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Cory's Corner: Just who is this Packers defense?

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Cory's Corner: Just who is this Packers defense?

The Packers have a prolific offense with an excellent quarterback, interchangeable receivers and a capable running game.

Aaron Rodgers is so good in fact that since 2008 he holds a passer rating of 111.2 in regular season games played indoors — which makes him No. 1 in passer rating for indoor games during that span.

Those are amazing statistics for a guy that plays the majority of his games in the elements each year. And the Packers will need Rodgers’ right arm to escape Atlanta and hand the Falcons a stadium-opening loss.

However, this game isn’t about the offense. Nope, this game rests with the defense.

Mainly because, who exactly is this Packers defense? Is this a unit that took advantage of a Seattle offensive line that resembled a colander by sacking Russell Wilson three times and constantly flushed him out of the pocket?

Was it a Packers defense that feasted on a receiving corps that made one highlight-worthy play right before the half to give the Seahawks three points? Or was it a Packers defense that allowed Wilson to be Seattle’s leading rusher with 40 scampering yards — 29 coming on one play?

These are all questions we just don’t know. Did the Packers defense earn the win by holding Seattle to just 9 points, or does the Seahawks’ supporting cast look that flimsy?

The defense can answer a lot of questions with another stellar performance in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Don’t expect the Packers to hold last year’s NFC champ that scored an average of 34 points a game to just field goals, however.

But if the Packers can keep the Falcons to 24 points, that is most definitely a win. And the secret is the Nitro package. I realize a lot of people scoff at defensive coordinator Dom Capers for his lack of innovation but every safety had more snaps than the unit of inside linebackers last week.

Capers understands that thick and strong aren’t winning games anymore. You’ve got to be nimble, quick and dynamic. That is not how I would describe Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan. Capers even had safety Morgan Burnett playing his hybrid linebacker role on short yardage downs last week.

Capers remembers the score last January. He remembers how Matt Ryan completed eight passes to running backs — including a 31-yard catch and run to fullback Patrick DiMarco that the defense flat-out forget about.

This defense is better than the 2016 version. General manager Ted Thompson added some pieces and the secondary is breathing a sigh of relief that it didn’t have to cover for an eternity last week.

Last week, Ryan had a passer rating of 110.4 when faced with pressure from the Chicago defense. However, the offense looked out-of-sorts because crafty playcaller Kyle Shanahan left be the head coach in San Francisco.

Green Bay’s defense must keep Ryan moving behind the line of scrimmage and get Atlanta into third-and-longs. Expect another wrinkle in the Nitro defense, which has basically been adopted as the Packers’ new base defense.

Rodgers has all of his receivers fully healthy, which will help, but this defense is out to prove that it can stand on its own.


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

chugwater's picture

We had one of the top run defenses last year until Dallas came to town and set us straight. Seattle's putrid O-line was fun to dominate, but hardly a litmus test on the true abilities of this defense.

I don't think we'll truly know who this defense is until Week 6 when we'll have played Atlanta (pass dominant) and Dallas (run dominant). By then we'll have some pretty good markers as to where this unit stands.

I'm optimistic as long as everyone can stay relatively healthy.

The TKstinator's picture

I'll chug to that.

Nick Perry's picture

If the defense gets pressure on Ryan with just 4 pass rushers, I think they have a great chance of beating Atlanta. I think Perry and Daniels will be able to do what they did to Seattle last week against anyone in the NFL. But it's Matthews, Lowry, Clark, and Brooks when he's healthy who will really make the difference on how good this defense can/will be. Matthews has got to be moved around. The days of him slamming into LT's and being productive seem to be gone, but that doesn't mean he can't be effective AND productive.
Randall and Rollins will be better this year, how much better will go a long ways in telling us "Who is this defense". I think if they can stay healthy they'll be a top 10 defense.

Bearmeat's picture

NP - Did you read the last article grading the defense? The author confirms what I've noticed for years. Even when fully healthy, CM3 is no longer an above average player.

He is an overpaid replacement level player at this point. IF the defense is for real, it'll be because of the DL, Perry and an improved secondary. Please stop hoping CM3 shows up. He won't.

carusotrap's picture

This. Absolutely this.

"The Legend of Clay" is a tome sold by the media. Problem is, it's a five year old book.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I had to swallow back some chunks everytime I saw his stupid "I'm the best" commercial.

