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McCarthy's "Hunters" Need To Include Capers

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McCarthy's "Hunters" Need To Include Capers

Mike McCarthy has had a consistent message for his team since the beginning of the 2011 campaign - most times a Super Bowl champion is the one with a bullseye on their back, the "hunted." McCarthy has repeatedly told his players, and the media when asked, that the Packers are not the hunted.

They are the hunters.

McCarthy reiterated this message as recently as last week:

We're still hunting.The nice part about it, our football team stayed right on pace in accordance with that message. We refuse to be hunted. We're always going to be the hunter. We've been talking about it since Day 1.It's important to create the mind-set and develop and more importantly to carry it into the playoffs. That's the way we look at it.

The team seems to have responded to this and taken it on board.

My question is - has Dom Capers?

Hired to bring an attacking, pressure-oriented defense, Capers had orchestrated a championship-caliber turnaround after taking over for a Bob Sanders-directed unit that had done all that it was going to do.

After winning Super Bowl XLV, however, and with a series of personnel issues that while problematic should not have been debilitating, Capers' unit has taken a giant step back.

It doesn't take a football genius to see that the Packers miss Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins - but do they miss them to the tune of giving up 324 points in a regular season? No, the personnel issues only go so far. So what then? Has the scheme been exploited after only a few seasons of Capers' leading it?

No, but Capers needs to make a philosophical shift heading into the playoffs and he can start by listening to his head coach.

Capers and his defensive staff need to start calling for a more attacking style of play, starting on Sunday against the Giants. Capers was hired to bring pressure, for his ability to confuse and frustrate a quarterback. Yet week in and week out we've seen this defense sit back in passive zones with the defensive backs giving opposing receivers monstrously huge patches of real estate to work with off the line of scrimmage.

Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, along with Sam Sheilds, are very good man corners. Yes, they've all had their ups and downs this year, but every corner in the league goes through those. Capers needs to trust in their ability to man-up on receivers and to disrupt their timing.

Yes, the Giants' receivers are an excellent group.  But paying them respect by way of giving them constant free-releases off the line of scrimmage is just asking to be eaten alive by quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' passing attack.

One route that the Packers, and Williams in particular, need to be ready for is the deep post, which the Giants burned Williams on three times in the last meeting. Again - look at the size of the cushion Williams gives the receiver:

Now, obviously, it's impossible to play bump-and-run man from start to finish, but Capers has come close to completely abandoning it all together. That's criminal with the likes of Williams and Woodson in the defensive backfield.

Don't mistake my call for aggression as a call for Capers to "blitz more" - as it is, Capers has been blitzing more than he ever has and his defense has been unable to get home more often than not.

What I am calling for is less passivity and more besieging of the opponent. Too often this season the Packers have been overly cautious to a fault on the defensive side of the ball. Again, I understand Capers is dealing with a deficiency in personnel, but that shouldn't call for a neutering of the talent on hand.

It's time for Capers to follow McCarthy's instructions. Time for Capers to become the hunter.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (78) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Doug's picture

I ask the question in the CHTV chat on game days whenever I see the corners playing off. Especially on plays where it is like a 3rd and 6 and the corners are playing 10-15 yards off the ball. WHY?

If our line needs to get pressure, why play the CB's off the WRs and allow the ball to come out quickly?

Shouldn't we play more bump coverage redirecting the WR's, messing up the timing and therefore allowing more time for our line to rush?

Or am I completely wrong here?

packsmack25's picture

I swear, I'm convinced that Dom has purposefully given opposing coaches "bad tape" to look at all year. He wasn't going to give anything away.

ppabich's picture

I'm in on that! lol.

PackerBliss's picture

I asked this question myself, it just seems to unbelievable to me but I hope you are right. That would be one of the craziest coaching stratagies!

Jon's picture

I was saying that all season but I am starting to think they are just playing horrible.

PackersRS's picture

I've tought about it in the past but that's borderline conspiracy theory.

I have no doubt Capers has a lot of unscouted looks he saved for the playoffs, that's a fairly common practice, but that's too many "bad looks" just for putting on tape...

bryce's picture


bryce's picture

hope so

38Special's picture

Haha, Lets hope so. Our D will need to play like a top 10 defense to make this a smooth ride to Indianapolis.

