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Cory's Corner: Tackling cannot be stressed enough

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Cory's Corner: Tackling cannot be stressed enough

Tackling is one of the most fundamental aspects of football.

And in Thursday’s preseason opener, the Packers showed they have a lot of work to do. On the Eagles first drive, the Packers had five missed tackles — including one on a crucial third-and-2 and three that led to Philadelphia’s first touchdown.

Yes, I realize that was the first preseason game of the year, but this has been a recurring theme under coach Mike McCarthy. Last year, the Packers had 103 missed tackles, which paled in comparison to the 145 and 133 and missed tackles from 2014 and 2015.

The problem is too many guys are trying to be the hero. Highlight shows love the guy that can make the impactful hit. You don’t see many highlights of guys that wrap up an offensive player before getting help from teammates to take the player down.

Case in point is Kentrell Brice. He has had an impactful camp because of his energy and jarring hits. Yet, what stands out to me is the whiffed tackle early in the second quarter. Luckily that play only went for five yards, but continued missed tackles keep drives alive and will eventually lead to points.

The thing that was the most concerning was that Brice made a dive and was trying for that signature hit. Obviously if he does connect with tight end Trey Burton, Brice would’ve likely gotten some air time for an eyebrow-raising hit.

But this team doesn’t need hero ball. It was a game short of the Super Bowl last year. It has enough heroes from Aaron Rodgers to Mike Daniels to Jordy Nelson. It doesn’t need another one if it means that the opponent can gain extra yardage.

The Packers have one of the best offenses on paper. With Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of people to look for. But, like always, the best defense for an efficient maestro like Rodgers is to simply keep him off the field.

And the easiest way to do that is by missed tackles. Those mean the sticks keep moving and more importantly, the clock continues to wind. The Packers appear to be poised to score about 31 points a game, but that’s going to be a lot tougher if they get the ball in limited chunks.

The defense has to stop playing like individuals and start playing like a unit. It doesn’t matter how many personal sacks, tackles for loss or passes defended a player racks up if the Packers cannot build on last year and advance to their sixth Super Bowl.

The defense doesn’t have to be great, it just cannot be terrible. And if the lack of tackling continues, more pressure will fall at the feet of Rodgers.

There’s a big difference between third-and-7 and third-and-2 and the latter is the result of a missed tackle on second down. 


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

Nick Perry's picture

Tackling has always been an issue with the Packers hasn't it? McCarthy preaches about it every season. He preaches fundamentals which would have to include tackling too right? Yet here we are watching players tackling with their shoulders, trying to get that highlight hit instead of wrapping up. Burnett used to do it all the time, drove me absolutely nuts. Instead of wrapping up he'd lower the shoulder and bounce right off allowing the ball carrier to gain a few extra yards or a 1st down. Hopefully this is the year they LEARN doing your job leads to a better result than a Sports Center highlight hit.

Savage57's picture

The technique is as much of a reason a guy like Deone Bucannon can stand out as a hybrid safety/linebacker and other guys bounce off.

I've watched Bucannon and he's one of the few players in the NFL today who seem to remember his high school coach's teaching that the tackle doesn't end at the ball carrier, it ends at a spot 2 yards behind him.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Totally agree. Adding to the article and comments above, according to a couple of different sources, the Packers defense ranked 26th in gang tackles last year and 4th worst in yardage per play (Albeit the later stat has a lot to do with the big pass plays). Does anybody have a reliable source for missed tackles per team? This would be interesting.

I really liked the aggressive play of our defense though, especially the safeties. You just need to break down at some point to ensure the tackle.

Savage57's picture

Easy fix?

Every time a player makes a hit above the waist in preseason, he gets fined $100 and has to run laps for each infraction following film review.

Yeah, I know, in the context of what these guys make it's nothing, but it's the idea of being called out in front of the team for screwing up and a group's self-policing nature that comes from it.

There has to be some way to get these guys to lower their target area.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

The worst example of high targeting was Clay's blown sack. Ridiculous. He has the guy cornered dead to rights, and this crafty old veteran flies in high like a kid getting his first crack at a tackling dummy.

