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Cory's Corner: Mike Pettine Values The Interior

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Cory's Corner: Mike Pettine Values The Interior

We know why the Packers didn’t place a higher priority on edge rusher in the draft or via free agency.

New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine doesn’t really value them that much.

"It’s much easier to negate an edge pass rusher than it is a dominant inside guy," Pettine said after OTAs on Friday. "You can force offenses to block them one-on-one.”

Those words won’t be cut and pasted to the fridges of Clay Matthews or Nick Perry but they are 100 percent true. And it’s also ironic, because it speaks to Matthews’ mild whining that the depth at outside linebacker is thin this year.

Thanks to the addition of free agent defensive lineman Muhammed Wilkerson, the Packers have one of the best defensive lines in all of football. Last year, Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels were both top 20 defensive linemen and Clark is an ascending player that could have a ceiling of Geno Atkins, who by the way, broke out in his third season. (It also happens to be Clark’s third year as a pro.)

The reason why this is a great decision is because Matthews and Perry are such question marks. Pettine doesn’t know what to expect out of those two and he knows that if he can make the pocket smaller up the middle, he has a great chance to take some pressure off of the young secondary.

"I think that’s where it starts,” Pettine said. “It starts up front. If you want to defend the pass in the NFL, people talk about the exterior pass rush, I think the interior pass rush is as important or maybe potentially more important.”

Clark, Daniels and Wilkerson will be a tough trio for any offensive line and then you add some quality depth in Montravius Adams and the Packers look pretty interesting on the interior.

“If I’m on offense, it’s a lot easier to handle guys off the edges via formation, or chipping or doubles,” said Pettine. “Whereas inside, one guy, maybe two they’re getting one-on-ones. Those guys have to win. If you can be dominant inside, that just has a ripple effect throughout your defense.”

That’s exactly what Pettine is looking for. He wants the defensive line’s juice to power the rest of a unit that has looked overwhelmed and confused at times last year. Pettine needs the secondary to feel like it doesn’t have to do everything to stay in ballgames and ultimately win them. The easiest group to get that done is the guys up front.

Is defensive line the sexy group that everyone talks about? No. But Pettine doesn’t care about that. He didn’t cut his teeth under Rex Ryan for nothing. And while Ryan has been a buffoon at times, there’s no denying that Ryan was an incredible defensive mastermind.

Pettine is trying to do the same thing in Green Bay. And the best way to do that is by playing the percentages. While Matthews and Perry could get bottled up with double-teams, Pettine knows that offensive lines cannot double all three guys.

Edge rusher looked like a huge need for the Packers a couple months ago and now it just seems like another position.

If this unit is going to surprise anyone this year, it’s going to be from up the gut.


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

Nick Perry's picture

Yes, Yup, and Hell Yeah....The Packers do have all the makings for a dominant D-Line and many of us have been suggesting that's exactly where the pressure will come from in 2018.

Clark gave us a glimpse at the end of 2017 collecting most of his sacks then. Daniels is a beast and I can only imagine how much better he'll do with a more mature Clark and Big Mo next to him. With those three rushing the passer there's not a O-Line than could hold them at bay for an entire game. Hell some would be leaking for the whole game.

I think to make the D-Line even scarier would be to put Perry at DE in a 4 man D-Front and let them go. Perry would get to do what he wanted when he came out of USC...Play DE. I've been suggesting / hoping for this since Pettine was named DC. Throw in Clay blitzing from everywhere opposed to just the right or left and QB's are in a world of SH**. The Packers will be just fine this year rushing the passer.

Ryan Graham's picture

I couldn't agree more NP. reading your post all I could think about was the various fronts that will be shown to exploit the weaknesses of the blocking scheme. I can also picture a lot of presnap movement by all of the front seven to create some confusion on the O-line. Perry will be playing with his hand in the dirt plenty, and I'm sure there will be times playing next to big Mo Wilkerson he will be twisting around him on and inside blitz. One thing that has to be noted and controlled in this type of pressure would be the flushing of the quarterback outside the pocket.

The TKstinator's picture

I think that is pretty much Perry’s job description already; he just might not have his hand in the dirt every time, at least in base.
Speaking of which, I’m curious to see how much base they play compared to nickel. Gotta match up with the offense but also keep their best (defensive) players on the field.

Spock's picture

Ryan, I don't know if you saw my comments to you about the use of the tilde in comments so I'll re-post it here:

Ryan Graham, Croat used the tilde symbols "~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~" at the bottom of his comment. Obviously you aren't aware that this is a device (started by commentators on the Packers official site years ago) to indicate SARCASM. Whenever you see one or more tilde symbols at the end of a comment it indicates the commentators is being sarcastic, so Croat is joking here! Just a FYI for you. :)

Sorry if this is repetitious. I just wanted to make sure you saw it.

davy jones's picture

Dean Lowry seems to get left out of the conversation too often. Adams and Lowry both provide some depth and really could be difference makers. It's going to be fun to watch Cousins run for his life.

gr7070's picture

This isn't about Mike Pettine. It's about the evolution of modern NFL.

