Evolving Nitro Package Starting to Settle In for Packers

Injuries and adjustments thrust players into new roles on defense, and the results were mostly positive on Sunday. 

It’s tempting to make a definitive statement each week about a team’s status as contender or pretender. Weekly power rankings are the ultimate expression of this tendency. Right now, still months away from the postseason, Green Bay is seen as a contender by most after a somewhat shaky 2-1 start. 
 
The reality is it matters a whole lot less where a team is in Week 3 compared to Week 15 unless there’s irreversible damage—an outcome that seems unlikely for the Packers, if only given recent history. What’s more, there’s reason for hope for these Packers given some telltale signs on Sunday. 
 
Green Bay’s defense is still methodically establishing its identity and may come to thank the reality of next-man-up for accelerating the defense’s evolution. Rookie Josh Jones eventually settled in at linebacker in the team’s Nitro package, sliding Morgan Burnett to slot corner while Marwin Evans took injured Kentrell Brice’s spot next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The 220-pound Jones was aggressive, disruptive and showcased his 4.41-second speed while piling up a team-high 12 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. His plays were timely, giving Jones’ impact performance a clutch factor. 
 
The move also showcased Burnett’s continued comfort level at wherever it is the Packers deploy him. Burnett showed a knack for the slot and provided added benefits in coverage, while the bigger, more aggressive Jones buttressed the team’s run defense. As the game progressed, the Packers used Jones and Burnett in their new spots. When cramps sidelined Evans in the fourth quarter, Burnett returned to his native position and the Packers didn’t skip a beat. 
 
Clay Matthews looked similarly disruptive as he did in the first two weeks, which is still to say he’s hurrying far more than he is closing the deal. With Ahmad Brooks being productive and looking perfectly comfortable off the edge, Matthews could be a player worth deploying in more creative ways to maximize playmaking ability. Green Bay’s pass rush was non-existent at times Sunday, though it did come home a few times via the blitz. Nick Perry and Mike Daniels make the front seven so much better. 
 
Sunday was far from perfect, as Cincinnati found considerable first-half success on the ground and through the air under the direction of newly promoted offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. But as the game progressed and the Packers settled into an opponent for which they could rely little on tape for evaluation, they figured things out. 
 
The proof is in the three points the defense allowed after the first half. Cincinnati may have been without firepower of their own—John Ross and Tyler Eifert did not play—but overall Sunday represented a win for the Packers defense. In total, they surrendered 17 points and only three once they’d settled into a package that increased their chances of slowing the Bengals down. 
 
Will we see much of this new-look Nitro on Thursday against the run-heavy Bears? If it becomes a liability against Jordan Howard, it’s possible, but the Packers also don’t want to lose sight of Tarik Cohen. Jones’ athleticism and aggressiveness might be needed more often than not. If Jones lines up at linebacker, Burnett likely returns to safety next to Clinton-Dix while Martinez mans the other linebacker spot. 
 
The takeaway from all of this is that Green Bay’s defense right now is versatile. The deck may continue to shuffle, injuries may continue to add up. But Green Bay might have found something that works for them. And what they have could look suddenly look a lot better if the offense turns into the potent force they were expected by many to be. 
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Comments (28)

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Mojo's picture

September 25, 2017 at 05:11 pm

Off topic, but I heard Goode is on IR. Wonder if his injury occurred on the last play of the game.

Don't want to mess with Crosby's psyche since he seemed to be back to normal.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 26, 2017 at 06:54 am

Groin injury. AND GONE. (IE: waived )

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The TKstinator's picture

September 25, 2017 at 05:12 pm

You had me at "buttressed".

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 25, 2017 at 05:22 pm

Josh Jones.

If Capers can't run a defense now then it should be the final nail because Josh Jones.

WTF is Jeremy talking about?
Josh Jones

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dobber's picture

September 26, 2017 at 08:14 am

Josh Jones is just one guy, and a rookie at that. Let's not put too much--or too high an expectation--on him.

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NitschkeFan's picture

September 25, 2017 at 05:31 pm

When (if) healthy the front 7 will be very good. Not confident in the back 4 though.

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The TKstinator's picture

September 25, 2017 at 09:29 pm

King: high ceiling, clearly most gifted CB on the roster, expect some rookie inconsistency, but expect more good than bad
House: higher floor than any GB CB last year, must get healthy
Burnett: versatile, valuable, experienced
Clinton-Dix: off to what looks like a slow start this year, but Pro Bowler last year. He's healthy. I don't think he's suddenly forgotten how to play.

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Nick Perry's picture

September 26, 2017 at 05:41 am

Considering the Packers don't have one interception I'm pretty concerned right now too. They've played ONE potent passing attack and got smoked. The secondary didn't have many last year until the Seattle game where Wilson was out new Cutler and threw 5 which helped the overall totals.

