who continued to play A.J. Hawk significant minutes when it was evident he was the slowest linebacker the world had ever seen, falling at the feet of lineman, running around tackles. Capers and Hawk together have likely cost the Packers at least two SB appearances. Capers is the creative genius who to this day has a prevent D that has prevented this team from winning more often than not. Anyone here feel comfortable on a 3rd and long? He overthinks regularly so people think he is genius. How much more often do we need to see DB's looking at each other looking like their asking "He was my man, I thought he was your man?" I'll be glad when he's gone, but for now... Go Pack!!

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

"Capers is the creative genius who to this day has a prevent D that has prevented this team from winning more often than not."

Now that was pretty funny!

JohnnyLogan's picture

You got me started so let me add... we are 2-9 over the last three years on the road against teams with a record over .500. That means the better teams have little trouble beating a team with possibly the greatest QB of all time behind center. Rodgers is usually still Rodgers on the road. So where do you think the fall off comes? We can't stop the good teams when necessary. And yet Capers is praised as if he was Lombardi. I'm old enough to have seen every Lombardy game. He was the greatest coach, of any sport, I've ever seen. As another poster commented his teams were disciplined. Capers teams look like the Keystone Cops at times. But... we did win one SB with Capers, maybe we can win another. Just a shame that with this great a QB we are saddled with an addled old coot for Defensive coordinator.

Since '61's picture

Johnny, like you I also remember the Lombardi years (See my post in reply to Reynoldo above). We agree that Lombardi is the GOAT and I have shared your frustrations with Capers over recent years. But to be fair, in this era of free agency and salary caps even Lombardi would not have been able to keep that great Packers team together. The current Packers have chosen to spend more of their salary cap on the offensive side of the ball. Therefore something has to give. In the case of the Packers it is on the defense. Between A. Rodgers, Jordy and Cobb the Packers spend about $40 million of their cap, another $7+ on Bulaga, and paydays are coming for Lacy, Lang and Sitton. If you added half of that money or probably even a third and put it on the defense you might, emphasis on might, have a better defense but where would your offense be. Not to mention the impact of rule changes on defensive football since Lombardi was an HC. I understand and appreciate your frustrations with Capers but that is the reality of today's NFL, a reality that Lombardi did not have to deal with. Thanks, Since '61

JohnnyLogan's picture

Agree with you, but... it isn't always all about the money. There have been player personnel decisions within the already existing team that have been baffling. How do you watch Hawk flop around and continue to play him, or put him alone wide on a running back or TE?... and how, in four games, do you not find a solution for a running QB, when almost every other team in the league isn't exposed nearly as badly? Do they all have more money spent on D? And how is it that a D that has dominated an opponent for a half or 3 quarters suddenly goes in the tank?... it's because other coaches can read him like a book. He is mediocre at best and with superior players will be adequate, but a "great" coordinator, as many suggest?... emphatically no. But again... I like what I see, for the most part, this year. Raji, Daniels, Clay and Peppers form a powerful nucleus, The secondary is above average and may even be top ten, and with the addition of Palmer and Thomas in the middle our overall speed is improved. Capers has no excuses now. This weekend will be a good test. SF is a bad team. If we don't win easily, if Kapernick makes us look silly again, than Capers has learned nothing, although the excuses will pour in like... lava.

Since '61's picture

You are correct, there are no excuses this time around. Thanks, Since '61

The TKstinator's picture

Give Dom Capers more players and the credit will flow like lava.

marpag1's picture

I SERIOUSLY doubt that.

Think about the offense. TT gave Mike McCarthy perhaps the best QB in history, the best WR corp AND the best guard tandem in the NFL, drafted very a very solid O-line overall (including depth), and drafted a prob-bowl caliber RB with one of the better backups coming off the bench. And McCarthy has kicked ass with it. He's a hair's breadth from having as good a record as BB in New England, he goes to the playoffs every freakin' year, has put together a top-five offense over and over and over, and just happened to win one of those little whatchamackallits - super bowls? Does the credit "flow like lava" for McCarthy? Or do people call him the stupidest coach alive, thank God that this idiot of a coach gave up the playcalling, and make up lame-ass little names like McPuffy?

Virtually all fans are chronic complainers. They will bitch whether it is entirely reasonable or not. Neither can we deny that a significant number of fans are just plain stupid and don't really know what they're talking about. You could give MM or DC the best talent in the history of the league and some people are still going to complain.

The TKstinator's picture

You've got a point there. Some fans are definitely like that. When a team is successful (or not), where does the credit or blame really belong?

When Whitey Herzog lost Bruce Sutter to free agency, he said, "Well, I just got 25 games dumber." Gotta have the horses in any sport.

Give Capers Deion Sanders and Lawrence Taylor and see if he is suddenly a genius. That's really what I was trying to say. Some fans would say "Dom is great" while others would say "Who WOULDN'T dominate with players like that?"

mikekk's picture

MM said it Capers with a lead got less aggressive thus letting KC back in the game. Remember we had a good lead in the championship game and Capers got less aggressive..You would think someone would learn from their mistake, but both MM and DC are oblivious. Capers who thinks the prevent defense is the best thing since slice bread. Once you have your foot on someone throat, you don't let him up. This happens with Capers all the time we get a good lead and he goes in conservative mode.

The TKstinator's picture

Except when he sent the all out blitz and it didn't work.
"Aggressive" means blitzing successfully. "Stupid" means sending the blitz and it doesn't get home.

Just like on offense: "ball control" means running the ball successfully, whereas "too conservative" means running the ball and getting stuffed.

The more I follow football, the more convinced I am that ANY style of play that results in W's is "brilliant", while anything that results in losses is "idiotic".
It's all just Monday morning second guessing.