As Edge defenders had become more influential the past 30 years offenses have adjusted. Play calling has changed. They're passing the ball more quickly to avoid the Edge rush, to learn their influence. RPOs have increased. Shorter receiver routes increased, etc.

Thus shorter routes to the QB have become more important, interior defenders more important. Left tackles are less important than before, because Edge is less important. Guards and DTs are more impactful this more important. We're seeing this trend in salaries in O line. Seeing this trend in the draft - look at Indianapolis' top draft.

Cornerbacks are the second most important position on the field; in part because getting to the passer and protecting the passer are a little less important; so defending the pass itself is a little more important.

It's partly why we've drafted what we have. It's partly why we've seen guards go higher, etc.

The Packers happen to know this, as does Mike Pettine, and much of the NFL.

Minniman's picture

gr7070, while I agree with your synopsis and I'd add that it's all part of a cycle, and the inside is the new outside of the 90's/2000's.

Teams emphasize a particular position group and strengthen it, and de-emphasize another (which subsequently collectively weakens).

We are in an era where the interior OL is weaker, and as Philly showed, can be exposed easier than outside. As you said, teams are now scrambling to counter this by re-stocking guard talent.

I'm now really interested in seeing this year how offenses counter this.
Will the RPO that teams (like the 49ers dominated the Packers with previously) come back into vogue as QB's are forced to roll outside the pocket? What effect will this have on teams with a circa ~$25-30M ageing pocket passing QB? Should be interesting.

Since '61's picture

I see our opponent's OL trying to hold off our DL and Josh Jones and/or Oren Burks shooting through untouched to get to the QB. Throw in some CB blitzes and QBs will become very uncomfortable back there. That will help the secondary and the picks will come. Thanks, Since '61

RCPackerFan's picture

The DL as of right now (on paper) is the strength of the defense.
Daniels is always a beast. He really didn't have guys around him though. Now he has an ascending Pro Bowl caliber player in Clark and a former pro bowler in Wilkerson.

Clark I thought played well his rookie year. But in year 2 you could see how much he improved. It usually takes D-Linemen 3 years to really mature. If Clark continues to improve, it could turn the defense from a good to great defense. Late in the year Clark was finally getting the sacks. He was close to the QB all year but he finally got to the QB late.

Wilkerson has the ability to get to the QB. Signing him to a 1 year deal was a great choice IMO. Give a guy something to play for you will get the max effort. Also having experience in Pettine's scheme is a good thing.

2 younger guys to keep an eye on. Lowry in a new scheme could really flourish. Adams was considered to be a highly touted player but he got injured early and never really got back on track.

I'm looking forward to seeing if we have anything in the 3 rookies. Looney, Sheehy, and Lancaster. In all honesty I could see any of them making the 53 and/or PS.

I'm excited to see this defense. And this defense starts up front. Having 3 DL that can cause issues for the OL, will allow Mathews, Perry to get to the QB. It will also allow Martinez and Burks to roam free.

hodge555's picture

One thing to remember is that Clark is still only 22, he's actually only 3 months older than Adams and a year younger than Lowry.

Bearmeat's picture

Is Adams that young???

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

No, he's not Bearmeat. Adams turns 26 in December. Clark turns 23 in October. Lowry turns 24 this Saturday.

zeke's picture

My guess is that he's talking about Montravius and not Davante.

hodge555's picture

Yes Montravius Adams, we were discussing DL not WR's. :-)
Clark was only 20 when drafted so he could complete a rookie contract before reaching the age some players are drafted, eg Kyler Fackrell.

In relation to this latest draft then Clark is only 6 months older than Josh Jackson and is 4 months younger than James Looney. If you want to include WR's then he's a whole year younger than Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Savage57's picture

If the Packers do show they have the horses to bring middle pressure, Perry and Matthews will have to learn discipline holding the edge as opposed to years of what's been drilled into their head under Capers system.

How well this might all work out is going to be somewhat dependent upon how quickly and well those two, and the human garbage playing the position behind them (per Matthews) can figure that out.

Minniman's picture

Savage57, while I don't agree with your second paragraph, I do agree with the first paragraph wholeheartedly.

They need to trust that the inside guys will flush out the quarry and they set the edge and participate in the execution.

To your second paragraph, that one's on the positional coaches to reprogram the units to work as a team.

mrtundra's picture

Why are people forgetting Dean Lowery on the DLine? I think he is impressive there and has as much potential as any of the other guys we have there.

Matt Gonzales's picture

As exciting as our main front is, Lowry is definitely the person that excites me most. He hasn’t had the reps to be a consistent fixture but he makes good things happen with the reps he is given.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

With such a disruptive group up front, the gate is opened for a lightning fast blitzer like Josh Jones. I'd send him 5-7 times per game, from every angle. I thought McCapers used Jones even worse than Hyde and Hayward--If that's humanly possible--so I'm really hoping Pettine changes course and starts firing this human missile at QB's.

Dean Lowry might actually be our best pass rusher up front (tough to say, as they're all so good), so I'm a bit surprised he isn't mentioned here.