Embarrassing. Wentz tosses him off like a rag doll, then fires a TD.

Bearmeat's picture

....CM3 is no longer a blue chip player. Hell, he may no longer be a red chip player.

If we get a year of semi-healthy and "at least he doesn't suck" play out of him, I will be very very surprised. And very happy.

Tarynfor12's picture

Thankfully we have Perry, who it was written, has picked up right where he left off last season by getting a sack in a preseason game where most scream means nothing against...vanilla this and vanilla that.
I guess that first play and lined up off sides by a mile is fine because it wasn't a playoff game vs the Niner's to give them another 1st and goal and go ahead TD.

The TKstinator's picture

So it was written, and so it shall come to pass.

Bedrock's picture

Who really cares if Clay is "blue" or "red"? Sheesh. I'm sure the label is going to help him. Ugh.
Preseason game. Settle it way down.

Finwiz's picture

He's always done that. At times he's just out of control and not very focused.
That's such a rookie error.
Back when I was playing they always told us not to watch the ball carriers shoulders or eyes, look at his mid section and focus on that.
Worked for us back then, but OBVIOUSLY a different level.

dschwalm's picture

In my day, the tackling fell into the #3 priority for position coaches. However, I am not naive enough to think the reason they DON'T continue daily drills in tackling is because they should have learned these basic fundamentals before turning pro.

daveh's picture

Not only is the tackling bad, but again over the middle on third downs. Wide open and always good for a first down and giving big yardage..Go Pack..

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Coverage was weak, and the pass rush constantly had me asking, "Daddy, Are we there yet?"

Pathetic. Thankfully, Philly's players had a severe case of butter fingers.

Nick Perry's picture

I'm still holding out hope for the pass rush BUT I couldn't help but notice T.J. Watt had 2 sacks in his 1st game. I have a feeling King will have to be damn near as good as Richard Sherman to not be viewed as a mistake taking him over Watt. That's NOT a knock on Kevin King but more of a feeling on just how great TJ Watt is going to be.

Bearmeat's picture

Moving back when you had 2 players you liked was the right thing to do. That said, I think the real mistake TT made was doubling down on coverage in the 15 and 17 drafts. Where's the pass rush help going to come from?

Take a look at Noah Spence. We could have had him, and now he's ready to blow up.

Turophile's picture

So you noticed that, (poster Nick Perry). Did he beat his man to get to the QB, no. They were pretty much gimme sacks. You can forget your "should have taken Watt" agenda, until:
a) he actually does play at a consistently high level
b) King doesn't.

We are nowhere near at the time to make that determination. Give it a season or two and I'll listen to a comparison then.

chugwater's picture

Elliott had 3 sacks in his rookie preseason. Many thought he was a beast, but film showed it was more inept offensive lineman than Elliott's skills and talent.

marpag1's picture

Agree. Both of Watt's sacks were unimpressive. One came when he was entirely unblocked. The other happened when the QB scrambled and his linemen had no idea where he was going. Watt was stonewalled up till then.

Tarynfor12's picture

Much like our Perry, yes?

Nick Perry's picture

No agenda here, just who I wanted to draft. Secondly I have no idea WHAT the sacks looked like just that he had 2 and the headline to the story made it sound as though he played a hell of a game when he was in. Besides, I'm pretty sure I mentioned my comment wasn't meant to take away anything from King but more of my thoughts that Watt will be great. Call his sacks anything you want. Matthews had "A Gimmie Sack" and came up empty so maybe there's no such things as "Gimmie Sacks". Not only did he miss his "Gimmie Sack" but King blew the tackle and Rollins got stiff armed resulting in a Philly TD. Just think if Matthews closed the deal on the "Gimmie Sack"? No missed tackle by King or stiff arm to Rollins and no Philly TD. Damn those Gimmie Sacks in Pittsburgh!

Finwiz's picture

Yeah I don't care HOW he got them....just get the QB on the ground.
That's more than OLD Clay could do on Thursday night with his easy gimmee sack! Talk about a gift. And he WHIFFED!
Boy are fans going to be screaming if TJ has a great year.