SpiderPack's picture

I don't understand the puzzlement here. Tramon straight-up said they played soft and vanilla week 17 so as not to give out any useful tape. Wilde has said Dom won't blitz if we aren't stopping the run. I don't think its all that crazy of a coaching strategy at all. Its philosophical and it makes perfect sense, you put your defensive players in a position that forces them to be better communicators and cover guys(which is exactly what they needed this season BTW), if the offense is playing so damn well. I mean, what exactly is crazy about that? You gotta understand these coaches are like the father leading his son into life, instead of just telling him what to do. Our best coaches are not just "strategizers" for the game plans, they are trying to build a better team. I mean right? Dom does this every preseason as well, not just to be "vanilla," but to force his players to pay attention to fundamentals and basic communications. Seeing it as "conspiracy" is just our mistaken take on things.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

A-F'ING-MEN. Let our corners do what they do. What's the worst that can happen? They get burned? What else is new? It's a no lose proposition. Let em hang.


ppabich's picture

I want the defense to get some freaking penalties. Illegal contact, holding etc. Per there is zero correlation to defensive penalties and wins.

I totally agree Aaron. BE AGGRESSIVE! If you commit some penalties, whatever, the result is you can get away with some of those calls throughout the game as well.

packsmack25's picture

You basically summarized Woodson's past 3 seasons.

fish/crane's picture

Lol that play featured one of our best pass rushes of the season...

PackersRS's picture

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I believe Shields' awful, abysmal play when pressing receivers, together with Tramon Williams' health, was a big reason Capers went with so much cushion coverage. That and the abysmal play of the safeties.

But I agree with you, it's time for Capers to trust the players and be more aggressive.

jeremy's picture

Totally agree with this column. The Packers D scheme has gone totally stale. I've had enough of hearing the defensive coaching staff making excuses about how the game is a shootout or that the yards are garbage time yards. When a fan like me can read what they are doing live on a TV set it's bad. Capers needs to bring some new looks out of his encyclopedic playbook, move Matthews and Woodson around, pick unexpected times to bring extra rushers, and start showing some false looks on early downs. He'll have two weeks to get it done.

Bearmeat's picture

I agree Aaron -

BUT IMO Capers has tried to eliminate big plays on D (not that it's worked anyway) by giving those huge cushions.

He knows his offense is going to put up 35 at home against anyone. He's playing the odds by making the opposing team grind out drives and score TD's in the redzone. Which, coincidentally, also allows our ballhawking secondary to have more chances at picks.

Redzone and turnovers, combined with a potent offense. It's worked to the tune of 15-1 so far this year, and I don't expect it to change.

MarkinMadison's picture

As frustrated as anyone but like Bearmeat said, it has worked, meaning they have won games. You want to change that now? You want to see if Woodson still has enough speed to jam at the line and recover if he whiffs? You want to see if Burnett and Peprah will cover the back-side if Woodson & Co. can't recover? I would think that if the Dom was going to do it, he would have experimented with it a few weeks ago.

NoWayJose's picture

"I would think that if the Dom was going to do it, he would have experimented with it a few weeks ago."

This is my take too. Making a dramatic shift in your secondary scheme for the playoffs been playing would be a bold move. You are asking your DBs to shift styles on a dime with no margin for error.

Not saying it won't (or shouldn't) happen, but I'll be surprised.

packeraaron's picture

<em> You are asking your DBs to shift styles on a dime </em>

Huh? No, you're taking two weeks to implement a gameplan that asks them to feature a technique that they have used their whole careers.

NoWayJose's picture

Well, yes, two weeks of practice. I think it's fair to say that's not the same as having implemented a press scheme all year in live action.

And, yes, most of the DBs have ample historical experience with the technique. They'd hardly been learning from scratch, but I would think they'd be a little rusty after playing with cushion all year.

