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How Will Capers Do It?

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How Will Capers Do It?

Much has been written about Dom Capers and how he will put his defensive players in a position to be successful. It's a wonderful thought and you hear it all the time around the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. "We want to put our players in a position to win".

That's all well and good, but I'm sure a lot of fans ask upon reading that, "How?"

It's a legit question and it's one that is far more complicated than I am able to answer with any kind of authority, but I can give you an idea of what Capers means when he says those words.

One of the most oft-discussed topics early in the off-season was Al Harris and his supposed deficiency in zone coverage. Packer fans, and many media members as well, have openly questioned Harris' ability to play the zone concepts asked of the defensive backs in Capers' scheme. (You might remember Harris' colorful response to one such inquiry from one Mr. Rob Demovsky) Harris playing zone is not the problem. The problem is when the Packers ask him to do it. Harris is right when he says that zone is much easier to play than man - physically, it is. One of the things you'll hear repeated is how much easier it supposedly is for cornerbacks to be able to face the quarterback because they are not running with receivers all over the field with their back to the offensive backfield. However, playing a zone concept or even man coverage with your eyes in the backfield on 2nd down in the 1st quarter of a game is much different than playing zone on 3rd and long in the 3rd quarter of a tight ball game. Too many times in the last few years, we have seen Harris mentally implode in such a scenario. (For reference, check out this play from the Jacksonville game from last season or this one from the Thursday night game against the Cowboys two years ago when Harris completely blew an EASY 3rd and 19 coverage by getting caught lost with his eyes in the backfield and completely disregarding his assignment, which called for him to switch men on motion)

So how does Capers address this?

One way, but by no means the only way, will be for Capers to utilize what is known as a 'combo coverage'. In most cases this is designated to have either the strong or weak side of the defensive formation play zone while the opposite side plays man. Sometimes, this might even entail only the weak-side corner, in the best-case scenario for the Packers it would be Harris, playing man coverage while the strong side of the formation plays some type of zone. A generic call for this would possibly be 'Zone strong, man weak'. (This is a major oversimplification, as there's not even a line call there, but you get the point) Capers would have this in his back pocket for calling at the most pressure filled points of the game, just enabling Harris to worry about sticking on his man and not worrying about anything else. Of course, after awhile, offensive coordinators would notice this tendency and try to take advantage of it, causing Capers to adjust - but I think you get the idea.

Yes, this is a gross oversimplification, and it's only one player in one type of scenario. But it illustrates the possibilities of how Capers will attack his defensive game-planning this upcoming season.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Shootz's picture

Is that Bob Sanders throwing his hands up in the air as Crayton flies past with the ball?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Interesting. I've never played a combination of man and zone before.

JerseyAl's picture

I'm no Al Harris apologist, in fact, I've been one of the biggest loudmouths screaming he can't play zone. But in his defense, on the first play, he passed the receiver off to the safety, who missed the coverage. The second play was a better example of what happens when he has to read and think. Two receivers going by him and he lets them both go.

PackerAaron's picture

Al - it's debatable if Harris is indeed passing off the receiver to the safety. That is common practice, yes, but my hunch is that Harris is caught looking in the backfield and loses track of him.

Ryeguy812's picture

Is this really going to matter since our OLBs will be sacking the QB before any of Al's mental errors can materialize?

bomdad's picture

I bet Capers will leave Harris and Woodson jamming guys at the line. They are too good at it to abandon that so the offense gets a free release. Disrupting the timing of the O is a form of pressure, thats what he's trying to create. Key difference from previous scheme, hopefully, is communication.

PackersRS's picture

Newbie dumb question here: Can't the defensive backs bump the receiver WHILE playing zone coverage, specially in cover two? It gives more time to the rushers to get to the qb, and if they're good, the wr won't have time to get in the soft spot of the zone.

Jayme's picture

PackersRS - It's harder to do that in a zone coverage scheme because, generally, then cornerbacks have a relatively large area to cover. If they are down on the line bumping a receiver, another receiver can move into their coverage area (which is usually mid-range on the sidelines) which would cause a safety to move out of position which screws up the entire defense.
That said, I'm sure it's not impossible, and with the minds of NFL coaches behind it, I'm sure they could figure something out.

JerseyAl's picture

I like Ryeguy's answer...

retiredgrampa's picture

The thing that has not been mentioned much here is that "communication" problem that plagued the Pack even last year in man coverage. It becomes even more vital in zone and is one of our weaknesses. I've read that now EVERY man on the D must yell out his read to let the others know what his duty is. Umless those 8 men do it every play, some WR will be wide open to hurt us. It will turn a game around fast. I hope Capers is drilling this into the guys constantly.

Ron La Canne's picture

If you're talking about an oportunistic 34 like, say, the Steelers, I'm more worried about the Safeties, especially the one who is not showing up for very important training sessions.

PackersRS's picture

retiredgrampa - I have the same concern about the miscomunnication. But the Packers played almost only man-to-man. So they didn't practice a lot of zone. Hence the problems when they had to perform it. At least this is the excuse Al Harris used. And makes sense. And I think the yelling their duties part is just for training camp, so they can get used to it. Doubt it'll happen on gameday.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Good post Aaron and nice comments from the readers. I, too, hadn't thought about combining zone and man to take advantage of strengths.
This one's for Corey...can't you see Bush yelling out his assignment before the ball is snapped..."Man!, I mean Zone, er, Man! er, SHIT!"

Nick's picture

A lot of the miscommunication has to be credited to the (lack of) coaching. McCarthy said something similar recently in a PC. There are two type of mental mistakes a player can make....and he would blame something like this on coaching failure. Obviously he wasn't talking about the Sanders defense but I'm sure that was one of his issues when he mentioned a lot of the same issues being around in the third year that were there in the first.

Ron La Canne's picture

Andrew just what has poor ole Jarred done to deserve that kind of talk? Oh. never mind I just remembered.

As far as mixing in "Man" coverage for the corners would just require the Safeties to be less aggressive. But isn't that one of the 34 strengths? Uaing the safeties on or near the L-o-S that is.

Shootz's picture

I heard McCarthy say that Nick Barnett was going to be tweeting his reads so everyone gets their assignment. If Finley's girlfriend gets 10,000 followers he's going to learn how to catch an over-the-shoulder ball.

bomdad's picture

LOL Shootz.
I think you leaked ocho-cinco's next end zone celebration.

Aaron Rogders's picture

Off Topic:
Has anyone ever heard of the Japan Bowl? Apparently there are national teams too and Japan beat the USA. Anyways, I just heard about this for the first time here: .

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