Since '61's picture

Shouldn't the comparison be between Watt and Beigel rather than Watt and Jones? Jones will be playing in a hybrid role and Watt and Beigel are both edge rushers, I think. Thanks, Since '61

A Pickled Packer's picture

I get the feeling TJ Watt is going to be our next Barry Sanders. I hope not, but instead we pick up Beigle, a guy with a game leg. Why? In the far off distance I hear an echo, and it sounds like Tony Mandarich. If so, there should be hell to pay. People were screaming for this pick. It seemed like such an obvious choice. In the end though maybe things balance out.

Finwiz's picture

God please don't say that. This is way too painful to consider.
I don't mind they took Biegel, but they had no idea of the injury history?
Don't they give these guys pre-draft physicals or medical evaluations from college staff? I suppose that stuff is all confidential now.
The biggest issue for me is the the 2 defensive players that aren't available due to injury again. (rookies) Every year, same thing.
You'd figure they'd be aware of the injury bug with the bad history they've had with some of these guys.

Nick Perry's picture

Lets hope Biegel can come back at some point this season and at least contribute on 3rd downs. Yes he's behind, he'll be behind all season at this point. But he could still come back either by the beginning of week one or he could be the player the Packers designate to return from IR. If the later were to happen he'd come back after the bye with some damn fresh legs and hopefully a few packages they could run well with him on the field.

A Pickled Packer's picture

The thing with the Beigle pick that gets me is I'm sure they knew he was going to have foot surgery, yet they picked him anyway. It was a toss up to me which we were in more need of a cornerback or outside linebacker. I know it is early, too early to call anything but it would have been nice to have two bloodlines on the team. Hoping that King will shut this conversation down in a hurry... Go Packers

Spock's picture

NP, "or he could be the player the Packers designate to return from IR". I'm assuming you mean if there is more than one player on IR as there no longer is a "designated" player on the IR list. That rule was changed last year.

Nick Perry's picture

What rule is it I'm thinking of where a team can bring back a player after 6 weeks?? I'm telling you Spock, this "Getting Old" is for the birds! I can't remember anything anymore!!

Spock's picture

NP, LOL, you and me both! I believe you are thinking of the PUP list since Biegel hasn't practiced yet.

Since '61's picture

Poor tackling has been as issue with this team for several years. To me it is a combination of less practices allowed by the CBA and a lack of focus by coaching on proper tackling form. If a defender consistently misses tackles he shouldn't play. Tackling is a basic element of football. Every player at every position should be able to make a basic tackle. Yes, some tackles will be broken but it should not be normal as it has become especially with the Packers. As a veteran CM3 should be setting an example, not letting a clear sack become a missed tackle. It's only the first preseason game but the pattern of poor tackling has appeared yet again. Thanks, Since '61

Turophile's picture

Tackling is tougher these days, with the players tackled being bigger stronger faster, and with modern techniques helping (eg more advanced computer use) . At the same time, unless you want to sacrifice a draft pick (like the Seahawks in the last draft), you must severely limit the contact stuff, making it more awkward to get the technique down pat for the tackler.

Tackling the rolling giant hoops in camp only goes so far. It should get better as the coaches get more tape on the young tacklers, and use it for teaching better technique. Nothing like a vid of you doing it wrong (in front of a whole room of people) to motivate you to get better.

Since '61's picture

Agree, except that in the case of the Packers the experienced players have been as bad as the young players. It seems to be a systemic problem rather than isolated to rookies. Also, shouldn't players know how to tackle after 4 years of High school and 4 years of college football for most of them. Thanks, Since '61

Finwiz's picture

I just don't think they teach the fundamentals, or else the kids don't pay attention and are too afraid to go low to make an ankle tackle, either because they are afraid of taking a knee to the temple, or it isn't "sexy" enough to just bring a guy down. They want to go for the high kill shot and look good on ESPN.