I don't disagree with your take. I've been thinking the same thing myself for weeks. But I do think it would be a bold move because you are asking to see something you haven't necessarily seen in a while. Capers is a bold man, so it's entirely possible.

packsmack25's picture

The Steelers did it in one week against the Pats.

bomdad's picture

Turnovers are the most important statistic to winning a game. I give Dom credit for getting guys into positions for making more INTs than any other team, in a league where half the QBs threw for 5000 yards.

Officiating changes in the playoff, so I too would like to see more man coverage. Regular season, you get ticky tack calls for PI, and the refs swallow their whistles in the playoffs.

Where I want to see this aggression your pimping is in the red zone.

Bob's picture

Trying to strip the ball instead of making the tackle has added a lot of yardage to plays. First man in should be tackling. Turnovers are helpful, but do you think, getting off the field and turning the ball over to the offense might help. 3 and outs mean more series for a very dangerous offense.

Evan's picture

God, tell me about it. The Packers have forced something like 6 fumbles all season. Getting dragged for 8 yards as you paw at the ball is not worth it. Just make the tackle!

Clint's picture

Great analysis. I can't understand why Capers hasn't done this by now either. The guys on here pointing to their record are forgetting we barely won several games this year with this strategy and that margin of error's a LOT smaller come playoff against top QB's. Why not bring the wood and see what happens? I'd rather see them go down, or give up 35+pts, swinging than just making it easy on said QB's.

Learning to play bump &amp; run "on the fly" isn't a factor during bye weeks and, if I'm not mistaken, were they not playing this more earlier in Capers' tenure annyway, making it a switch, not new?

DaveK's picture

15-1. I have faith the defense will rise to the challenge when needed which has been few and far between this year.

lebowski's picture

I'm just hoping they let Mike Neal out of the witness protection program in time for the playoffs.

packeraaron's picture

I wouldn't hold your breath.

Point Packer's picture

Mike Neal = big fat bust.

Wagszilla's picture

Mike Neal has barely played.
Give him time.

Calling him a bust is premature.

FITZCORE1252&#039;s EVO's picture

Slow your roll Slugger.

cow42's picture

as fans of the team, we all overestimate the ability of our players.

our best defensive player has a whopping 6 sacks.

our next best defensive player is a corner on the downside of his career.

none of the following 'starters' have shown to be playmakers this year...


bishop is borderline.

these players just aren't that good.

packeraaron's picture

To be fair, its not exactly in Raji, Pickett, or Green's job descriptions to be "playmakers" - but you have a point.

Also, "fans of the team" tend to both over AND under-estimate the talent level on their team.

FITZCORE1252&#039;s EVO's picture

Cow, I try and i try... I fear there may be no hope for you. All doom and gloom... All the time.

WHEN we repeat, will you get any joy out of it or will you be pissed because all you have to show for your endless consternation is a belly full of ulcers?

We have the best team in the league Cow, for the last time, I advise you to look past the warts and enjoy the DD's.

Bugeater's picture

These players aren't that good? Really?

I'd suggest you rephrase this to: "These players aren't that good at the things I want them to be good at"

Here's what this defense is good at:

Need a goal line stand? Boom. You get it.

Need to hold a team to a field goal attempt after a turn over? No problem.

Need an interception to stop an opponent's late game rally? Here you go.

This is a defense that won't give up a 4th &amp; 26 with the game on the line.

This is a defense that knocks down a Steve Young - T.O. pass in the waning moments.

This is a defense that time and time again rises to the occasion - doing whatever is required to win.

This is NOT a fantasy football/statistic geek's dream. They accoplish all of these things whether they're shutting out the opponent or are giving up 400 yards.

They win because they know what it takes to win. They do the things necessary to win the game.

I would take this defense over ANY in the NFL because of that.

Not good? Give me a break! Maybe you'd like to go into the playoffs with that incredible Pittsburgh D - rated #1 in yards per game...oh wait, they only got in as a wild card and aren't in the playoffs anymore...

How about those awesome New York Jets? #5! What? They're not in contention either? Darn... Oh well...

cow42's picture

"I would take this defense over ANY in the NFL because of that."

this statement is insane.

PackersRS's picture

Is it cow, or is it chicken?

cow42's picture

chicken because i think our defense sucks?
guess i'm chicken then.
because i think this defense sucks.