Handsback's picture

Mt. Adams should be a guy to look at that can create havoc. I'm more excited about him emerging than any other 2nd year player. I guess this may answer the question if Vea was available, would the Packers had selected him?

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Honestly, I think they would have taken Vea regardless. He is completely unlike anyone we have on the roster, and his dominant frame inside would have further unleashed all the other guys--including Adams.

We would have gone to a primary 4-3, of course.

Cubbygold's picture

Am I missing something here?

GB had three above average defensive linemen last year. Wilkerson is a great addition, and maybe he returns to form, but GBs defensive line play isn't going to be significantly different than it was last year. Its not like the Daniels, Clark and Lowry weren't trying to get to the QB last year. If the DL is more effective this year, its because pressure from the outside and the secondary have improved. It's nice that pettine made these comments, but it doesn't suddenly change the keys to success.

Handsback's picture

Cubbygold, it's not just adding Wilk, but how you release their capabilities. Your asking them to now penetrate putting pressure on those online guys. Can't double the edge guys and stop the middle pressure too.
Different ideas on how to get to the qb.

LambeauPlain's picture

The D line will be significantly different this year under Pettine.

Capers used D linemen mostly as block eaters to let the ILBs make tackles and OLBs to collapse the pocket. Shoot, most of the time Capers only had 2 DL on the field!

Pettine uses his entire front 7 to confuse and rush the passer...and he uses them differently every week to attack the specific opponent depending on the strength of his guys vs the opposing O. Then he will liberally blitz from the slot and CB too. Different "play" book is designed every week.

Capers had his guys play set roles within his thick...and predictable....playbook, mostly confusing his own guys.

Pettine will use KILL (Keep it Likable and Learnable).

I expect we will see as much 4 man DL fronts as 3 and 2 man fronts this year. Iron Mike, Kenny, Mo, Dean and Adams will provide many options to "like".

marpag1's picture

Why not just post a link to the original (and much better) version of this article written by Zach Kruse four days ago?

kevgk's picture

I think the people who clamored that the edge rush is the greatest need when all we had on corner was Tramon and King, before aquiring Wilkerson, are all stuck a few years behind with the NFL. To beat good QBs nowadays, you need good corners and good defensive lineman. You can't just have a dominant edge guy and a dominant middle linebacker carrying a poor roster anymore. Just look at the Cowboys defense last year with Sean Lee and DeMarcus Lawrance.

Cory Jennerjohn's picture

Great point. And the thinking has always been that defensive linemen create space for the edge rushers to make plays.

If the defensive linemen are athletic and able, give them the reins.

LambeauPlain's picture

It is easy to forget Adams was one of the top rated D lineman in the draft in 2017.

While his injuries and lack of experience with Capers thick playbook kept him mostly off the field last year...I fully expect he had plenty of reps in the weight room.

I am very excited to see what he can add to the mix.

PatrickGB's picture

I don’t see it. Clark was not known in college as a pass rush guy. I don’t expect a big leap from him in that area. Mt. Adams has shown nothing. Daniels is above average as noted in “Top 100 ratings” from NFL network. Lowery is ok. Mo has been on the decline. Lots of wishful thinking going on here. Let’s wait until the pads are on to see. Ok?

Spock's picture

Patrick, Clark was used as a typical nose tackle in college, so not likely to get sacks. Many times fans will point out that a player who was great in college isn't so good in the NFL. IMHO you are doing the opposite argument. To say Clark wasn't a "pass rush guy" in college has NOTHING to do with what he is now doing. Different scheme, different DC, and Clark has gotten more mature physically (he was always ahead of the curve mentally which is why I believe the Packers drafted him) and he had sacks big time in his last games last season. Mt. Adams was injured most of last year so of course he "showed nothing". Mo is on a one year 'prove it' deal and he's reunited with his old coach so I expect him to bring it as he's still physically in his prime. I "get it", not sure why you don't?
It's your opinion but mine's about 180° from yours. That's cool; this is why we have a discussion board to use as a forum. I agree with waiting until the pads are on to see, but at this time of the year all we have is speculation, "wishful thinking" -to use your phrase, and trying to anticipate how everything will turn out. I prefer to be optimistic as I believe that Pettine will make a big difference for our defense this year. Just my two cents.

dobber's picture

Pass rush up the gut makes QBs use their feet and most QBs make more mistakes on the move than not. There aren't that many QBs out there who are better playmakers on the move than they are in the pocket (the Packers have arguably the best one).

The question is: do the Packers have the ability to contain enough to collapse the pocket and contain mobile QBs, or will mobile QBs just squirt out to the perimeter and run?

Lare's picture

I'm sure there are still a lot of adjustments going on with the defense as Pettine adapts his scheme to allow for the talents of the players he has to work with. It's also an ongoing process throughout the season as teams deal with the inevitable injuries. And then there's the possibility of Gutekunst adding players to fill holes on the starting lineup and roster.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in training camp, and then through the early part of the season.

TheBigCheeze's picture

....I don't care where the pressure comes from......JUST BRING IT!!!!!

Jamie Freier's picture

Getting off the field on 3rd and long, you say? Marvelous!

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