HHCD needs to start picking up his game. He's been mostly non existent through 3 games. Boy I miss the days of Woodson and Collins picking off passes and taking em to the house.

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The TKstinator's picture

September 26, 2017 at 05:50 am

I too am a big fan of the pick six.

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Lphill's picture

September 25, 2017 at 05:51 pm

I think with limited pre season play that maybe it takes teams about 3 or 4 games until they become settled as far as personnel groups go , a lot of inconsistent play around the NFL, as time goes on we will see who are the pretenders and who are contenders .

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Since'61's picture

September 25, 2017 at 06:47 pm

The inconsistency is due to less practices and injuries rather than limited pre-season play. Thanks, Since '61

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Finwiz's picture

September 26, 2017 at 08:08 am

Combination of all three

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Dzehren's picture

September 25, 2017 at 08:42 pm

RT Ulrick John signed off Cardinals Practice Squad- agent thinks he will.be active vs Bears game
Goode waived with hamstring injury.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

September 25, 2017 at 09:20 pm

Key is RIGHT tackle. Who plays left if Bakht & Murphy, cannot play....Pankey or McCray? Also, they have to release someone or place them on IR. Is it time to make a decision on an RB cut? Seems like a luxury we cannot afford.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 26, 2017 at 07:21 am

I am also curious to see what they are going to do. They have extra players at RB and CB. Do they let Mays or Pipkins go? Those to me seem like the most logical players, unless one of the injured players would go on IR.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 26, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Packers are in a tough spot. People complaining about Mays and Jones not playing have a point. Now the Packers may have to cut one or both to keep the extra O linemen. (12? O linemen on the active 53. That's a big room:) NFL biased toward DB under the current rules. Second the Packers cut Hawkins or Pipkins they be picked up. Pass protectors, and pass defenders are at a premium in the NFL today.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm

They placed Murphy on IR.
So that explains what they are doing.

Man OT is THIN!

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dobber's picture

September 26, 2017 at 08:15 am

Pankey was a LT in college, but apparently did his best work with the Packers at G.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 25, 2017 at 08:45 pm

One of the biggest unsung hero's from the Packers defense has been Morgan Burnett. He has been terrific defending TE's and filling gaps.

Now enter Jones. He is bigger, faster and more athletic then Burnett. Burnett has the experience, but having those 2 guys next to each other will be a huge asset for Jones.

Once they get Perry and Daniels back, and Brooks is more involved, I'd love to see Jones lined up next to Mathews in some pass rush situations. That would give us a tremendous front 5.

I'm really excited to see what else Capers has planned for Jones and the defense once Daniels and Perry get healthy again.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 26, 2017 at 01:29 am

Jones at Nitro ILB, Burnett at the slot, Evans at SS means that both Randall and Rollins are on the sidelines when House returns. Capers is at his best when he has chess pieces to move around. I like your idea of CM3 lined up next to Jones, but it could be Martinez or Ryan depending on match-ups, or any combination of those four.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 26, 2017 at 06:56 am

I love the versatility of the safety's. Jones and Burnett give the defense a ton of options.
I think on most downs Martinez will line up next to Jones when Jones is in there. And depending on the offense that they are lined up against.

I'm just talking about a package of plays on 3rd and long, having the best pass rushers on the field. I like moving Mathews to ILB and having Brooks and Perry at OLB. And having Jones as the other ILB up front.

This will definitely be a matchup type of defense.

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zeke's picture

September 26, 2017 at 02:50 am

Burnett is making himself a bunch of money, it seems. Nice way to begin the "walk year" of your contract.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 26, 2017 at 07:06 am

Yes he is. He is proving to be very versatile too. Playing S, ILB, Nickel. He is all over the field.

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Lphill's picture

September 26, 2017 at 06:03 am

Is Ha Ha on the active roster ? Or was he released before the season? (Sarcasm )

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flackcatcher's picture

September 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Packers have Ha-Ha playing 1high in their okie (base) and nitro (preferred) packages. Covers against the long ball in the seam, and lets them shade Randall in coverage. Means Clinton-Dix is not in position to make plays other than cover for the boundary and slot and his fellow SS Brice. Takes out one of the Packers best DB in picking off the ball. But prevents the long gain more often than not. He is sacrificing his game in the short term for the team.

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Finwiz's picture

September 26, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Great observation, and good point on Clinton-Dix's roll in the new defense.

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Donster's picture

September 26, 2017 at 07:54 am

So OT Ulrick John has been signed. Goode was put on IR and replaced by Taybor Pepper. Anybody have an idea who is going to get cut to make room for Ulrick?

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fthisJack's picture

September 26, 2017 at 09:01 am

tell me why is Janis on the roster again? oh yeah .....ST and kick returner. well he has one tackle and has he even returned a kick yet?

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