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Improve From Within: Dom Capers

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Improve From Within: Dom Capers

The one area that has gotten the most attention by both fans and the media this offseason has been the pass defense, especially against "veteran quarterbacks". Much has been made of the young guys who were forced onto the field because of Al Harris' injury. While this holds some water, its not completely true. Its popular to say, for instance, that the team was "forced" to play Jarrett Bush because of the domino effect of having Harris out. But there he is in Week Two getting torched by Chad Johnson for a big play. How could that be? I thought the company line was that he was only playing because Harris got hurt?

The truth is the team, from Thompson on down, put way too much faith in Bush's abilities from the start, and have for a long time. But he is not the issue. Neither is Brandon Underwood.

The issue, when it comes to the pass defense, is Dom Capers. I got a chance to chat with Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson about this on Green and Gold Today a few weeks ago and Bill made the perfect point. Capers simply has to trust his pressure packages more, especially on third down and particularly on third and long.

Take a look below:

I mean, there is just no excuse for that.

Again and again, the Packers defense put opponents in bad positions on third down, and again and again, Capers let them off the hook with safe 3 man rushes and by dropping 8 into coverage. I realize he's playing the odds here, but take a look at that video again. Where is Clay Matthews? That's right, playing zone coverage on 3rd and a mile. That's absurd. That kid should be after the quarterback any and every time the opposing offense is set up to fail. To nullify your best pass rusher by your own doing is just unfathomable to me.

And to dispel the myth that Capers was only vulnerable to "elite veteran quarterbacks", well, ahem:

Now, a couple of things to note here. Yes, Williams slips on the coverage. But the lack of a pass rush not only gives Cutler plenty of time to move around the pocket and find a receiver, it also allows Knox the time necessary to work back to the quarterback or find a soft spot in the zone. (On a side note, I find it interesting that Hawk is the linebacker on the front end of the hole-in-zone here...)

Now, is Capers going to 'hit' every time he blitzes? Of course not. And these are obviously extreme examples used to make a point. He has the system and the talent on his squad to get after the quarterback, and I trust that with a full season under their belt and another offseason working and learning and tweaking things, Capers  should have the confidence to unleash the hounds a bit more regularly.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersRS's picture

"Where is Clay Matthews? That’s right, playing zone coverage on 3rd and a mile. That’s absurd. That kid should be after the quarterback any and every time the opposing offense is set up to fail."

A-freaking-MEN! I said it during the season, and everybody told me what a magician Capers was. For as much praise he got for constructing the run defense, he deserves the blame for this.

Take a look at the SF game. First half, we dominate. Then he decides to take Woodson off of Vernon Davis, and puts Matthews to cover him deep. We all know how that 2nd half went...

Oppy's picture

WHY did he take Wood off of Davis..?

nerdmann's picture

Wasn't that after Harris went down?

Oppy's picture


PackersRS's picture

Oh, and we need to play "nastier". Instruct the pass rushers to rough the QB when he gets on a rythm. And if it's Favre, tell them to pound his ass early and often. I'll trade a couple of first downs for a sore ankle any day of the week.

nerdmann's picture

I'd like to see them hit Favre much more often. It's personal with Favre.
I'd like to see us end the streak...

Jersey Al's picture

I know these plays are just chosen as examples, but it's oversimplifying to say that dropping 8 into coverage was always a bad idea. If the players had executed their assignments correctly, it could have worked very well.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in the pass rush being the key to pass defense, but the Packers only had one guy that other teams to worry about - CM3. Teams just focused on blocking him, and if they were successful, well, then there was no pass rush and the QB could stand there all day.

Looking at Clay Matthews on that first play, there two things to be noticed. One, he fakes coming, and the Vikes have an OL and a RB waiting for him if he does. Right away, he's getting a double team.

Then, he drops back to the wrong spot. Instead of dropping straight back into the passing lane (which Favre then throws through), he heads outside following a RB to the flat. But there's already a DB out there covering that. Matthews makes the wrong decision. If Matthews drops straight back, Favre has to throw over him, and most likely does not even attempt that pass.

There's nothing wrong with dropping eight sometimes, as long as the 8 do their jobs. I don't fault Capers for making the choices he did. If the Packers can generate a consistent rush this year, you won't see this nearly as much as you did.

PackersRS's picture

CM3 strenght: pass rushing.
CM3 weakness: pass coverage.

Choice: put him at coverage.
If you're gonna rush 3 from 3rd and long, rush him. He's THE best rusher. Yes, he's gonna get double teamed. The others didn't, and still couldn't generate anything. Jenkins was the closest to generate anything, but couldn't.

Jersey Al's picture

It doesn't stay a strength if you do the same thing EVERY time. Like it or not, you HAVE to switch it up...

PackersRS's picture

Show me a play where DeMarcus Ware drops into coverage on 3rd and long.

packeraaron's picture

Totally agree here Al. But the use of Matthews was particularly galling, esp at the end of the Pittsburgh game.

Jersey Al's picture

To me, that's really the one example you can use that I would agree with. Capers definitely got too conservative down the stretch of that game. Again, though, I understand the choices he had to make and why he made them.