PackersRS's picture

If you're so sure why don't you take the bet then?

fish/crane's picture

BUGEATER....that is awesome. Really well stated....
Close future comments.

cow42's picture

what bet?

cow42's picture

i want to take this bet in the worst way... it's stealing. the only scenario that has you winning involves the Pack holding the giants under 30... no chance in hell of that happening.


i will not take this bet simply because i refuse to bet against the success of the Packers.

i may believe that the defense sucks ass but i'm still going to be pulling for them.

andrew harman's picture

the defense really doesnt suck.. tramon is a playmaker to say he is not is simply insulting.. shields is a play maker as well.. burnett has show sparks but is so young its hard to say. woodson has played a great season. matthews hasnt been as good as last year. but he is still a playmaker and has done a lot of good things this season. peprah is the best backup safety you will find. raji is not supposed to be a playmaker neal has been a disappointment to this point. but really has very little game experience. hawk is not a big playmaker nor is bishop. they are just solid. your not gonna have a playmaker at every position

PackersRS's picture

So why did you take the bet the last time? It was against the Packers that time.

Since you're not taking the bet, I'll be reminding you about the D when we discuss the win after Sunday.

Just don't give me no "it was against the lame Giants, against the Saints they're gonna be torched"

cow42's picture

No matter the outcome, if the D gives up more than 30 (which I highly expect they will) they played poorly.

So go ahead and "remind me about the d" BUT...

Don't talk to me about who won.

Don't talk to me about turnovers.

Don't talk to me about "making a play when it mattered"


packeraaron's picture

What about interceptions returned for touchdowns? Without that play by Clay Matthews (made possible by DJ Smith's late pressure up the middle) the Packers don't win last time against the Giants. bad defense?

PackersRS's picture


packsmack25's picture

So basically you're saying the Saints and Giants defenses are worse, since they gave up 42 and 38 points against the Packers, respectively.

cow42's picture

Yes - In my opinion, if a defense gives up more than 30 points EVEN IF THEY GET A PICK 6 they played poorly. 30+ is bad.

No - those points were scored by the Packers' unbelievable offense. We are talking about the defense here. Ask yourself this question... which of these three teams... saints, giants, Packers is capable of giving up 400 yards passing to orton?

But I'm done with this.

I think the defense is bad.

You all think that the defense is good.

I give up.
I am wrong.
In fact, the Pack is probably going to shut out the giants.

packsmack25's picture

Except that Orton played the Packers twice and never broke 300...

IowaPackFan's picture

So, Peprah, Burnett, Shields, and Williams combined 16 picks don't count as "playmaking"? You realize that each of those guys have at least 3 picks this season, right?

Coincidentally, that averages out to 1 pick per game by one of those 4 players (not even counting Woodson's 7 picks)

Seems to me that would be e definition of a 'playmaking' secondary.

Are they really inconsistent on coverage? Yes, but that doesn't mean they can't make a play when they need to - and that play is arguably the best play you can ask for in a defense.

Cole's picture


cow42's picture


Oppy's picture

Actaully, let's start by giving the man the personnel he needs to actually utilize his scheme.

Give Capers one decent OLB to play opposite Clay
who can play decent coverage and make a LT respect his pass rush, and then let's see where Dom Capers' job security sits.

cow42's picture


Ruppert's picture

I need a little clarification. By typing "actually....", you are not seriously implying that you would want Capers fired, are you? Dude.

Try to enjoy being a Packers fan, will ya? Your favorite football team shouldn't give you diarrhea.

FITZCORE1252&#039;s EVO's picture

Bro, it's useless. Breaks my heart kinda, but I guess you can't help everyone.

ME AND YOU RUP! GONNA RIDE THIS BITCH TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF! Pardon me for screaming, musta been channeling Cow. Never again tho Cow, no time for Debbie Downers in my life. I was hoping you could see the light, but since you can't... Go away And quit trying to piss on all our repeat parades. Thanks... Everyone.