4thand1's picture

The Eagles TD had me saying, nice tackling you bums. How do you watch the game film and not throw up with that lame effort. King did improve a ton as the game went on. I was not impressed with Rollins at all. 1st game , cut em a break I guess. Spriggs at left tackle, better pick up a left handed QB.

nostradanus's picture

The form tackle has become a lost art in this day and age of highlight hits and the NFL players union doesn't want to have these guys hitting and tackling all that much in practice. The solution: all hats to the ball man, Gang Tackling! Some teams are adept at this and some are not, the Packers Defense under Capers always seems to play like a bunch of individual's instead of a group. The good Defense's fly to the football, the bad Defenses look around at the other players on their unit for somebody to blame. Which Defense do the Packers have, y'all can figure that one out. What was the biggest failure of Capers Defense last year? Pass rush? No Stopping the run? No, Turnovers? No. The answer is they couldn't get the third down stops when they needed to. Gang tackling man, play as a team fella's. Maybe i'm wrong, I hope so. I am however in total agreement with Cory, this Defense doesn't have to be great, average will do.

Go Pack!

croatpackfan's picture

I expected this "doom day" type of comments.

Cory wrote very good article and, yes, I agree that tackling need a lot of work and improvement.

But, people, think again! This was FIRST PRE SEASON game. All player's mistakes should pop out. This is why teams playing those pre season games. One of the reasons, the most important is player evaluation. Second one by importance is to slowly rise your team game speed up to the speed of NFL. Third one is to expose player's mistakes and try to correct them. I'm sure that you can find some other reasons, but, by my opinion those 3 are the most important.

Cory also point out: "The defense has to stop playing like individuals and start playing like a unit. It doesn’t matter how many personal sacks, tackles for loss or passes defended a player racks up if the Packers cannot build on last year and advance to their sixth Super Bowl."

That is the most important thing for tackling. If team plays as units and tackle as group, there will be less individual "highlits" sacks, tackles, hits, but the overall tackling will be much, much improved.

That is something I noticed Packers D slowly changing in that direction, if you start from 2011 up to today. I was always disapointed when I was watching Packers defenders tackling alone, one by one, and losing that battles. Other teams, teams with excellent D always tackles in groups.

Lphill's picture

In other news TJ Watt who we should have drafted gets 2 sacks in first game action, just saying.

dobber's picture


marpag1's picture

Both of Watt's sacks were freebies. He didn't beat anyone to get them.

dschwalm's picture

So was CMIII's but he whiffed. Couldn't close!

dobber's picture

I wonder if, all those times ARod steps up and shrugs off a sack (which he does a lot), fans of those other teams curse their rusher for not being able to close...or do they credit Rodgers for stepping up in a timely way and making a good play?

4EVER's picture

Video says: two very impressive and deserving sacks.

Finwiz's picture

And the idjuts around here were saying they were both "gimmee's" or uncontested sacks.
The 1st one, we don't have ONE guy that can disengage from a tackle like that and be instinctive enough to slide into the rush lane. Matthews maybe could have done this 5-6 years ago, but now?
The 2nd one, yes he was unblocked, but he showed great burst on that play. Again, we don't have on rush LB with that type of speed.
If this guy turns out to have a great year, they will be calling for Teds head once again, and rightfully so.

nostradanus's picture

All of these guy's know how to tackle since they have been playing the game from the time they were little kids. They all know the fundamental's of tackling. I agree with 'Since 61' you don't tackle you sit the bench for awhile. Just like on Offense, you put the ball on the ground you sit, you make a boneheaded penalty on third down, you sit. Yes it's only pre-season but these young whipper-snappers have got to learn to do things the right way, the Packer way and that must be stressed by Big Mike and his entire staff. It's not that hard it's just accountability.

A Pickled Packer's picture

What are the coaches teaching these guys. Hitting with the shoulder without results should get you benched. This ultimately falls on McCarthy but Capers is responsible for this. He wants his bunch to get that turnover and a well placed shoulder on the ball may do that, and he probably coaches that, but we got to stick more to the fundamentals. Wrapping your guy up is defense 101. We need to get back to that or it's deja' vu all over again for the defense.

Slim11's picture

King is a willing hitter. In his post-game interview, he did say it was faster at this level than in college. Not a big surprise, but he realizes he has work to do.

Like many others here, I was disappointed in the tackling by the starters including CM3. His skill set may be diminishing faster than anyone expected. I was a little surprised to see him put his hand down, inside no less, and still generate some pressure. I hope we see more of that.