Dan Stodola's picture

Exactly what I've been trying to say for years. Tho I didn't say it as well. Welcome to the club!

4thand1's picture

Did the Packers get less aggressive when they intercepted a pass late and decided to run out the clock? (NFCCG) Also they stopped KC on 4th down, but no time outs cost them a 16 point win instead of a 10 point one. A healthy CM gives Capers a lot more options also. We all know, there are 2 players the Packers can't afford to lose.

Dan Stodola's picture

While Capers has a history of starting strong as a DC, then falling off. Ithink it has to be noted the Packers lost alot of playmakers on D since the '10 season.

Jenkins was a terror on the DL. Daniels is really good but not the playmaker of Jenkins.

Raji was a stud NT, who got moved to DE and fell off dramatically.

Bishop made alot of plays at ILB, and no one has been able to replace him.

Collins was the best FS in the NFL when his career ended in '11.

Woodson was otherworldly and Capers made excellent use of his many talents.

Matthews had his best pass rushing year too.

That D was stacked w/ 2 playmakers at each level. Losing all that talent wasn't Capers fault.

Its taken time but gradually others are stepping up. Peppers was a great FA. Matthews has taken Woods role and is being utilized similarly now. Daniels is a reasonable facsimile of Jenkins. Raji back at NT (finally) could approach his 10 version, if not as good. No CB or Safeties can approach Wood or Collins, not even close yet.

Losing all that playmaking in a short time forced the D to suffer significantly. Maybe in the next couple years the D will have suitable replacements, but they're not there yet. Clinton-Dix Burnett Randall Elliot are coming along. Have to remember it can take 4 or 5 years to become a quality starter or playmaker.

JohnnyLogan's picture

Once again, all that is true and I hold out hope. But my beef is what he does with the personnel he has, the incredibly obvious mistakes... like playing Hawk over... anyone.Or rushing two in Seattle, giving Wilson a century and a half to find an open receiver. No one said blitz, but rushing two?... who stand there and patty cake while Wilson explores the field. Anyone doubt he would find an open man. A secondary of Hall of Famers can't cover that long.

Jayrone Elliot is an interesting case. All he does is make plays. Let's see how long it takes Capers to give him more playing time. He's not a rookie, he's flashed for two years. I actually like how he's being used now, but I would like to see a little more playing time.

There is talent on this D, some of it already there, some developing. It has a number of players who might be in the discussion for All Pro... Clay, Peppers, Raji, Daniels, even Shields... If Capers is really what many claim he is this should be a top 15 - top 10 D.

The one thing I haven't mentioned is what influence McCarthy is having this year. We don't know, but maybe it's positive and just the pressure Capers needs. Let's hope.

Dan Stodola's picture

You didn't like how he used Woodson? You don't like how he's using Matthews now? Who did he have behind Hawk that could play better much less knew the D better? As soon as Barrington knew the D he made a change didn't he?

You can't just put anyone in a role like Woodson had, they don't have all his skills. If a player isn't capable of being utilized in Woodson's role you can't just put a player there and expect him not to get exposed. Teams do scouting to find what players strengths and weaknesses are, and when they know a weakness they WILL expose it.

Elliot is showing he might be a playmaker, but its too early. Right now he's not even good enough to get on the field on run downs. He would get exposed. Packers also have Peppers, Matthews, Perry and Neal ahead of him at OLB. Elliot is getting what he deserves and it should continue to increase if he keeps making plays. But he was mostly terrible vs the run last year and we don't know if he's improved in that regard yet. If you put him in on run downs, based on what he's shown to date, he would get taken advantage of quickly. At best he's a part time player right now.

Some young players are coming along, but lets remember that it took Jenkins a couple years (he was in NFLE for a year or 2 IIRC) to make an impact, Bishop didn't start till year 4. Collins was bad for 3 years before taking off in yr 4. For every Woodson or Matthews that can make plays as a rookie, there are probably 2 that need a couple years of development.

A Defense should have a playmaker at every level of the D to be a top 10 unit. That's at least 3 or 4, the '10 D had at least 6 that I counted which explains why it was Top 5. This year has Matthews and maybe Peppers, Daniels and Raji are close not quite ready to put them in that category yet(for different reasons) but there isn't a true playmaker at ILB or in the secondary yet. Maybe Clinton-Dix at DB, I don't think Burnett is a playmaker just a good player. Randall is a rookie, Shields is a quality CB in some regards (coverage) and good at best in others (Run support). Maybe Datone will take a big step soon, but not there yet.

Talent is there but playmaking is still lacking to some degree.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Good coaches puts their players into situations where their skill set is best suited. That is what GB did with Hayward last year and are currently doing with Elliott and Datone. Both are situational pass rushers. They have not been asked to defend the run much this year. In the past they were not good at run defense; it remains to be seen whether they have made strides in that area and are more complete players. I do agree with Johnny Logan that there are more pass rushing snaps available for Elliott and he should get some more. GB can probably increase his snaps to 20-25 per game if they get a lead.

Dan Stodola's picture

Putting players in position to succeed means they are role players. Packers have an abundance of role players, but still not enough playmakers. Like I mentioned, I think a D needs a playmaker at every level, that will allow the role players to succeed. Maybe Daniels tho I'm not sold yet. Matthews clearly is. Peppers might be, but his age is slowing him, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Raji was in '10 but I'm not putting him in that category yet eiter. No CB, Safeties or ILB that are playmakers.

A couple maybes and one TRUE playmakers honestly. Still far short of the '10 team where Jenkins, Raji, Matthews, Bishop, Woodson and Collins were. If Capers can get this unit to Top 10 he's doing great work.

Packers pick up Joe Thomas because they needed a Dime ILB to allow Matthews to move around and rush the passer. That's another role player.

Still too many role players, not enough playmakers.

porupack's picture

Very good assessment.

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