Oppy's picture

Who was the safety?

The yooper's picture

The end of the Pittsburg game sticks out in my mind like a bad nightmare

Oppy's picture

"If Matthews drops straight back, Favre has to throw over him, and most likely does not even attempt that pass."

LOL, Yeah, Favre would NEVER attempt to make an ill-advised pass!

I'm just playin. That sentence did make me chuckle a bit!

Jersey Al's picture

That is funny, taken out of context - LOL

Oppy's picture

BTW, Jersey Al, the example you set with Matthews poor (Read: Incorrect) choice is probably exactly why Capers went so conservative on 3rd and long.. He's got a team in its first year of his 3-4 system, it's complicated, and the guys weren't all on the same page with the mental checks yet. When you blitz guys, any mental mistakes by the coverage are going to be amplified. The PIT game, and a few others, we had insufficient last line of defense with Bigby out of the picture.. Remember Al Harris going ballistic on.. Who was it, Derrick Martin? Harris actually approached Capers on the sideline and had him pulled from the game. Given the aptitude of the players from a decision-making standpoint, and in certain games, a talent standpoint, Capers was running the KISS program- Keep it Simple, Stupid. I'm not saying it was the "Right" thing to do, or the "Wrong" thing, but in my opinion, that's why he was so damn conservative at times last year.

nerdmann's picture

Agreed. This was the first year of an installation of the new defense. Job one is stopping the run. We excelled in that. We're still developing our 3-4 pass rushers.

Jersey Al's picture

Since I see very few Cowboys games, I couldn't begin to know what Ware is doing on every play. And bringing a different player, defense, team and coach into it is not going to help convince me of anything.

With the defense the PACKERS had, and the player MATTHEWS was (a rookie), he was used pretty well, in my opinion.

The yooper's picture

Kevin Greene is quoted as saying Matthews is one of the most fluid pass defenders he's seen at outside linebacker. So maybe he should drop back now and then,

ZeroTolerence's picture

If Capers believes his approach on 3rd and long is appropriate, he has to explain the many failures. I am in total agreement to bring it - a few failures has to be better than many.

Aaron - your film breakdown is excellent. No other site that I know of presents this type of analysis as often. Bravo, sir.

Tarynfor12's picture

Some I feel expected a 5 year defense after only one.The main point is that you know the Elite QB's will show your weakness along with the ability to fix it.Now if we were toasted by the lesser QB's,then yes I would have more concern of Capers coverages.

brian's picture

Interesting that the author brought up the CHI game as an example of how Capers consitantly schemes us into failure on 3rd and long. In fact, the drive shown buy the author was the ONLY drive in that game where CHI converted a 3rd down of more than 1 yard. Also interesting to note that one of GB's two interceptions in that game came on 3rd down. Why not show the INT? Why not mention that the defense held CHI to 254 total yards in that game? I guess that doesn't mesh with the Capers bashing theme.

packeraaron's picture

Oh my God. Really? What also goes unmentioned by "the author" is that water is wet and that (most) grass is green.

brian's picture

In that same CHI game, the Bears failed to convert on 3rd down attempts of 21, 8, 10, 22, and 11 yards. Yet this goes unmentioned by the author.

packeraaron's picture

One some of those third downs, Capers actually blitzed. In fact, Collins' INT was a DIRECT RESULT of a corner blitz by Williams.

Thanks for proving my point.

Chris's picture

Dropping 8 man into zone coverage should make a pass nearly impossible if all 8 guys know what to do.
I can see a draw play work here, or a swing pass to the RB get some yards, but not a thrown for 10+ yards.
Apart from that: You can't do the same all the time. You cannot rush 5+ each time it's 3rd and 8 or more, and you cannot drp 8 into coverage each time. You got to mix it up, make it difficult for the opponent to see your scheme before the snap.
These are growing pains of the switch to the 3-4. They will be better this year in these kind of situations with that one year experience under their belt.

JohnRehor's picture

Blitzing more is only have the issue-the blitzers need to get to the QB. If they dont, as was proven several times last year, it could turn into open season on the secondary.

BigDaddyPacker's picture

The Vikings, Steelers and Cardinals are really the only teams that ate us up through the air last year. While Favre, Big Ben & Warner are all great veteran QB's, at the end of the day it is a formation match up issue in my opinion.

The stacked formation in the slot was deadly, or slot in tight with a combo of either a TE or H-Back. Stacked formations or slot overloaded formations to the strong side of the offensive formation seemed to be where we got killed.

The inability of our DB's in those types of situations to be able to pick up coverage and allow the oppossition a clean release from the line of scrimmage proved deadly.

People may want to say it is pass rush related, but if your allowing the receivers to get out into their routes untouched, there is no way your going to get pressure on a guy that can pick up a read that early and throw in rhythm on a 3 or five step drop (especially if it is a top teir QB as listed above).

Whatever Capers has planned for our secondary this year, I feel it is critical to address our coverage against these types of formations if we plan to be an elite defense.

Bleed the Green & Gold!

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