Bedrock's picture

Let's keep in mind the percentage of plays we witnessed of non-starters. GB has always been a young team, and one of the areas it will show is tackling. You can only focus on so much before there is no focus. Let's take a look at what GB does well compared to other teams. Is there another team that grooms QB play better? How about WR? Joe Schmo Callahan gets cut repeatedly and MM works his magic. How about Michael "Dunkin'" Clark learning like he has?

BPEARSON21's picture

UDFA and rookies comprise our hope for an improved defense this season. Defensive deficiencies should come as no surprise I've been saying this all off season.

King is getting beat, Rollins get's destroyed by a stiff arm, Damarious Randall is hurt again. Same old story. I'll ask what I've been asking all year, why are you surprised?

...but it's still super super early so no need to over-react.

dobber's picture

"UDFA and rookies comprise our hope for an improved defense this season. Defensive deficiencies should come as no surprise I've been saying this all off season."

It's change. It's what people wanted, isn't it?

Since last November, the phrase "it can't get any worse" has been thrown around here a lot. Well, either this is a massive "hold my beer" moment on the way or we're going to find out that this defense was being held back by some players and by injuries a year ago.

Since '61's picture

Packers have re-signed LS Brett Goode. Either competition for D. Hart or the experiment with Hart is over. I'd be happy to see Goode win the job back. Thanks, Since '61

croatpackfan's picture

Did any of you watched Jags at Patriots? No?

Well, go, watch. Then come here to panic about bad tackling and no pass rush and no cover and giving big plays, and no run D and so on...

Bill Belichick will have much more job to do than Mike McCarthy!

flackcatcher's picture

Last week I was talking to a assistant coach for a AFC team.(His bother was in my command) Among the issues teams have to deal with, skills like tackling are degrading across the league. He was very clear on this point. Players are getting hurt because they don't understand how quick and fast this league is. There is no time to teach, or polish basic skills cause teams must use that time to put their team packages into place. With the compressed training camp, something has to give. Most coaches choose to not emphasize the basics, but they extremely unhappy over it. Cory is right, but the league choose this. Now, the costs are starting to add up.

croatpackfan's picture

I know. You are right. But Mike McCarthy is guilty one because of that? Or Dom Capers? That is what I'm reading on this site and similar sites I visit!

flackcatcher's picture

MM has to choose what to emphasize in the compressed TC. In reality, all the choices he has are bad ones. All he can do, is try to catch up during the season. It sucks, but that's what happens when players and owners don't think far enough ahead.

dschwalm's picture

As you say, Croat, 'everything is relative' and we have to keep the sloppy tackling in perspective......BUT, it's a recurring theme with these MM coached teams. HE should wear the collar

snowdog's picture

Whoa ... that was a close one . A very welcome back Brett Goode from a grateful Packer Nation

Mojo's picture

One of the keys to tackling reminds of a time a few years back when the 49ers had that great defense,

They were talented sure, but the thing I noticed most was how two or more players swarmed to the ball nearly every time, especially on the wide stuff.

We got a taste of it in last Thursdays preseason game when King held up the receiver and Martinez cleaned up and forced a fumble. There's truth in numbers.

al bundy's picture

I agree. if you watched the Pack pass rush, were sending dbs on the rush a lot leaving the remaining guys to play one on one. An ok plan when you have backs with size and cover speed. We dont.

al bundy's picture

Like many of you I watched several of the other pre season games and I did not see the missed tackles and sloppy tackles like the Packers are doing,
Seems like most dbs already know you wrap up the receiver and you tackle low not at the shoulders. Just the packers so far.

baldski's picture

I go back to the great Vince Lombardi who said: "Football is a game of blocking and tackling." He never let his team forget that.

cheesehead1's picture

Agree. Watched the game and the D reminded me of last season, receivers wide open and poor tackling. Only one game though. Hope McCarthy pushes them hard in practice.

mnklitzke's picture

Was nice to see King not afraid to lay down a great tackle. Yes missed some coverage stuff but his tackling was A++

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