Nick Perry's picture

But if he's moved around he's at least got a chance at making some plays. Elite he's not anymore but he can still be somewhat effective from time to time. The problem is for $15 million time to time doesn't cut it.

BUT we also know he's not going anywhere this year so hopefully Capers does what he can to help Matthews make more plays. Every once in a while he can and does, like he did in the NFC Divisional game vs the Giants when he sacked, created the fumble, and recovered the ball against the Giants.

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah. That's what we're hoping for, isn't it. Not good.

I'm just saying that including CM3 on a list of "play makers," at this point is like putting Lowry on a list of "Play makers." It's not wise. Anything CM3 does will be a bonus and not expected.

Lphill's picture

All I know is we will have a better take on the defense after this game . One game is not enough for evaluation especially since Seattle does not have the weapons the Falcons have. I am more confident in the run defense then the pass defense , We will find out soon enough .

Since '61's picture

"Who is this Packers defense?" We will have a pretty good answer by the end of the game in Atlanta this Sunday.
First down will be huge for this Packers defense. The Packers do not want to face 2nd and short and/or 3rd and short against the Atlanta offense. There are too many ways they can make first downs. But if we can get Ryan in 2nd and 3rd and longs we should be able to get pressure on him and get off the field on 3rd down and/or create some mistakes or turnovers.
If the Packers offense can play keep away that will help as well. I don't see the Packers holding Atlanta as they did against Seattle but if we can hold them to 24 points or less Rodgers and the offense should be able to achieve the win. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Since '61's picture

Jonathan - thanks for providing this article. It tells me that the Packers need to get pressure on Ryan by rushing four and leaving us with 7 players to cover Atlanta's 5 receivers. In that scenario the question becomes can the Packers stop the Falcons run game with 5 or 6 DBs on the field? They will have a shot if they can win first down and keep Atlanta in 2nd and 8 or 9+. Then the defense can dictate play. But if we get in 2nd and 5 or 4 or less or 3rd and 2 or less the challenge becomes huge.
One play at a time. Thanks, Since '61

lou's picture

Agree Since 61, this game will be very revealing about how good the defense will be this season. The Bears played toe to toe with the Atlanta offense but then again the Bears defense last year did give the Packers problems. It was hard to see 2 dropped TD passes by the Bears with a chance to win it. What I do like this season is how aggressive the defense appears compared to past seasons and the healthy young talent from the D-Line to the Safety positions, I don't recall many Capers run blitzes in the past, great to see them go for it.

jww061356's picture

I think the early returns are good, but a lot of the positive vibes hinge on the health of this unit. An NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint, and my sense is we win by having a swarm of smart, fast, versatile players that we can deploy against some of the high octane offenses we are going to see this year. Not to overstate the obvious, but if we can keep Rogers upright and field a top 10 defense, it's going to be a helluva ride.

EdsLaces's picture

I don't like 42 in at LB on obvious run plays. I get the idea for passing situations for sure, but after watching the tape yeah he gets to the pile, but he doesn't exactly do much.

Rossonero's picture

It'll take time to see this defense's identity.

However, we won't be seeing two deep safeties like last season, mainly because we have a healthy stable of cornerbacks.

That alone will give Dom Capers more flexibility to move a safety up in run support, blitz, or cover a RB or TE.

Let's also remember that Davon House has had some success covering Julio Jones in the past when Sam Shields wasn't able to. House is bigger and obviously faster than Ladarius Gunter.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

The winner of this one is going to have a huge upper hand in getting homefield advantage.

The Packers need to make sure they face Seattle at home in the postseason if they want to win a Super Bowl.

Spock's picture

Jeremy, I'm not convinced Seattle will BE in the postseason with that OL.

Norm's picture

Agreed, but then again SOMEBODY has to win that division, which used to be the strongest in football.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture


jeremyjjbrown's picture

I'd be really surprised if they don't now the Arizona has lost thier best player in Johnson. The Rams and 49ers are terrible so they might have more wins than you'd think as well.

Spock's picture

So far, so good. I like the team speed and the defensive players all flying to the ball. Let's hope we keep seeing more of the same!

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

The most important factor for our defense against Atlanta...

...will be Bakhtiari and Bulaga both playing, and playing well.

Our secondary still is little match for Atlanta, so Matty Ice will make quick throws to open receivers. But if our healthy O-Line can control the clock and move the chains, Matty will get desperate, and Green Bay will win.

This week, it's all about Bakhtiari and Bulaga.

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