Ruppert's picture

Damn straight. I'll be the guy towards the front of the bandwagon, standing on the 100-quart cooler to get a better view. Push your way through the crowd and I'll have a couple dozen on ice for us.

Bob's picture

I have to agree with your hunted vs the hunter. This defense has been for the most parted hunted this year. I am a little bewilderd by Capers using Hawk as the leader on defense, because he keeps everyone on an even keel. I'ld like to see a little less even keel and a lot more psycho on defense. It would be hard to change now, old habits die hard and it looks like these guys are playing the way they are coached, passive. The scheme is aggressive, the way the players play in the scheme is not.

PacMan's picture

Crushing defense generally beats a great offense. Sunday, Giants had a crushing D - not giving inches twice, tackling, swarming. Pack offense is almost as good as it gets with everyone going to be healthy.

It might come down to who wants it more. Natural guess would be that Giants want it more and they have momentum. MM needs to to mentally prep team, as discussed. Do they want it as much as last year?

Then there is the home field advantage.

Could be a game for the ages.

Evan's picture

Crushing D vs a very overrated Falcons team. Just sayin'.

packeraaron's picture


PacMan's picture

I would feel better if the Packers defense wasn't the worst in the league in yards against, give up so many big plays and so many missed tackles. Giants RB's are hard to bring down and Manning can make the big play.

Evan's picture

The Packers can give up 800 yards a game for all I care, as long as they score more points then the other team, and they've done that, what, 21 out of the last 22 games?

The defense has its issues, no doubt, but it's middle of the pack in terms of points per game. With an offense that scores the most points per game, a middle of the pack D is fine.

jack in jersey city's picture

c'mon man. the falcons flat out suck. they've got an overrated qb who has done NOTHING, a couple of good receivers and a good running back. that's it. even their coach is mediocre. they had a bunch of chances to score and kept shooting themselves in the foot time after time- something that they excel at. i have a pretty good feeling that the packers will put up more than 2 points at halftime ;)

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

With all that's been said and written about this defense (most of which I agree with), for me the bottom line is that I have yet to be nervous with this team this year. It has been weird...usually I am nervous before and always during games, but I have a calmness this year I have never had before.

And I'm really enjoying it.

And they are 15-1, having beaten almost every one of the playoff teams (one twice). They will still have to beat some decent football teams to repeat, but I am confident in the coaches and the players. Even better than the way I feel is seeing it in the players. They are a confident bunch and they just know how to win.

None of these teams concern me in the slightest.

Bob's picture

Maybe that is because since McCarthy arrived somehow the Pack is always in the game. I'm sure there must have been a blowout somewhere. But it's almost a given that they will be in a position to win the game.

Bercovici's picture

I like this idea in theory. The issue is whether we have enough of a pass rush to make it work. Jamming a receiver is a great way to take away the quick throw but if the QB has 4+ seconds to dance around, it doesn't really matter if his WRs had to adjust their routes at the top. Is it your opinion that playing clingier coverage will improve our rush by forcing opposing QBs to hold the ball longer?

packeraaron's picture

Yes. If the defense is going to give up ground/yardage/points, I'd much rather watch them do it while actually competing - rather than trotting out flimsy zone after flimsy zone.

Mojo's picture


I can live with giving up big plays, as long as we go in swinging.

Seize the day.

paxbak's picture

It seems to me that we have been in the nickel all year long. Why dont we take Hawk out and replace with Bush. Wouldn't that be an improvement in coverage. When we had Chillar, I remember him being the only ILB on the field for passing downs. Now we always have two ILBs for some reason even on obvious passing downs.

andrew harman's picture

chillar was TERRIBLE in coverage. so whatever.

Bob's picture

Or Francois

Oppy's picture

Look back over Dom's time in GB.

He reels in the defense any time there are issues at the safety position.

Safety play has been inconsistent if not poor this season.

If Dom doesn't have complete faith in his deep defensive backfield, he will not unleash the hounds.

Point Packer's picture

Just imagine if we still had Atari Bigby (sp?) back there.

"Hey Atari, run as fast as you can into that steel retaining wall over there."


Wagszilla's picture

Good article, agreed 100%.

I also suggest that Hawk be replaced with Francois.

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